Philippine parade to bring 'smiles' to streets of Taipei

09/14/2020 03:36 PM
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Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Hundreds of people wearing colorful costumes, including big smiling masks, will parade through the streets of Taipei on Sept. 20 in celebration of one of the Philippine's most joyous festivals, the organizers said Monday.

The Taipei Masskara Festival will take the form of a parade from St. Christopher's Church, along Zhongshan North Road, and Nong'an and Shuangcheng streets, to Qingguang park, according to the organizers.

The idea of the festival in Taipei is to bring smiles to peoples' faces amid the COVID-19 pandemic and to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, Lan Shih-tsung (藍世聰), head of the Taipei City Department of Civil Affairs, said at a press conference.

"Taipei is a diverse and friendly city, so we hope that all our immigrants, old and new, will feel that Taiwan cares about them," Lan said.

He said the city government also hopes that the parade, which is expected to attract about 1,000 participants, will help to boost spirits among immigrants and migrant workers from countries heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parade will feature costumes designed by Filipino migrant worker Mark Lester Reyes, who has become a household name in the Philippine community in Taiwan because of his artistic talent.

Reyes said some 32 Filipino migrant workers at the parade will showcase his costume designs, some of which will be made of recycled items such as plastic spoons.

"Be amazed by the Filipino culture shown on the day and see for yourself how migrant factory workers and caregivers can portray their talent," he said at the press conference.

Costumes designed by Mark Lester Reyes / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Costumes designed by Mark Lester Reyes / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Mark Lester Reyes (center) / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Mark Lester Reyes (center) / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020

In a joint effort with the Taipei City government, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei scouted for Filipino talent in Taiwan and to source some of the masks that will be worn in the parade, according to MECO Vice Chairman and Deputy Resident Representative Gilberto F. Lauengco.

The Masskara, also known as the "Festival of Smiles" is one of the biggest in the Philippines. It originated in the City of Bacolod in the 1980s during a crisis, when the price of sugar, the province's main source of income, dropped to an all-time low.

The residents of Bacolod responded by donning colorful costumes that featured bright smiling masks, to signal their intention to overcome the crisis.

Since then, the Masskara has been celebrated annually in October, with Bacolod becoming known as "The City of Smiles." It will be held Sept. 20 in Taipei, starting at 1 p.m.

"This festival symbolizes the resiliency of Filipinos in times of hardship," Lauengco told CNA. "It shows that Filipinos are tough and would be able to survive even in the direst of situations with a smile on their faces. Despite this pandemic, it serves as a timely reminder that there is still hope and that we can smile in the face of adversity and eventually emerge stronger than ever."

Performers at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Performers at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Face masks to be worn at the Taipei Masskara Festival / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Face masks to be worn at the Taipei Masskara Festival / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Taiwanese children from new immigrant families perform at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference. At the end of July, there were 10,239 new immigrants from the Philippines in Taiwan, including 654 living in Taipei. / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Taiwanese children from new immigrant families perform at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference. At the end of July, there were 10,239 new immigrants from the Philippines in Taiwan, including 654 living in Taipei. / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Performers walk down the runway at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020
Performers walk down the runway at the Taipei Masskara Festival preview press conference / CNA photo Sept. 14, 2020

According to government data, there are about 7,000 Filipinos among the 45,648 migrant workers in Taipei, which is also home to over 650 Filipino spouses.

(By William Yen)

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