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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, October 9, 2019
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with Matè Espina

Ruby MassKara

Rock & Refuge

The frenzy for the 40th MassKara celebration has started and soon, we will have plenty of tourists milling the streets, especially around the end of the month during the grand parades and the electric MassKara.

I have invited some media friends to join the festivities in the last weekend and, hopefully, there will be hotel rooms left, otherwise I will have to provide accommodations for a handful of house guests.

MassKara has, indeed, become big and we have to acknowledge the artists that started it all. The public support from our community, the former organizers from the time of tita Girlie Belzunce to the hands of Eli Tajanlangit and his team and, of course, our public officials from various administrations that helped make MassKara become popular.

I must admit that I still miss the old MassKara festivities before it became very commercialized. I remembered hanging out with friends at the Public Plaza, just dancing and going around in circles with music fed through public systems in various corners.

All the action was at the Plaza until people from out of town started joining the annual festival and soon, MassKara needed a bigger place, which extended down to the reclamation area.

It was during Eli’s time that MassKara also expanded to Lacson and since then, we have had three venues, including the Government Center area. Revenues poured in through sponsorships, sellers and even street hawkers make big money during these times.

The downside though was it also falls on the “ber” months when we are in the path of typhoons, and there have been times when income wasn’t that good, but still at profitable levels.

The 40th MassKara, though, has its share of hitches even at its launching stage. Social media memes abound, criticizing the not-so-smiling MassKara hovering over the bandstand in the middle of the plaza.

Well, since we are known as the City of Smiles, it really had a jarring effect. However, it didn’t need to be taken down as they could have asked the artist/s to just tweak the mouth and make it smile.

I haven’t seen the huge icon but from the pictures in social media, I love its redness and I think it doesn’t require much to pull up the edges of those lips and have it curve into a timid grin.

Anyways, I will psyche myself up in the coming weeks and get into the MassKara mood as I have no choice anyway, since I’ll be my group’s GRO. But I am actually looking forward to it after seeing so much preparation for this year, which is bound to be special as it celebrates 40 years.

However, I dread the thought of having Major Jovie Espenido joining our local police force as mentioned in the news. If we recall, this guy was thrust in the limelight at the time of the killing of Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog as he was then the city police there when those killings related to alleged illegal drug trade happened.

Then you also have five alleged ninja cops in our midst but who were transferred to the regional police force when their names came up in the list of those being investigated in the Senate. Reports have it that there are three more still being validated.

More worrisome, however, is the public reception for Espenido that sends chills as netizens gleefully welcome his arrival and even wish for bloodshed to cleanse our streets from illegal drugs.

The mindset of so many have been influenced much by this administration’s drug war to a point that killing is acceptable for as long as those killed are suspected of being in the drug trade.

But that, in itself, is scary because their reasoning does not anymore include bringing those suspects to court but to summarily execute them.

Our city is known as a city of smiles and I hope we won’t lose that in the event that Espenido takes over Bacolod.

In other news, I happened to bump into SRA Board Member, Dino Yulo, Monday night in Makati. I was there waiting for our ride to attend our sister, Mary Anne’s, piano recital for her doctorate degree in Music.

Anyway, Dino just came from the SRA regular board meeting where they met the new Agriculture Secretary William Dar. Of course, among other concerns, the discussion, according to Dino, centered on his request for the SRA board to come up with a stand against the threat of import liberalization, which has been hogging the news lately.

It was evident from Dino’s recounting of events that he is getting frustrated because, while Dar is understandably hedging about the issue as he is new on the job, and has to study the various positions, the administrator was non-committal.

The board is a collegial body and even if Sec. Dar will not issue a position, the same can be carried if three of four will stand up against liberalization, because Roland Beltran, who represents the millers, also pushed for the same position.

Well, the fact that it wasn’t passed meant that the administrator himself was not keen to utter such opposition when in the past, he did, too, when then Sec. Piñol condemned the stand of the economic managers, who were pushing for open importation way back before the rice problem happened.

This battle against liberalization is going to be very uphill if the SRA leader himself will not join the call of the stakeholders that he is supposed to be representing.

Let’s see what will happen in the coming weeks, especially now that the Department of Finance already declared that they will push through with it.*

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