Starting the New Year right or “with a bang” in the Philippines means making ear-splitting noise through fireworks and firecrackers as the clock strikes at 12:01 AM. As they say it, “the louder, the better” or “mas maingay, mas masaya.”
As a tradition, Filipino households would more often than not spend thousands of pesos to purchase ridiculously-named firecrackers — Goodbye Philippines, Goodbye Feelings, Crying Bading, Super Lolo, Giant Bawang, Goodbye Earth, Sinturon ni Hudas, Thunder Lolo, to name a few — that they would light up in front of their houses during Media Noche.
The tradition may be electrifying and joyous, but imminent dangers await as well: houses may burn, fingers may be broken, dogs and cats may die due to stress, and this year, a possible influx of firecracker-related injuries could mean choking already congested hospitals and causing additional workload to already tired medical frontliners who work around the clock amid the raging pandemic.
With roughly 12 days before the country celebrates the end of a nightmarish year that is 2020, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) assured that the existing provision of Executive Order No. 28 will strictly be enforced with regards to the sale and use of fireworks display and firecrackers this holiday season.
In an interview, DILG Usec. Jonathan Malaya clarified that at present, “we don’t have a total ban (on fireworks display and firecrackers use).’’
The agency, however, ordered all police units to confiscate unauthorized fireworks and make arrests when the nation ushers in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The PNP is authorized to immediately confiscate illegal firecrackers and make arrests when necessary, so the industry is advised to just follow the law,” Malaya said in a statement.
The official added that lawmen must conduct inspections at the “manufacturing complex, warehouse, and processing area of manufacturers and dealers” of firecrackers in their areas of responsibility to ensure that safety guidelines are followed.
While it is true that hundreds of thousands of firecracker sellers in the country’s fireworks mecca, Bocaue in Bulacan, would be affected tremendously by this development as this means losing their only source of income, we don’t have a choice but to abide by the government’s mandate amid the health crisis.
During these holiday festivities, our choices are limited to only abide by the government’s rules and protocols or disregard them completely and later on be apprehended by police forces, contract the infectious disease, or worse, die before the hopefully much better 2021 arrives.
But knowing how undisciplined and stubborn some Filipinos are, I won’t be surprised if I would still hear thunderous firecracker sounds in the first hours of 2021.
In any case, considering the current situation in the Philippines, this could be a more tranquil celebration, not as loud as last year for sure, where families, complete or incomplete, would finally put an end to a chaotic year that I must say one of the darkest years of humanity.