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The comeback

The MassKara highlight weekend has come and gone, and from what we’ve seen, it would seem like our desire to have a good time after being locked up for more than two years has surpassed our fear of the coronavirus.

Those who went out to join the revelry might want to take a few extra precautions during this week, making sure to monitor themselves and family members for any symptoms that might indicate an infection so appropriate measures can be taken to ensure that those infected are quickly isolated in order to prevent further outbreaks. This is important because after that series of mass gatherings, the All Saints Day long weekend is coming up next and we don’t want to push our luck by ignoring any of the symptoms that we’ve trained ourselves to look out for over the past two years.

We are fortunate now that most infections end up with mild symptoms and the biggest problem most of us will have with COVID these days is dealing with the hassle of abiding with isolation protocols. We do that in order to protect the rest of society in a country where the healthcare system remains fragile, even after a full-on pandemic.

The government and the vaccinated have done their job in getting our societies as close to herd immunity as we can, and while more effort could have resulted in better protection, especially when it comes to the booster effort, what we have been able to achieve for the sake of the unbelievers is the reason why everybody who wants to go out is now able to enjoy the comeback of the MassKara festival.

The next couple of months will be a critical stage in our recovery from the pandemic, as we torture test the resistance that we have been building up against COVID. The MassKara crowds, followed by the Undas rush that will inevitably return to the country’s cemeteries in one week, will test both the vaccination effort which should’ve built our collective immunity, and also our ability to remember and abide by the remaining health and safety protocols that can keep us safe from infection, especially when indoors and when its crowded outdoors.

If we manage to survive both MassKara and All Saints Day without experiencing any major or crippling surge in infections, we should be able to conclude that our society can safely continue opening up and recovering.

After that, the next and hopefully final challenge before we start 2023, which all of us hope will be much better the lost years of 2020-2022, will be the Christmas holidays, where a lot of tearful and happy reunions are bound to take place. Hopefully we can pass this final barrage of torture tests that will see if we are ready to live with COVID and finally move forward. And hopefully our country’s health care system also levels up so it is ready to face whatever challenges that may come next, without needing to resort to any more crippling lockdowns.

*****

While we are on the topic of the MassKara festival comeback, I can’t really comment on it due to lack of participation because of fear of crowds and traffic, but from the looks of the reports on social media and the news, it looks like it was a success.

I must admit I experienced a bit of culture shock to hear the new theme song, which might be an indicator of my age because I initially thought that the campy one with all that manok ni san Pedro and pakitong kitongs suited the MassKara vibe better. But change happens and if the current crop of organizers want to make it more “international” flavored, that is their prerogative, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a MassKara organizer style guide. Hopefully the festival keeps its identity as it evolves, because at this point, it is a cultural treasure that may need a council composed of elders and visionaries to keep it pointed in the right direction, which in my opinion, shouldn’t just be focused on income, tourists and whatever is the current fad.

Anyway, all in all it was another good MassKara and it was a good way to signal that Bacolod, Negros and even the Philippines is crawling back from the pandemic. Congratulations are in order to the people behind it. It may seem like something that’s impossible to mess up, but it was nice to see the masked and real smiles return, along with the festival that had grown to become one of the biggest and brightest in the country. I hope it is kept going, not just for the fun and visually appealing bits, but also because of its history and heritage that make it unique from other made-up and copycat festivals where the primary goal is to attract tourists.*

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