Hundreds of people wearing colorful costumes and big smiling masks are on Sunday to parade through the streets of Taipei in celebration of one of the Philippines’ most joyous festivals, its organizers said yesterday.
The Taipei MassKara Festival parade is to start at 1pm, leaving from St Christopher’s Church in Zhongshan District (中山) and proceeding along Zhongshan N Road, and Nongan and Shuangcheng streets, to Qingguang Park, organizers said.
The festival is intended to bring smiles to people’s faces amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, Taipei Department of Civil Affairs Commissioner Lan Shih-tsung (藍世聰) told a news conference.
“Taipei is a diverse and friendly city, so we hope that all our immigrants, old and new, will feel that Taiwan cares about them,” Lan said.
The Taipei City Government also hopes that the parade, which is expected to attract about 1,000 participants, would help boost spirits among immigrants and migrant workers from countries heavily affected by the pandemic, he said.
The parade is to feature costumes designed by Filipino designer and migrant worker Mark Lester Reyes, whose work has made him a household name among Taiwan’s Philippine community.
About 32 Filipino migrant workers at the parade would wear his designs, some of which are made from recycled items, such as plastic spoons, Reyes said.
“Be amazed by the Filipino culture shown on the day and see for yourself how migrant factory workers and caregivers can portray their talent,” he told the news conference.
Working with the city government, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei scouted Filipino talent in Taiwan to source some of the masks to be featured in the parade, office Vice Chairman and Deputy Resident Representative Gilberto Lauengco said.
The MassKara Festival, also known as the “Festival of Smiles,” is one of the biggest in the Philippines. It originated in Bacolod in the 1980s during a crisis, when the price of sugar, the region’s main source of income, dropped to an all-time low.
The city’s residents responded by donning colorful costumes that featured bright smiling masks to signal their intention to overcome the crisis.
Since then, MassKara has been celebrated annually in October, with Bacolod becoming known as “The City of Smiles.”
“This festival symbolizes the resiliency of Filipinos in times of hardship,” Lauengco said. “It shows that Filipinos are tough and would be able to survive even in the direst of situations with a smile on their faces. Despite this pandemic, it serves as a timely reminder that there is still hope and that we can smile in the face of adversity and eventually emerge stronger than ever.”
There are about 7,000 Filipinos among the 45,648 migrant workers in Taipei, according to government data.
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