|Jen's first time seeing Masskara live!|
Finally, rested enough to pay a little better attention to conversation and interaction, I was thrilled to learn how different from my expectations these people really were. The safehouse is a pre-WWII home of a well-to-do family that somehow fell into the hands of the family of owner/leader of the group, Buyat. The safehouse doesn't house police. They are active and reserve military that are hired for VIP security, trained to protect a bank one day and wage war the next. I expected a little rowdiness, too much testosterone, stiffness or aggression, and a little more money than they maybe should have. What I discovered was sensitivity, caution, a love for nature, a very meager living (just look at the bathroom), relaxation, a love for history, genuine interest in me, my opinions, and my background, and a not-overbearing or neglectful sense of hospitality. After first impressions hashed out in less than 5 minutes with any new (to me) member of the group, I was just another guy coming in or going out. Random people stayed, came or went, maybe 5% of the number of military present at the Festival. Pretty much the only thing that I had expected that came true was that every single person there openly thought of their rifle as their wife (even those who had human wives). For all of them, this was just a convenient way to be with good company and have a more consistent (though minimal) sense of financial security. That's it. What was true for so many other military or police forces I've come in contact with here, stand-offishness, money, and delusions of grandeur, simply wasn't there with these wonderful people. Missing them already.
|Unassuming head of the house, Buyat|
|Elementary school kids preparing to perform|
You'd think it was the first Masskara ever the way that chaos was only finally starting to be controlled somewhat by the very last hour of the last day. The first day I saw people standing packed on the risers 3 deep on each step. The last day, there was even a small section dedicated to foreigners. Not as many people in the trees as I expected, and I was pretty tempted to take a perch up there myself if I weren't with company. The last day of the street dances was... intense. Jen and I were finally getting to hang out just the two of us, and we had found the perfect spot hidden from view of others by bushes but in clear view of the performance arena. After waiting 15 mins for it to start, the first group was filing into the square when she said, "This will be my first time seeing Masskara in real life, not on TV." Seconds later, a security policeman took everyone down from that spot even though we were allowed to stay by the Masskara officials behind which we were standing. Two hours later and motivated to fulfill her wish to see Masskara live, we had maneuvered ourselves through the suffocating mob near the front gate to the area that we'd heard was for foreigners. I did some smooth talking and picked the right timing to ask the right people enabling us to slip in and sit on the floor next to the Red Cross volunteers in front of the other foreigners. Finally we were able to see some performances in their entirety, and from the front row!
|Drums behind a float|
|Three rows per... row?|
|Pranksters Rodolfo and Joseph trying to act serious...|
I left the safehouse sad to leave another home but excited for the less stressful, less burdensome, and less tiresome change of equipment, and headed to the ferry where I had full expectations of arriving in Iloilo, Panay that evening. Didn't turn out that way...