MANILA, OCTOBER 24, 2006 (STAR) THE SOUTHERN BEAT By Rolly Espina - Masskara ended on Sunday with a major bang. Thousands clogged the downtown area, with many foreigners in the crowd enjoying the festivities with delight.

The thing that hit me was Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia playing the role of an announcer of the contest. He was just like a small boy enjoying himself.

It was clearly the best and the biggest Masskara ever, thanks principally to foundation president Eli Tajanlangit, Rudy Reveche of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Peque Gallaga, Rene Hinojales, and Ma. Teodora Prieto, vice chairwoman of the NCCA’s committee on visual arts.

Naturally, one must congratulate the barangay captains as well as the heads of the various educational institutions that took part in the open category.

What made the celebration truly meaningful was that for three days there were no rains in Bacolod. It was almost as if God wanted Bacolodnons to really enjoy themselves with gusto.

Masskara’s success virtually eclipsed the celebration of the Buglasan Festival of Dumaguete City.

But that is not a problem as there were no more rooms in Bacolod for the hordes who wanted to join the world-famous celebration. Hotels were filled while the major eateries in the city were swarmed with diners.

Even foreigners were seen munching chicken inasal with smiles on their faces, indicating profound satisfaction with Bacolod’s principal menu.

In Dumaguete’s Buglasan, the Kinaiyahan Festival of Dauin town bested the other contingents that participated in the showdown and street dancing at Freedom Park at the Capitol grounds.

The other winners were the Baolan Festival of Zamboanguita and Bayawan City’s Two-two festival. They grabbed second and third places, respectively.

Alijis sweeps major awards

Barangay Alijis drew applause when it won the championship in the open category of the Masskara Festival street dancing and arena and dance competitions.

A Japanese group also performed to the delight of the Bacolodnons. But Alijis swept all special awards like best mask, best costume, and best choreography. It received a trophy and P100,000, plus P5,000 for each of the special awards.

Alijis’ barangay captain is Pepito Malapitan, while Segundo Jesus Cabalcar Jr., the choreographer, was behind Barangay Villamonte’s grand slam champion last year.

In the barangay category, Barangay 23 bested 21 other participants to bag the grand prize of P100,000, plus P5,000 for each for Best in Concept and Best in Choreography.

The runner-up was Barangay 32, which received P75,000. Barangay Singcang Airport won the P50,000 prize as second runner-up.

Toki Meki impressed

For Bacolodnons, the best news was the favorable impression of Japan’s Toki Meki Group, which arrived Saturday to witness the Masskara Festival.

The 28-man group said they enjoyed the famed Masskara Festival.

Mayor Leonardia presented a plaque of appreciation to each member as a gesture of appreciation for having honored the invitation of the City of Smiles.

Makito Iwasaki, sales manager of Singaround Inc. and the tour leader, said their visit here "has proven wrong the negative images of Filipinas working in Japan."

He said they can promote to their people back in Japan what they have seen and experienced in Bacolod.

The Association of Disabled Persons-Bacolod (ADP-B) also presented a certificate of appreciation to Grace Horii, a public relations officer of the Tourism Department in Japan.

Johann Mañoso, the ADP-B president, handed the certificate in the presence of Mayor Leonardia after Horri and the Japanese gate ball trainers introduced the sports to the city at the Panaad Stadium football field.

A Japanese philantrophist has also offered to sponsor the educational trip to Japan of Bacolod elementary and high school students.

Issie Inoue, former congressman of Osaka, Japan and also former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, said he was impressed by the generosity of Bacolodnons.

Former Rep. John Orola said Inoue also visited disabled persons under the care of the Volunteers for the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped and Disabled (VRHD) and expressed his willingness to support the project.

Inoue, an officer of the Cherry Lake Golf Club in Matsusaka City, facilitated a sisterhood pact with the Marapana Gold and Country Club of Bacolod City.

Iloilo’s Western Visayas Tourism Assembly

Yesterday marked the opening of the seven-day Western Visayas Tourism Assembly in Iloilo City. But like most Bacolodnons, I have become so exhausted with Masskara, I could no longer attend that much-awaited event.

The opening program at the SM City Activity Center was a major event with no less than Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano gracing the affair.

Western Visayas Regional Development Council chairwoman, Antique Gov. Sally Zaldivar-Perez, and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas welcomed the participants.

The affair brought to Iloilo City most of the local officials of Western Visayas. Edwin Duero choreographed the festival showdown, which regaled the visitors.

Later, the candidates of Miss WV Tourism were also presented to the assembly.

Later, Director Edwin Trompeta of the tourism department hosted cocktails for the guests. The event featured cultural presentations.

The regional tourism exhibit runs until Oct. 29 at the ground floor of SM City. There is also a regional cultural showcase at the LGF of SM City until Oct. 29.

The regional tourism forum and congress will be held tomorrow at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, according to Director Trompeta.

Gov. Perez said the assembly is expected to promote the tourism spots of Western Visayas and also bring into the region more visitors from other parts of the country as well as from abroad.

Support for Yap

Officers of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. (Confed) hailed the return of Arthur Yap as agriculture secretary.

The return of Yap to the agriculture portfolio, pointed out Federico Locsin III, Confed Negros-Panay chapter chairman, means that he will push through with the biofuel program that will make the country self-sufficient in indigenous fuel.

Yap, Locsin said, impressed sugar industry leaders with his quiet commitment to help the industry attain a degree of stability and to liberate it from the grip of complete dependence on millgate prices.

The agriculture secretary, he added, resigned amid the manipulation of the "Hyatt 10," an indication of his high sense of morality. That he was later cleared of the alleged tax evasion charges only served to heighten their respect for Yap as an official of probity and dedication.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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