Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) Hundreds of people wearing colorful costumes and smiling masks of all sizes paraded through the streets of downtown Taipei on Sunday to celebrate the return of one of the Philippines' most joyous festivals.
The Taipei Masskara Festival, which limited its celebrations last year because of COVID-19 related restrictions, saw hundreds of people take part in a parade that traveled from St. Christopher's Church, along Zhongshan North Road, Linsen North Road, Nong'an Street and Shuangcheng Street, to Qingguang Park.
Speaking with CNA at the start of the festival, Father Edward Pacquing, CS, St. Christopher's Church parish priest, said the event helps many migrants from the Philippines feel at home while living and working in Taipei.
"They can not only find their space here, but also have the opportunity to express themselves culturally in Taiwan, because not all places in the world welcomes strangers. So, this event welcomes them to show they are part of the bigger community here in Taiwan, especially in Taipei," the Filipino priest said.
Meanwhile, another Filipino priest Father Kenneth Lapitag Laorden, CS, an assistant parish priest at St. Christopher's Church, said the festival showcases the Filipino identity despite the many struggles and sufferings in life.
"We, Filipinos, can still wear beautiful smiles on our faces, believing that we can endure all our trials by having confidence in God's grace."
The Masskara, also known as the "Festival of Smiles," is one of the biggest festivals 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.
This year, Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez said the city is aiming to attract about 200,000 visitors during the three-week festival, which is making a return after a two year hiatus from Oct. 1-23, according to a Philippine News Agency report on Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, during the festival in Taipei on Sunday, 19 groups, including city residents, migrant workers and immigrants, took part in a competition at the festival, which judged their costumes and creativity.
Filipino migrant worker Mark Lester Reyes, who has become a household name in the Philippine community in Taiwan because of his artistic talent, won the "Best Masskara Creativity" and "Best Costume Design" awards for his Tropang TPop and MLR Creations, respectively; while the SCC Parish Council won the "Best Team Award."
The Taipei Masskara Festival was first held in September 2020 and has become one of the biggest Philippine Filipino culture-related parade and street dance events in Taipei on a par with the Santo Niño Beats for Peace Festival.