Nomadic Pranksters: 2011 Masskara Festival

Famous beat writer Ken Kessey unofficially formed "Merry Pranksters" in the 60's. It is composed of a group of people bonded by a singular thread that weaves them all together. Theirs was a choice of an unconventional lifestyle, of living communally and taking road trips across the United States (while high with something - LSD?). It was a set-up that have provided them a rich set of experiences, that somehow made it into works of literature, as most of them are writers in the said era. To know more about these gregarious people, reading Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" should be a good start.

My obsession with traveling has given me also the chance to connect with other people who almost had the same manner of measuring the qualities of living our life. A yardstick that does not measure material wealth but relies heavily on individual experiences, brought upon by constant movement of one's set of feet and of places and people encountered along the way.

Last year, I also attended the Masskara festival. I went there solo and went home with additional set of friends. This year, I came with a  friend, the dominatrix in the making, Eileen, met a couple of traveler friends in a budding historian in Bernie together with the jovial and 1st runner-up in the soft spoken department, Marcos in Iloilo while en route to Bacolod. All of a sudden, the road is filled with kindred souls who makes the world smaller and more inclined to exploration.

In Bacolod, we ran into James Betia - a hardcore backpacker and the expert when it comes to traveling on a lowdown budget. He travels long-term and sets a backpacking trail that is keenly followed by both old and newbie travelers alike. For those planning to embark on cheap holidays, he's the man to ask. There is also Aleah, a lady solo traveler who have wandered deep into South East Asia and beyond and enjoys the highs and freedom of being a solitary wander brings to her senses.

We were also joined by Cristine and her Italian friend Corinne, they both met on the road while doing their own traveling in South East Asia. I was planning a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand this year and I only have a few days to spare. I asked Corinne how long one should stay in Chiang Mai, her answer was "10 months". Right there and then I ditched my Chiang Mai plans and then penciled it for next year on a longer period of travel. It is very inspiring to look at these two ladies who have spent more time on the road than the average traveling salesman. Donna and Emman whom I already met in General Santos on a trip early this year was also there for the festival. Donna and  Eileen quickly hit it off like long lost twin sisters.

We also met a middle age but definitely young in heart - couple Tito Eddie and his wife Ethel. They are a retired couple who recently realized that the road is where they would want to spend more of their time together. So, in between shuffling time with their children and grandchildren - they've been backpacking all over the Philippines. When I met them, they were just fresh off a long trip from Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin Island and are en route to Cebu and Iloilo after Bacolod. Last time I check, they were enjoying Singapore and will most probably cross the border into Malaysia.

Last year I couchsurfed in Bacolod, though this year my CS host Kareen was out of the country, so with no place to sleep and ready to sleep in the park I was still packed and ready to go, but lo and behold a traveler friend Chie-Chie, who was not able to make this year's Masskara Festival, but has already booked a hotel room, gave her hotel accommodation to us. It was an act that made me recognize the unseen bond among travelers and that makes going to places addicting and invigorating. ChichiMica, Hannah, Enrico, Chyng and a lot more were also there, then there's also Marianne, Alexis, Kristine, Summer and other couchsurfing people from Bacolod.

We might not end up high on various psychedelic drugs unlike the original Merry Pranksters, but we definitely have found a drug to soothe our everyday existence with a dose of being on the road. With people like these, I might stay on the road forever.