By Danny B. Dangcalan
The FREEMAN October 1, 2011
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The 32nd MassKara Festival opens today (Oct. 1), with organizers and police assuring festival goers that they are “ready, all set, and on top of the situation” in terms of traffic and security concerns.
The opening ceremonies will be preceded by “living rosary” procession, which is part of the 9-day novena being spearheaded by the Diocese of Bacolod and the Silver MassKara Festival Organization (SMFO) in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the secondary patron saint of Bacolod.
Festival director Eli Francis Tajanlangit said the plaza bandstand, where the opening ceremonies will be held at 7 p.m., will be lighted as a virtual MassKara park, making it as one of the three landmarks to attract more visitors to the area throughout the duration of the 19-day festival.
Also to be switched on tonight at the plaza are 19 giant mask-lanterns, which are entries of inmates of the district jails around the province. The Billboard of Lights, which has been switched on to launch the festival on Sept. 2, is another landmark in the plaza.
The opening rites will be capped by fireworks display, after which, the 1st MassKara dance showdown, in partnership with GMA TV, will hold an elimination round for the 20 competing dance groups.
Tajanlangit said all these innovations are made in a bid to make the public plaza as the most attractive area of the festival to make the plaza “the heart of the MassKara Festival.”
On traffic and security concerns, Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) director Sr. Supt. Ricardo de la Paz said the Task Group MassKara was organized to ensure peace and order during the festival, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors.
He also issued a directive placing the BCPO on “red alert,” and recommended the cancellation of “permit to carry firearms” outside of residences and the enforcement of a total gun ban in the city from October 1-20.
Dela Paz said in addition to the augmentation of about 177 men from the Philippine Army and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, 600 policemen from the Regional Police Safety Management Battalion and about 200 trainees from the Police Regional Training School in Region 6 were deployed to help the BCPO. There will also be local force multipliers from the barangays and volunteer groups, he said.
Traffic Management Unit head Chief Inspector Luisito Acebuche said 82 traffic enforcers would be deployed to the streets during the festival, and rerouting of jeepneys at the downtown area will be carried out starting October 1 from 5 p.m. to 12 midnight.
The first activity in the morning tomorrow will be the launching of a program that seeks to position Brgy. Alangilan in Bacolod as a tourist destination, spearheaded by Councilor Homer Bais, chair of the City Council’s tourism committee and honorary co-chairman of the MassKara Festival.
Other festival highlights will be the Majica MassKara on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 9, Electric MassKara on Oct. 14-15, streetdancing competitions on Oct. 15-16, MassKara Queen on Oct. 17, and Salute to Bacolod (Reception for Balik Bacolod Program) on Oct. 18.
Tajanlangit said the theme for this year’s festival is “Celebrating the New Icons of Bacolod” as a way of recognizing the new landmarks, structures, institutions and personalities that have dramatically transformed Bacolod in recent years into a “new growth center” in the country.
City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said, “It’s this time of the year again, when Bacolod goes out to the streets and dances to music and drum beats in one colorful and dramatic collective declaration of hope and unity; and that despite all odds and whatever adversity, we shall prevail, triumph, and claim for our city the best and brightest possible future.”
Leonardia invited everyone to the MassKara, saying: “Join us as we celebrate our hope, unity and love for our beloved Bacolod.” (FREEMAN)