Hopeful celebration | Inquirer Opinion

Hopeful celebration

/ 11:19 PM December 13, 2013

The yearend celebration will be particularly poignant because of the recent calamities that hit the country. A big number of Filipinos are in mourning and hard put to look to the new year with hope. It is but fitting for those fortunate to be spared tremendous loss, whether personal or material, to respect those who have lost everything. They can start by shunning the ostentation—let alone noise, to speak nothing of risk to life and limb—of expensive firecrackers and fireworks.

Instead of mangled limbs, helping hands should usher in 2014. With that in mind, the Department of Health launched early this week its annual antifirecracker campaign. The DOH’s catchy new slogan urges everyone to be safe this Christmas season and offer help to those in dire need: “Maging ligtas ngayong Kapaskuhan, mga biktima ng kalamidad handugan.” Health Secretary Enrique Ona points out that the big sums spent on one-night extravagances like pyrotechnics can be put to much better use as donations for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” who are still picking up the pieces and preparing to rebuild their lives. “We cannot stop people from celebrating, and maybe most of them have already donated to the victims of calamities,” Ona says. “But still, it would be better that, rather than spending so much on firecrackers, we give [the money] to those who need help, especially in the Visayas.”


Like the Ecowaste Coalition, which launched yesterday its own yearly drive against firecrackers, the DOH has presented alternatives for the yearend revelry that poses danger to health and the environment. The Ecowaste Coalition suggests that parents and their children take enjoyment in “alternative eco-friendly and homemade” noisemakers. The DOH recommends the use of recorded explosions instead of real ones, and dancing instead of lighting up firecrackers. (At the campaign launch, Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag was shown in a video dancing to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Roar.”)

We’re not just being spoilsports. Using unsafe firecrackers and firing guns to make merry can lead to terrible results. The celebration that ushered in 2013 was marked by a 16-percent decrease in revelry-related injuries, according to the DOH, but that number was still a costly 862 casualties, including 835 people injured by firecrackers and 25 people hit by stray bullets, with the vast majority of the cases occurring in Metro Manila. The age range of the casualties (from nine months to 79 years) was startling, with 28 percent (234 cases) of the total involving children 10 years and younger. The worst case involved 7-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, who died 38 hours after being hit by a bullet in the head while watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve outside her home in Caloocan City. The gunman was never found.


That particular tragedy had Malacañang pondering a total ban on firecrackers and guns during New Year’s Eve. The Senate also considered a review of the law regulating the manufacture of firecrackers. Indeed, aside from the danger posed by the items they produce, many firecracker factories are often unsafe working environments, with children being part of the underground work force.

Even the names of the firecrackers indicate the potential for tragedy. Consider, for example, the darkly suggestive “Goodbye, Philippines.” The latest, according to TV reports, offensively takes a name now synonymous with destruction: “Yolanda,” which is said to pack half a kilo of gunpowder. Yet another new firecracker has been bandied about, allegedly named “Napoles,” which rides on the large-scale thievery of taxpayer money.

That the money usually spent on firecrackers be given to charity is an idea most appropriate to end a difficult year. “Families can enjoy the holidays with injury-free alternatives,” Ona says. “The year 2013 has brought the country misery and tragedy from a spate of disasters. When many children get maimed from firework-related injuries during the revelries, it becomes another disaster.”

The country has had enough of disasters this year. It’s time for a hopeful celebration as we give thanks for “tidings of comfort and joy.”

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TAGS: Celebration, DoH, Editorial, Firecrackers, health, New Year, opinion
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