Have you heard of the Masskara Festival of Bacolod? It’s an exciting event that happens once a year in October. People prepare colorful costumes and decorated masks to wear in a fun parade of dancing and merriment that spreads smiles not only on the faces of the island dwellers, but also of tourists, TV watchers and many more people around the world.
You would think the origins of this lighthearted festival was just as cheerful, but it was actually a lot more serious. Back in the 1980s, the prices for sugar across the globe plummeted. Because sugar cane was Bacolod’s bread and butter, the collapse spelled grave financial news for the people of the small island.
It was definitely a trying time for the people there. With the low returns for the sugarcane crops, their economy suffered greatly. Knowing that the bleak situation would be made worse by the negative feelings of the people, local government officials and artists banded together to think up of ways to bring cheer. Idea after idea was brought up, all aiming to discover a method of cheering up the now lethargic masses throughout the island.
The final result was a celebration so colorful and happy that people couldn’t resist grinning to themselves, even with a troubling problem looming over them. People put on bright, eye-catching costumes and dance in big parades. To hide their sad faces people put on masks with lasting smiles and gaudy decorations to help others turn their frowns upside down.
It is because of this festival and the warm, friendly vibe of the people that the island of Bacolod garnered the moniker “The City of Smiles.”
Now every third weekend of October (or the weekend closest to October 19), the locals along with adventurous tourists and visitors celebrate this amazing event of color and energetic street dancing. The yearly celebration reminds the people that despite the hardships life throws at us, we always have to try to pick ourselves up, put on a brave face and show off our widest and most confident smiles.
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