In Davao City, children don’t know the sound of firecracker blasts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 January) –   In a city where the use and sale of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics has been banned for 12 Christmases and New Years now, children don’t know the sound of firecracker blasts and adults get startled when visiting other areas in the country where firecrackers are not banned.

Children and adults no longer die or get injured due to firecracker blasts and stray bullets during the Christmas or New Year revelry.

Instead of blasts and gunshots, the sound of Christmas and New Year has been replaced by trumpets, pots and pans, drums, bells, music.

The 12–year old ban has not only saved hundreds of lives and property, but also helped foster better relationships among families and neighbors, with community singing and community dancing now becoming the new holiday tradition.

Unlike their counterparts in other parts of the country where firecrackers are not banned, surgeons,  anesthesiologists and nurses in Davao City can spend the New Year countdown and New Year’s day  resting.

For anesthesiologist Dr. Jean Lindo,  convenor of No to Coal Davao, the New Year was spent  “just being at home… sleeping…and once awake, trying to figure out how to extend continued support to the survivors of Typhoon Pablo.”

“This is my typical rest day. I have to gather strength for the rest of  the new year,”  she said.

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue said they spent the countdown to the New Year “silent from firecrackers but loud with safe, cheerful noise.”

“The country should learn from us,” the proud Dabawenyo said.

The Miclats spent the countdown “dancing with family, friends and happy strangers in a mountain resort.”

Gail Ilagan, MindaNews columnist and head of the Ateneo de Davao University’s Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services  (COPERS), said  she and her  two daughters “ran around the driveway chasing each other with (husband) Tito’s  Jedi laser swords. That was fun,” she said.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the  Mindanao Coalition for Development NGOs and CODE-NGO (Caucus of Developmeng NGOs), said her granddaughter Kyra “does not remember firecrackers on New Year’s Day.”

Kyra was born on December 24, 1999. The firecracker ban began  Christmas 2001 and New Year 2002.

Sarenas said she also has three Labradors who are proud as well, to live in Davao City. “Dili gyud sila mabuang sa paboto (they won’t go crazy with the explosions) unlike the unfortunate dogs in  other places.”

Trainer and Development consultant Millet Aviles-Ty, her husband Mateo and two sons and other members of the clan used to check in at The Marco Polo hotel on New Year’s Eve to avoid the smell and dust from firecracker blasts, explosions from other pyrotechnics, and stray bullets.

The hotel, the tallest building in Mindanao, was a refuge for Millet’s clan and other families escaping from the holiday violence and health hazards (many in the clan are asthmatic, she said).

When 2000 crossed over to 2001, the streets of Davao 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.

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

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

Millet says she realized that “there is a whole generation of kids who don’t know how it is to have firecrackers, who can’t relate to all the warnings on TV and who can’t make sense of the 413 useless injuries elsewhere.”

The city’s  “silent night, holy night”  during the holidays has also attracted visitors from other parts of the country who want to celebrate quietly or who want to celebrate without fear of getting injured or killed. .

In the years before 2001, the Christmas merrymaking transformed the city into a “war zone” with firecrackers exploding and guns firing.

Then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (now vice mayor) banned the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics during the Christmas season in 2001 by not issuing vendors and malls business permits to sell these stuff.  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.

It was a quiet Christmas that year. Instead of shouting across the table during the “noche buena” because firecrackers were exploding here and there, families were now talking to one another.

A priest on Christmas morning 2001 said during the homily that the ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics gave city residents a real “silent night, holy night.”

He said the silence at midnight gave residents the chance to reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

Duterte’s ban actually preceded the city ban.

The City Council on October 15, 2002 passed Ordinance 060-02 “prohibiting the manufacture, sale, distribution, possession, or use of firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices and such other similar devices and the exploding of firecrackers or other similar explosives within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.”

The ordinance, “in furtherance of public safely, peace, order and security of the community,” was approved by Duterte on November 6 that year.

The ban is not limited only to Christmas and New Year but also in other celebrations such as the Chinese New Year and the Muslims’ Eid’l Fitr (end of Ramadan).

Ordinance 060-02 penalizes first offenders with a fine of P1,000 or imprisonment of 20 to 30 days, or both; second offenders with a fine of P3,000 or imprisonment of from one to three months or both; and third offenders, a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment of from three to six
months, or both.

Managers or owners of business establishments caught violating the ordinance will also be held liable and their business permits cancelled on the third offense. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)