Tonight, young and old will again put their lives on the line to mark the passing of the old year and usher in the new. Expect the infuriating scenario of merrymakers, almost always male, brought to hospital emergency rooms yowling or grimacing, and bleeding to within an inch of their lives. Their fingers and other protuberances may have been blown off or “merely” mangled, their face a mess of tissue and bone, an eyeball shafted by a piece of firecracker for good measure, all in the course of carrying out an insane practice touted as tradition or, more to the point, a “manly” rite of passage: bombing the bejesus out of the neighborhood—and burning a tidy sum while at it. So uncool, dudes.
It’s said that in the morning after a typical New Year’s Eve revelry in these benighted isles, a space traveler would be nonplussed to behold a gray cloud enveloping the so-called Pearl of the Orient, heavy and menacing, through which sunlight can barely filter. WTF, the space traveler may say, wondering what Disaster Country has inflicted on itself again. So tonight, young and old will gleefully carry on with the violent yearend ceremony, rather like the second flagellation after the first on Good Friday, only this time with countless more flagellants (many of them unwitting that they actually punish themselves as they engage in frenetic celebration), as ritualistic but particularly reckless (wreaking havoc to life, limb and the air everyone breathes) and infinitely more inconsiderate (of self and others, whether human or beast).
But dare we hope that the would-be revelers have come to realize that the stakes are now crazy-higher? For their sheer force, as though they were semiautomatic assault rifles intended to maim and kill, the explosives (for that is what they are) could very well have been produced by madmen; even the names suggest a particular ferocity, so that they become truly attractive to those drawn to mayhem: “Ampatuan.” “Bin Laden.” And, tantamount to an invitation to gay-bashing: “Goodbye, Bading.”
But dare we hope that the number recorded just in the run-up to New Year’s Eve has given the would-be revelers pause? As many as 165 have been injured as of 6 a.m. of Dec. 30. Of that number, 164 cases involved firecrackers, and one, a stray bullet. Previous numbers will provide context to where we now stand: For the period December 2011-Jan. 5, 2012, 1,021 cases of injuries were recorded, including 987 involving the use of firecrackers, five involving firecracker ingestion (tragic cases of children thinking they were eating candy), and 29 involving stray bullets. Which brings us to the criminals whose idea of fun is to fire guns in the air to welcome the first day of the rest of their wretched lives, criminals who roam wild and free as their victims plod on with grievous wounds or molder in graves. Three died from stray bullets during that period.
It’s tedious to keep count, particularly if the yearend bash continues to be observed as a pagan sacrifice requiring severed limbs and assorted lives. It’s fairly obvious that the manufacture of illegal firecrackers is a thriving industry because certain local government officials are aiding and abetting the crime, and their superiors find it profitable to look the other way.
Meanwhile, as we wait for things to be made right, how to tell the youth (and their parents) that it’s just no good to throw money away on big noise, and that it’s time they dropped that death wish?