Saturday, December 21, 2013

Playing with fire

MUNTINLUPA recently joined Davao City in the rarefied league of cities that shuns an inane celebration of the Savior’s birth and the advent of a new year. Davao set in place a firecracker ban back in 2001 under the watch of Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte—sheer force of political will defying a tradition that has been part and parcel of a so-called “damaged culture.”

For 12 years now, Davaoeños embraced the Duterte policy that had seen a dramatic drop in numbers of firecracker-related injuries.

Perhaps, it had not been lost to Duterte that the first Christmas was what a carol describes as a “silent night, holy night” in a hay-strewn manger—a few lit firecrackers tossed there may likely turn such setting into a funeral pyre for the infant Jesus.  And maybe, unthinking heathens choose to desecrate such a solemn occasion with noise pollution.

Not unlike the illegal numbers game jueteng—a hand-me-down tradition from Chinese corsairs and cutthroats, now a thriving pastime for the rural poor in our strangled neck of the woods-- the use of firecrackers to welcome a new year came from China where gunpowder was invented way ahead of Alfred Nobel’s dynamite.

Then again, those Chinese firecrackers were no bigger than a pinkie finger, their crackling sound supposedly meant to drive away malignant spirits that cause illnesses. The belief stemmed from the earlier practice of torching bamboo forests where malaria-causing mosquitoes bred and thrived. The practice done at the outset of each year did shoo away disease-bringer insect pests. Indeed, bamboo twigs in flames crackle like firecrackers— and a fiery tradition thus came to be that brought business and profits to pyrotechnics manufacturers.

Say, chewing gum manufacturing raked $21 million yearly in Singapore before erstwhile head of state Lee Kwan-yew imposed a ban, cadged by Singaporeans who had enough of getting their hairs or the seat of their clothing ruined by a wad of gum. $21 million is no fiddling sum but Singapore chose to be done with it.

Playing with fireworks can be a lot more pernicious than used chewing gum.

And Muntinlupa city chief executive Jaime de la Rosa Fresnedi must have had enough of perennial pyrotechnics casualties flocking to hospital emergency rooms during the holidays. Which goes to show that playing with fire can be ruinous to human body parts. And can be quite a pinch on one’s pockets.

Call Fresnedi too old-fashioned in hewing to the true spirit of the holiday season.

He pitches his two-cents worth on coughing up pesos and centavos for fireworks. Why not, instead, spend the fireworks budget for relief goods; send these goodies to ‘Yolanda’ victims in the eastern Visayas? Wouldn’t that be more sensible a way to bring cheer and joy to others?

As traditional beliefs have it, rains are a harbinger of cash flow and boons—and we haven’t had a drop or a drizzle on any past new year’s eve, just for reassurance.

In lieu of welcoming cash flow into our lives at the start of each year, there is the skewed belief that the air we take into our lungs must be tainted with gunpowder, every whit of peace be shredded like dreams in thunderous din.

We’ll still be playing with fireworks—unlike Davao and Muntinlupa.

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