President Ferdinand Marcos urged Filipinos on Sunday to resume their normal lives before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, emphasizing the importance of demonstrating to the world that the Philippines is gradually regaining its footing.

“It is a good thing to remind people that the pandemic may have been difficult, the pandemic really put us through the wringer. But we are back,” Marcos said in a speech in Bacolod City during a luncheon just before he graced the culminating activity of the 43rd MassKara Festival.

“The pandemic is fading away. We are learning to manage it and now it is time for us to all go back to work, to all go back to our normal lives, to remind ourselves of all the opportunities that were before us before the pandemic… It is time for us to go back to all of those endeavors that we were undertaking before COVID hit,” he added.

Marcos said the MassKara Festival signaled not just the opening of Bacolod City to tourists, but also the entire country.

“It is time for us to go back and exercise once again, show once again the Filipino resilience, the Filipino resourcefulness, the Filipino industry, the Filipino talent, ipakita naman natin sa buong mundo dahil nagbubukas ang mundo, dahil nagbubukas ang Pilipinas, ito ngayon ang MassKara Festival ay isang pagdiriwang hindi lamang sa pagbubukas ng Bacolod kung hindi sa buong Pilipinas,” he said.

Despite the festival being borne out of “a very sad period in the history of Bacolod”, the Marcos said it also symbolizes Filipinos’ “reemergence from a crisis.”

“That is what we celebrate today and that is what we see that people are feeling and that is the feeling that we want to continue to encourage within our people because that is what’s going to lead us to success,” he said.

Marcos also congratulated Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez and event organizers for a successful holding of the festival.

Founded in October 1980 by the late Bacolod City Mayor Jose “Digoy” Montalvo Jr., the MassKara Festival was first held following two major tragedies that befell Negrenses– the collapse of sugar prices in the international market and the sinking of the Negros Navigation ship M/V Don Juan.

During the sugar crisis, artists thought of promoting mask-making as an alternative source of income for the locals.

Montalvo likewise suggested holding a mask festival to lift the spirits of the locals after the maritime accident that killed his wife, two daughters, and hundreds of Bacolod residents.

MassKara is derived from the words “mass” meaning “many” and “kara” meaning “faces,” thus calling it the Festival of Many Faces.

This year’s festival will be the first face-to-face event after two years of being suspended due to the pandemic.

Before gracing the culminating activities of the MassKara Festival, Marcos attended the inauguration of The Upper East and the unveiling of the township marker in Bacolod City. (PNA)

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