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A ‘special’ kind of MassKara

Who said kids with special needs cannot enjoy the world-renowned MassKara Festival of Bacolod City because they can’t be exposed to huge crowds and noisy environments?

Yes, it takes some time before they can adjust to noisy environments but, it is wrong to assume that these children do not know how to socialize and have fun. In fact, they sure do know how to party! Actually, the students of Happy Beginners School of Learning in Bacolod City have been celebrating the MassKara Festival, in their own special way, since 2018.

Anne Marie Makilan, school president said, on their first year, the students were taught how to paint masks and for the first time, they held “Rampa sa MassKara” that gave the children their first feel of the festival. The following year, the school held the first street dancing participated by students and their teachers in colorful costumes, masks and headdresses. The kids danced their way from Capitana Dicang to Roxas Avenue.

The Grade 4 students’ MassKara float with Alexandra Sevilla and John Eduard Ondoy from the regular class and their teachers and classmates; right, six-year-old Marie Dominique Lim waving her gold metallic pom-poms as she eagerly waited for the parade to start.*
Parents and teachers of students with special needs decorated these colorful and attention-grabbing MassKara floats that paraded along Roxas Avenue all the way to NOTF; right, Little Miss MassKara 2022 Chelliannah Arabella Tanaleon (center) with Mommy Michelle and Teacher Ella*
Acaecia Gray Villasor won Best in Costume with escort Ethan Joaquin Lagtapon; right, teachers assisting students who hand-painted their masks days prior to the activity*

After more than two years of no festivities, this October, the students once again put their smiling and colorful masks on!

“The students and the parents missed doing this activity because at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The students were forced to stay in their homes to keep them from catching the virus. But now, we are all back to having face-to-face classes. It’s a fresh start. It’s time for these children to engage in activities that will develop their social skills because for two years, they have not gone out of their houses,” said Makilan.

Jobe Trespecios admitted it is quite difficult on her part to take her seven-year-old son John Robert to big gatherings because of his condition but she tries her best to gradually expose him to crowds so that he can learn to adapt to it. Her son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“I want him to conquer his fears like loud music, because activities like this can help him develop his skills in interacting and socializing with fellow students and other people,” explained Trespecios who, just like the rest of the parents, lined up beside the street to accompany their children during the activity.

Meanwhile, six-year-old Marie Dominique Lim wore black leotards and tights while she kept shaking her pair of gold metallic pom-poms while eagerly waiting for the parade to start early Friday morning.

Proud Azenith Lim kept cheering her daughter on as Marie Dominique joined her classmates in the street dancing.

“This is a big help to my daughter and other students with special needs because they get to see how festivities like the MassKara are held. She has not experienced and witnessed the festival in the past two years. It is also a learning experience for them because they can interact with other people in a very festive and fun atmosphere,” said Lim.

The floats decorated by parents and teachers were head turners. All of the floats were colorful and festive! On board the floats were the Little Mr. & Miss MassKara of every class.

In her welcome remarks, Precious Geronimo, school directress, emphasized that the yearly MassKara Festival should always remind every Bacolodnon of their resilience and faith in God.

“We are a people who never surrender no matter the adversities we are facing. Let us not forget that the MassKara Festival was born in the midst of a crisis in Negros and Bacolod and in times of great difficulties we never give up because of our strong faith and resilience,” said Geronimo.

Grade 3 representative Arthur Tubongbanua and Chelliannah Arabella Tanaleon of Beginners SPED Class were crowned Little Mr. and Miss MassKara 2022 respectively.  Parents smiled the widest while watching their kids dance in the NOTF gymnasium. The students wore masks that they themselves hand-painted.

I got to feature this special kind of MassKara merrymaking when I was still with ABS-CBN Bacolod. The feature story even made it to national news platforms because it is not every day that we get to witness children with special needs go out of their comfort zones to experience and explore different aspects of life and be one with the community.

Looking forward to what these awesome students will showcase in the next MassKara Festival celebrations.

Truly, the MassKara Festival brings together people from all walks of life and of different conditions. It is a festival that is to be experienced and enjoyed by everyone.*

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January 2023

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