Negros Occidental

MassKara Festival

MassKara Festival is a cultural and inaugural festival held in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, Philippines every fourth Sunday of October.

A month-long celebration, it is known as one of the biggest festivals in the country and for its Carnival-esque street parades complete with performers in colorful, ornamented masks and tribal wear. Masks are all wearing happy expression in keeping with the fame of Bacolod as the city of smiles. It also remembers the inauguration of Bacolod as a city.

The city also celebrates the Chinese New Year called Bacolaodiat between January and February.

History of MassKara Festival

MassKara means many faces and is derived from combining “mass”, which means a crowd or the general population, and kara from the Spanish word cara which means face. It also echoes the words maskara (Filipino) and mascara (Spanish), both of which refer to mask, the central prop of the festival. The name of the festival is credited to Ely Santiago, then president of the Arts Association of Bacolod.

The festival began in 1980. It was created in the context of a series of difficulties and hardship in the island of Negros, and in particular the city of Bacolod, during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos.

They were struggling from a financial crisis as a result of economic mismanagement and corruption compounded by a marked decrease of worldwide prices of sugar, of which the vast agricultural lands of Negros cultivated as a monocrop and exported in the global market. The crisis landed in international news with grim images of severely malnourished children. Additionally, natural disasters caused undue suffering to the already vulnerable people. Peace and order situation was volatile due to the increasing tension arising from the communist insurgency.

And on April of 1980, the city was engulfed in deep sorrow upon the news that the ship MV Don Juan sank to the depths of the sea in Tablas Strait minutes after it collided with an oil tanker. Eighteen people were confirmed dead and 115 were missing. Many of its passengers who were reported missing were residents of Negros.

MassKara Festival was conceived to address the suffering of the people and as an expression of hope, optimism, and resilience amidst challenging times. Over the years, it has become the centerpiece of tourism industry of the city.

Conducted in the tone and spectacle of Mardi Gras, its schedule coincides with the inauguration of the city of Bacolod which took place on October 19, 1938. Meanwhile its Charter Day is every June 18 as stated in Republic Act No. 11146, a day that commemorates the signing of Commonwealth Act 326 by Manuel L. Quezon on June 18, 1938.

MassKara Festival has grown to become a popular celebration that is part of the calendar of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

The Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) also issued commemorative stamps bearing the festival on November 18, 2014. On October 28, 2018, its 39th celebrations gained further international fame as it became the day’s Google Doodle.

In 2020, MassKara Festival was postponed and in the next year, its activities were held online.

MassKara Festival Schedule of Activities

MassKara Festival is filled with exciting events. There are fashion, cultural and variety shows, exhibits, fireworks display, and contests in sports, singing, and drum-beating. There are also children’s party, pet shows, job fairs, travel bazaars, and concerts.

Here are some of the highlights.

Novenario Masses

Novenario Masses are held in San Sebastian Cathedral. It is where novena prayers are said in nine consecutive days as well as liturgical celebrations. It culminates in feast of the Holy Rosary in the middle of October.

MassKara Fashion Week

The first MassKara Fashion Week was launched in 2013.

Beauty pageant

MassKara Festival Queen was established in 1981. The beauty pageant picks the candidate who embodies the spirit of the festival and is judged the best of all contestants in that year.

The beauty contest has since been rebranded to Miss Bacolod MassKara. Another pageant tilt is also launched, Mr. and Miss Teen MassKara.

Electric MassKara

Electric MassKara is one of the highlights of the festival. Launched in 2008 and held in the evening, it is a parade of lighted floats and costumes of street dancers that brings about a vividly colorful, electrifying cityscape of Bacolod. Neon and LED lights illuminate the lively night scene along the whole stretch of Lacson Street.

Street Dance and Arena Competitions

The pinnacle of the festival, Street Dance and Arena Competitions are dance contests of the best contingents to grace the festival. There are two categories, one for schools and the other for the barangays of Bacolod. They wear spectacular, colorful costumes, massive headpieces, and colorful, ornate accessories while dancing to the beating of the drums.

Nights of Mardi Gras

Nights of Mardi Gras is an event held in two elimination rounds and a finals night. It is a competitive search for the best fantasy-inspired costume for the festival. The culminating activity is a street parade.

Other activities

First MassKara Beach Volleyball Tournament was launched in 2023.

Where to go

Activities happen in Bacolod Public Plaza, the Lacson Tourism Strip, Bacolod Government Center (also called BGC), SMX Convention Center, other indoor arenas, and other major roadways of the city. Religious events occur in San Sebastian Cathedral.

How to reach Bacolod City

City of Bacolod can be reached via air, land, and sea. The most convenient is through Bacolod International Airport located in Silay City, which is over a dozen kilometers away from the city. There are flight schedules from different points in the country available in major airlines every day. Tickets for ferries are also available that arrive or depart at Bredco port connecting different islands in the country. Bus trips are likewise available from various points of Negros island.


MassKara Festival Summary

NameMassKara Festival
Contact(034) 432 7196
DateFourth Sunday of October
LocationBacolod City, Negros Occidental
OrganizerCity Government of Bacolod