Greeting the New Year quietly in Davao City

When 2000 crossed over to 2001, the streets of the city were, like in previous years, still a virtual war zone as firecrackers exploded and stray bullets killed or injured residents, even within the supposed safety of their own homes.

The ban on the sale of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic materials led to the first ever “silent night, holy night” on Christmas Eve of 2001. Residents greeted 2002 literally without a bang.

The ban was so effective that by 2003, the third year of its successfully implementation, Millet’s clan had returned to spending the New Year at home. Since then, they have been spending New Year at home.

Today, there is a new breed of guests in the city during holidays, some of whom stay with relatives, the rest in downtown hotels or in beach and mountain resorts:  they come to the city to escape the health hazards and violence of the streets in the areas where they come from – Manila, Cagayan de Oro, or in the neighboring cities of Davao where firecrackers are still allowed.

Before the ban, the fear of firecrackers exploding and stray bullets, gripped many a Dabawenyo.

For Millet’s family,  Christmas Eve wasn’t much a problem. New Year’s Eve was, as more people also prepared more firecrackers to greet the New Year. “It got so bad we were afraid to walk after mass from Ateneo Jacinto chapel to Marco Polo,” recalls Millet, a consultant on human resource development.

Since 2001, the ban has prevented unnecessary deaths and injuries during the holidays.

Before the ban, the city’s doctors and nurses, like their counterparts elsewhere in the country,  had to give up their “noche Buena”  and other midnight gatherings with their loved ones as more hands were needed to attend to the expected arrival of patients suffering from burns and other injuries due to firecracker blasts or stray bullets.

These days, no such patients are rushed to the emergency rooms.

The fire department, too, has been given a reprived as firemen no longer have to rush out to put off fire caused by firecrackers and pyrotechnics.

Taxi drivers now brave the streets of the city even at midnight because drivers are no longer afraid of passing through virtual war zones.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte banned the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics in 2001 by not issuing business permits to vendors and malls selling these materials. He said the money for fireworks would be better spent on food. He also announced a P5,000 bounty for anyone who could point to anyone firing a gun during the merrymaking.

A city ordinance was passed in 2002, Ordinance 060-02, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, distribution, possession, or use of firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices in the city. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)