Festivals or commonly known in Philippine lingo as fiesta, is one big part of Filipino culture. It is set to honor the Gods from above, and in our case, patron saints. Almost every week there is a celebration on different cities, towns, and barrios from the three major islands in the country.
We acquired this culture from Spaniards because we had been under their reign for 333 years. Although a lot of people had suffered unquestionable pain and distress during their colonization, we can’t hide the fact that they had also inculcated in us a deep devotion to Christianity. Thus, celebration for festivals is as extravagant as Christmas celebration itself.
It began some three decades ago, in a distressing period of crisis for the whole province. The sugar cane industry flanked down to depths we never imagined. Imported products were the primary suspects. And it seems the predicament was not yet enough, on the dawn of April 22, Don Juan, a passenger vessel collided with a tanker and sank, bringing along a little over 700 passengers, mostly from Bacolod.
In the midst of this heartbreaking event, the government and some artists brainstormed and came up with an event to lift the spirits of the Bacoleños. City of Smiles, is the nickname that our city is famous for, thus the festival of smiles was born. This was to persuade people to get out of their gloomy trance and declare that no matter how bad and tough the times would be, Bacolod City, will survive and triumph over any crises, big or small.
And after being away from Bacolod for almost 6 years, I had this infrequent chance of seeing the festival again, firsthand. Oh boy, am I excited. I cancelled all appointments and other activities so that I can focus on being part of the merrymaking. Over the years, I still enjoyed the festival but not on the streets celebrating but in front of my small colored TV watching the live updates from the streets of Bacolod. Yes, I know, I’m lame and it’s so unfortunate of me to have classes during those times. But, at last, I had the chance of gloriously redeeming myself.
The carnival spirit and rainbow colors flooded the city during the first 20 days of October. Even if you don’t feel like singing or dancing, this is not the right time to sulk in the corner. With the smiling people all over the streets, groovy and upbeat music filling the air, merry-makings and celebrations on every corner of the city, I’m pretty sure you’ll groove and dance even before you know it. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
Smiling mask is a must-have for everyone and of course, I didn’t miss the opportunity buying my own mask made from papier-mâché. Before I wore my mask, I tried to study its features. The mask was beaming and smiling with its mouth as wide as my palm (yeah, I know it’s very wide). Its eyes, although hollow, is almost enchanting. The surrounding colorful artwork serves as its headdress. In that moment of time, I had this rare sense of pride and awe for my hometown. Even if the festival has been so overly commercialized (for the benefit of the city’s tourism and economy), I can still see through the true meaning of the festival. This hand-made masks epitomize the strong but fun-loving and happy, carefree spirit of my fellow Bacoleños despite of past misfortunes. Best weapon of defense against any crisis? SMILE. 🙂Published in