Davao City celebrates 14th Christmas and New Year with no firecracker blasts  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 December) – Dabawenyos greeted their 14th Christmas without firecracker explosions and are preparing to welcome 2015 by blowing their party horns and yes, dancing, in the 2nd Torotot Festival on December 31.

The first time the firecracker ban was successfully implemented here was Christmas of 2001 and New Year 2002.

Curiously, the city ordinance banning firecrackers was actually passed only in late 2002.

But the city’s chief executive, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, banned the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics during the Christmas season in 2001 by not issuing business permits to vendors and malls intending to sell these. He said the money for fireworks would be better spent on food. He also announced a P5,000 bounty for anyone who could pinpoint anyone firing a gun during the merrymaking.

No one questioned the mayor’s directives.

It was a quiet Christmas in 2001. Truly a “silent night, holy night.”  And so was New Year 2002.

City Ordinance 060-02, enacted by the City Council on October 15, 2002 and approved by Mayor Duterte on November 6, prohibits the manufacture, sale, distribution, possession, or use of firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices “or such other similar devices within the territory of Davao City.”

Since the ban, the city has recorded zero injury and death from firecracker blasts and stray bullets.

Beyond Christmas and New Year

The ordinance 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.

The ban is not only during Christmas and the New Year but year-long. Firecrackers and pyrotechnics are not allowed, too, during the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the Muslims’ Eid’l Fitr (end of Ramadhan).

When the city hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2006, organizers had to do the fireworks display in the Island Garden City of Samal, across the Davao Gulf.

And because flying in the fireworks was a no-no in Davao City, the pyrotechnic materials had to be flown in via Butuan City and from there transported by land until Panabo City in Davao del Norte, some four hours away.

From Panabo, which is located at the boundary with Davao City, the pyrotechnic materials had to be transported by boat to Samal, a city in Davao del Norte fronting this city.

“Torotot Festival”

Instead of selling firecrackers and pyrotechnics,  street vendors have been selling “torotots” (party horns or party blowers) since Christmas 2001.

Since 2013, Smart Communications and the Davao City government have been hosting the Torotot Festival.

Last year, organizers attempted to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of party blowers held by Japan then, at 6,900. The record was not surpassed.

The Torotot Festival begins with a pa26torotot11rade at 2 p.m. An inter-barangay dance contest has also been made part of the countdown to 2015.

Duterte urged residents to join the Festival. “Walay pabuto, walay rebentador, wa tanan nga ginabawal sa gobyerno” (No fireworks, no firecrackers, none of what is banned by government), he said.

Prizes are available for the Most Creative Torotot (P25,000 for the first prize, P15,000 for the second and P10,000 for the third). The Most Creative Torotot-Inspired Costumes will be awarded for the contingent (P30,000 for the first prize, P20,000 for the second and P10,000 for the third) and for individuals at P15,000 for first prize, P10,000 for second prize and P5,000 for third prize.

The Inter-barangay Hip-hop Dance Contest also has prizes (P10,000 for first , P5,000 for second and P3,000 for third).

Sounds of the season

Until Christmas 2000 and New Year 2001, Davao City was like other cities in the country – the streets a virtual war zone during the holiday season, the hospitals ready for emergency admissions from firecracker-related injuries, the funeral parlors ready to collect the dead, the fire stations ready for emergencies.

These days, they are the envy of their counterparts outside Davao City.

Many residents are grateful that the past 14 years have given them meaningful Christmases and New Years.

“We have been blessed to have more quiet time to celebrate the birth of our Savior,” said Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development Networks (Mincode).

“It’s become something we are so used to and something we are very proud of.  My family and I can’t imagine ourselves ever celebrating Christmas any other way.  The sounds of joyous Christmas carols, of heartfelt greetings and of thanksgiving for material and non-material gifts – these are the sounds that make us feel how special this season is and how blessed we all are!” (MindaNews)