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Barangay Granada clinches P1M prize at MassKara Festival

Barangay Granada’s championship win with a P1-million cash prize during SuperCity Bacolod’s MassKara Festival 2023 is not a walk in the park; it is dancing in the street, literally!

It took this upland, rural barangay in the highly urbanized SuperCity of Bacolod more than two months to prepare, with 60 dancers braving and surviving the elements from late-night rehearsals, dancing on hot paved streets, and the pressure of ‘perform as if it’s your last’ in the arena dance competition to secure their second championship since 2022, ensuring the chance for a grand slam win in 2024.

Barangay Granada female dancers in their “tanga-inspired” liven the streets of Bacolod during the 44th MassKara Street dance and Arena Competition. *(Brgy Granada photo)
Champion dancers of Barangay Granda in a show of stamina continue to showcase their best despite wearing a 5-kilo mask and a 3-kilo costume. *(Brgy Granada photo)

Behind the champion’s intricate masks, dazzling costumes, and spectacular props were 165 artists, artisans, and props–people who toil night and day to deliver their masterpieces within the deadline and who, like the dancers, must miss their cues or else dancers will fall off or formations will be in chaos.

Mark Philip Lamirez, with fellow choreographers Joedem Casabuena and Romnick Rafael, told the Philippine Information Agency that competing in the 44th MassKara Festival Street Dance and Arena Dance Competition is an exhilarating experience that requires dedication, hard work, and strategic planning.

“In our pursuit of the championship, as a choreographer, I am often confronted with numerous struggles and challenges,” Lamirez said as he detailed the struggles of the group leading to the championship.

Struggles and Challenges 

Intense competition, according to Philip, led him to self-doubt, given the pressure of competing against some of Bacolod’s 

Artists and artisans in the production room of masks and costumes in Barangay Granada. Photo courtesy of Brgy Granada.

multi-awarded choreographers and dance groups. The constant comparison, said Philip, can bring up high levels of anxiety, which, to him, may hinder performance and undermine self-confidence.

Time management is another struggle, from creative ideation to rehearsals, which is overwhelming for the choreographers and the group to keep the right balance between personal life and preparation that can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Being last year’s champion, there is an added challenge for the group to innovate new ideas.

“This challenge demands constant creativity, pushing us to develop fresh concepts and present unique ideas.  We are also faced with sudden changes in the performance, costume and mask issues, and equipment glitches that can potentially derail the preparations,” Philip shared.

Choreographers (L-R) Mark Philip Lamirez with fellow choreographers Romnick Rafael and Joedem Casabuena. Photo courtesy of Brgy Granada.

Hard Work and Preparations

The winning group’s preparations started with extensive research on the theme and understanding the judging criteria to interpretation and performance to the judges’ pleasure.

Next to the research come the rigorous practices, which Philip said helped the dancers build their stamina and resistance to the stresses along the way.

Importantly, says Philip, they constantly seek feedback from other experts and peers in the industry to enable them to enhance their performance quality.

“Collaboration and learning from others through their experiences provide valuable insight and guidance to us,” Philip added.

Artists do the final touches on the props and backdrop for the festival. Photo courtesy of Brgy Granada.

This festive street dance, where dancers donned colorful costumes and smiling masks, is one of the major crowd-drawers of the festival, filling the Paglaum Stadium to the brim and the major streets of Bacolod with festival goers.

But history has it that behind these smiling masks are two major humps in the city whose lives revolve around sugar, and so when the sugar crisis hit in the 1980s, the once lavish and laidback life in the ‘haciendas’ took a big, unexpected blow.  Adding to this, many Bacolodnos grieved and were left orphans or widows with the sinking of the M/V Don Juan luxury liner, bringing down with it over 700 passengers from Bacolod and other neighboring towns.

To hide the loss from the sugar crisis and the grief from the Don Juan tragedy, and 

in true Bacolodnon resilience, prime movers then started the MassKara Festival.

Today, with the just concluded SuperCity Bacolod’s MassKara Festival 2023, according to the organizers from the Bacolod Yuhum Foundation (BYF), it has drawn more than the 300,000-target crowd count this year compared to the 200,000 last year.

Mate Espina, spokesperson for the BYF, said, “Seeing the people in all seven sites, we must have exceeded the 300,000-target crowd count, especially in the last few days of highlights where hundreds of thousands were seen in all festival sites.”

This is evident with Bacolod hotels at full capacity for the MassKara festival highlights; even accommodations like Airbnb,hotels and pension houses in nearby towns and cities were also booked.

Bobby Magalona, President of the Hotels and Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental (HRANO), said they are thankful for the economic opportunity this festival brings, as it shows this is gaining popularity as a festival, which translates to positive economic growth.

Festival Chairperson Jojie Dingcong coordinated with HRANO before the festival and reminded the establishment owners to always put their best foot forward and give the visitors the best MassKara experience.

“With the high occupancy rate of the hotels and restaurants, we have hired additional manpower, and we can imagine how this employment, even if temporary, has an impact on the lives of these people (Bacolodnons),” Magalona said.

SuperCity Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez  commended the full coordination of the Bacolod City Police Office, various agencies, and stakeholders for the adept execution of safety operations, noting there were no major incidents directly related to the festival.

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez with Councilor Pao Sy and Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) director Colonel Noel Aliño and members of the core security team for the MassKara Festival. Photo courtesy of Bacolod PIO.

“I also express my gratitude to the public for their cooperation, for it is through our collective efforts that we ensured the overall safety and security of every festival goer,” Benitez added.

Back in the hay days of the sugar industry, Bacolod also gained attention with the line “Sa Negros (where Bacolod is the capital), ang kwarta gina piko, gina pala,” translated as “In Negros (where Bacolod is the capital), money is dug and shoved,” with which most would assume that money can be easily found anywhere in the province.  But this refers to the actual digging and shoving—the hard work that farmers need to do to plant sugarcane stalks all day.

Just like this upland, rural Barangay Granada, where the choreographers, dancers, artists, artisans, props people, and the community toiled night and day to reap the sweet fruit of that P1 million cash prize and the chance for a grand slam win next year, repeating history all over again when they had a grand slam win in 2014, 2015, and 2016. (AAL/EAD-PIA6 Negros Occidental)

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Easter Anne Doza


Region 6


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