FOR many Filipino families, celebrations on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be complete without lighting firecrackers or watching the fireworks liven up the skies.
Some light firecrackers for entertainment, but others believe that the practice helps drive away bad spirits.
For residents in Barangay Babag in Lapu-Lapu City, firecrackers and pyrotechnics are all about business. About a year ago, 40 percent of the population of Babag made and sold firecrackers and pyrotechnics for their livelihood.
As of 2014, Babag had a population of 24,000.
In honor of the products that have let them support their families, barangay officials, in 2003, named the 10 puroks in Babag after firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices that have been produced there for years.
Each time the holiday season nears, the number of residents that want a part of the business keeps on increasing.
Florido Baraquel, head of Rambolet Pyro Corp. (RPC), said that several residents in the barangay continue to try to persuade him to take them in as part of the corporation.
“Daghan natabangan ani. Naa’y mga bata nahuman pag-eskwela tungod ani (This industry has helped many families in Babag. People who engaged in this business managed to send their children to school until they graduated),” said Baraquel.
RPC now has 28 members who manufacture and distribute firecrackers and pyrotechnics. The time it takes them to make each device is often longer than the time the device lasts after being lit. It takes seconds, barely a minute at most, for a firecracker or pyrotechnic to burn out. Making it takes longer.
At the time of our visit, Baraquel was making a Roman candle. He began by rolling a piece of board to form the product’s body. At the mixing station, someone mixed chemical powders, which will decide what colors come out when the Roman candle is lit. Just the right amount of chemical powder was poured into the candle in the loading station, before the device got sent to the wrapping station.
In that station, a worker placed a wick in one end of the rolled board and wrapped that portion with cellophane. She then wrapped the rest of the body with Christmas wrapper to make it more festive. Another piece of rolled board, wrapped in red paper, was placed at the other end to serve as a handle.
Baraquel said the factory price of a Roman Candle is P7 each, while its retail price is P15.
“October pa lang naa nay naghinay-hinay pa-reserve. Safety atong gihunahuna (As early as October, customers already start to place reservations for our products. I do not rush because of the demand; I always think that the process must be safe),” Baraquel said.
Recently, the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office, Bureau of Fire Protection, and PNP Firearms and Explosives Office distributed a list of firecrackers and pyrotechnic items that may be manufactured, distributed, sold and used in Lapu-Lapu.
Dealers and manufacturers who fail to follow this will face sanctions.
For the firecrackers, manufacturers are allowed to make and sell only baby rockets, bawang, El Diablo, Judas belt, paper caps, kwitis or sky rockets, small triangles and other types of firecrackers with the same contents as these devices.
As to the pyrotechnic devices, authorities will allow only butterflies, fountains, jumbo regular, luces, Mabuhay, Roman candles, sparklers, trompillo, whistle devices, and all kinds of “pailaw” or pyrotechnic devices.
Senior Insp. Felix Cleopas, chief of Lapu-Lapu Police Station 3, said items that are not included in the list and yet are displayed in the display centers will be confiscated.
Stricter regulations on firecrackers and pyrotechnics are fairly recent, but the trade itself has been around for a long time. Baraquel, for one, learned how to make firecrackers in 1986. In 1991, he began to work for a cooperative that manufactured such products.
Later, he decided to start his own business, until he was elected as the new president of RPC.
Currently, RPC holds a license to manufacture, a dealer’s license, a permit to purchase and move explosives, explosive ingredients and controlled chemicals, and a license as a fireworks display operator.
he has been reminding his members to pray always for their safety, to keep the manufacturing area the required distance from the nearest home, and to always keep a fire extinguisher or a barrel of water in the factory and display center.
“Naghunahuna ko og improvised sprinkler ug unsay maayo ibutang aron di mabuslot dinhi sa sud (I’m thinking of how to make an improvised sprinkler and how to prevent this from leaking inside the) manufacturing area,” he said.
In a meeting with the manufacturers and dealers last Thursday, FO2 Oiretuele Baguio of Lapu-Lapu City Fire District reminded everyone to prohibit smoking and testing of firecrackers and pyrotechnics within 15 meters from the display center.
While he acknowledged the help of the business after two of his three children had finished college, Baraquel said he has sometimes thought of giving up his position in RPC.
“Mura ko kasurendoron. Pero kung di ko ani, mag-unsa na lang unya ni basin puro na nya ni illegal diri (I thought of surrendering as leader of the corporation. But I thought that if I do so, many people in Babag might choose to operate the business illegally),” he said.
Last week, a satellite firecracker factory in Purok Judas Belt exploded, an accident that injured six persons, including three minors.
Jocelyn Espra, 40, a resident in Babag, said her mother lost her brother after the factory where he worked exploded, when a cigarette was thrown to the area about 10 years ago. A scar marks her left arm, after a sky rocket failed to fly and exploded near her. She was just three years old at the time.
Despite all the accidents, she and her mother continued selling firecrackers and pyrotechnic products. Espra has been in the business for 24 years.