Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Masskara, Arrival and First Lunch Experience

You of course know what Masskara is, right? It is Bacolod’s lively festival that is like no other in this country. Ah, go forth and search the web if you want to know more. But here are two things I can tell you… 1) it’s the only festival in this country where people wear smiling masks not to portray anything but just a smiling pack of lively people, and 2) it is probably the only non-religious festival in this country – at least one that does not trace its origins or reasons for celebration to a religious icon. And it is such a lively festival, you’d probably be a fool if you don’t at least smile once you see those dancers wearing their masks!

Alright, my friends and I jetted into Bacolod to once and for all witness how this festival is. But let me tell you this early that not everything were Masskara related. There are just so many things to see, do and experience in Bacolod and its surroundings that we had to make some detours! We only had two nights, 1 full day and 2 half days to spare. Argh!

Alright, 15OCT we were excitedly off on PAL’s 9AM flight from Manila to Bacolod. Full flight with a lot of standby passengers who weren’t able to make it. Sorry for them hehe. We were surprised at the number of porters waiting at the arrival area. And we were doubly surprised that most passengers (without even talking) just gave these porters their luggage claim stubs and proceeded directly outside of the airport to their waiting vehicles. Whoa! So I asked around and learned that those porters and passengers already know each other due to frequent interactions. Ah so that’s how it is herearounds hehe!

We booked rooms at Bacolod Pension Plaza primarily considering the better rates that we got. But after cruising through the festive streets, we found that it was just a few steps away from the public plaza where the parades were terminating and where the final showdown performances would be presented. Whohoooa! And it’s a good enough hotel btw, even if we had to climb stairs all the way to our 3rd floor rooms and even if there were some constructions going on. Ah we like the lobby with a coffee shop on the side as we did not have to go far when we needed a bite. Yet, its not even in the list that our Bacolod friends enumerated and liked for us to stay!

Ah, Bacolod is a chicken place. I mean it is well known for delectable chicken barbecue called “chicken inasal”, so for our first lunch, our local friends suggested we head over to Chicken Deli’s main branch where they’d also go to join us. Nice place we thought, though we were unanimous we could have walked to it than ride a cab from Cuadra St. (about a kilometer away)! Shh, wag na maingay, ganyan talaga our Bacolod friends, sobrang aarte hehe. Peace mga palangga, peace! Upstairs area was full – actually booked by some local group for a fiesta-related function. There were also airconditioned rooms downstairs but just the same full. But we are never choosy on venues as long as there is food to eat, so one companion was wise enough to have already grabbed a long table enough for all seven of us, since the place was getting too crowded with diners by the minute. Good for us since no sooner have we settled, we saw that there were already groups on a waiting list by the entrance. Yehey!

Halfway during our chicken feast – of course all of us ordered chicken – a bigotilyo hunk approached and we all thought he was just passing by our table to greet those folks in gowns and barongs inside the airconditioned glass-walled room. But OMG he talked to us asking which country in asia we came from. Hahaha, we disappointed him with the reality that we all were from Metro Manila with 1 friend from Bacolod and another from Bago. He introduced himself as Bing and I thought he must have been somebody popular in this city since people kept glancing at our table and two pesky photographers kept circling us with their click-click-click. Realizing that most of us were working for banks, Bing sat beside me and joined in the merry banter. He told us that he once was an employee of Metrobank and all the more that he had may things to share about.

I asked what he does for a living now since he said he “was” a bank employee and he seemed too popular with the folks around. Without any pretense, he casually said he was the Mayor of the city. Gosh and he said that as if he was just saying "I am a Filipino" hehe! Who were we anyway for the mayor to sit and banter with us on our table?! Anyway he regaled us with things to see around Bacolod and the spectacles to expect in the festival. Nawili ba! That until someone came to tell him something like he needed to say hello to some other groups. So after exchanging business cards with us, he excused himself with a final word saying “enjoy Bacolod and please watch the parade this afternoon”. We chorused with “of course, that’s what we came here for”! And we thought that would have been our first and last encounter with the city’s coolness of a mayor.

So on with trying to finish our inasal, this time all fingers were already colored orange from that flavorful “chicken oil” – whatever that is made of hehe! Yup yup, eating with bare hands is the in thing in restaurants serving ‘chicken inasal’. And it better be hehe. Try it yourself, easier than using forks and knives! That, as we planned our next itinerary for the rest of the afternoon!

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