Two days before New Year's Eve, our Department of Health (DOH) Secretary offered a suggestion to prevent firecracker injuries here:
"A surefire formula for a joyous and peaceful revelry is to welcome the New Year with prayer and to practice safe alternative ways of merry making without the use of injury-causing firecrackers," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
[Mindanao Daily Mirror, 29 Dec 2005]
He termed his solution as a "four-mula" to emphasize 4 vital points:
....DOH’s four safe ways of making noise are: l) using of pots, pans and paper horns; 2) never pick firecrackers that failed to explode; 3) if wounded, immediately wash wounds with soap and water and go to the nearest hospital for treatment, and, 4) never fire guns to greet the new year.
[News Today, 26 Dec 2005]
On December 28, seasoned columnist Neal Cruz sounded pessimistic:
IN JUST THREE DAYS, THE PHILIPPINES will be transformed into something like a war zone with explosions everywhere, injured victims groaning and screaming in pain, a few fires here and there, and some deaths, a few felled by bullets, others by stab wounds, still others by fire and explosions. It will be bedlam in hospital emergency rooms as overworked doctors and nurses work to save lives, sew back severed fingers, amputate hopelessly shattered limbs and patch up other wounds. Afterwards, gun smoke will hang over everything like a fog and the smell of gunpowder will fill the air, and the streets will be littered with pieces of paper, ashes from burned tires and the remnants of fireworks.
You should have seen my neighborhood last New Year's eve.
Now, fast-forward everything to the present time, and read what happened. Japan Today said:
MANILA — Three people were killed and more than 400 injured during the Christmas and New Year holiday period in the Philippines, police said Monday.
Bangkok Post of Thailand was more accurate:
MANILA — Three people were killed and more than 600 others were injured in Christmas and New Year's celebrations in the Philippines, police and health officials said today.
Can you imagine these figures? More than 600 people injured because of unsafe handling of firecrackers. The exact number is 610, up from last year's 582, and still higher than 2004's 548.
And oh, I almost forgot. December 2005 has been described as a "fiery month," too, as local firemen "battled an average of three and a half fires a day." Do I smell fireworks as a culprit? You bet!
Neal Cruz asked in the same column:
What happens to us in this one night of the year that we go crazy, hurting ourselves willfully and taking risks that we ordinarily would not take? What is even more strange, we do all these things because we want to make merry. Along with Christmas, New Year's Eve is the happiest time of the year, but we choose that to blow up our fingers. WHY?
He said it was due to a number of reasons: the Chinese influence in our culture, the Filipino stubborness of not learning how to make safe fireworks, the negligence of authorities concerned. If you ask me, I think it is more of apathy than negligence. Nobody cares whose limbs get mangled. Nobody learns from past mistakes. And those who know better don't take any initiative to correct or help the situation.
Cruz ended by blaming the government. While he had a point there, I do not think it will solve the problem. This has been going on for years. I think the blaming game works only for those who are sensitive enough to react.