Antonio V. Osmeña


PEOPLE continue to be maimed or even die because they explode firecrackers. Every year, thousands from all over the country are brought to the hospital because of firecracker explosions.

Why do people continue to risk bodily harm? In ancient Chinese revelry, exploding firecrackers was the tradition to drive away evil spirits and bring in good luck.

Today, the Chinese tradition of driving out evil spirits by creating noise is a religious Chinese belief that the new generation continues to practice. But this Chinese religious practice has influenced the Christian community greatly.

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During the New Year’s Eve revelry, Cebu’s Chinese descendants are the major firecracker users obviously because of their financial resources and religious beliefs.

But for Christians, the way to drive out evil spirits are prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ and the offering of a solemn mass, instead of creating noise through firecrackers.

(One possible exception is the rocket flare, which creates a beautiful sight without exaggerated noise. This is an innovation that should prevail over the use of firecrackers.)

Unfortunately, most of those maimed by the use of firecrackers are children. It is impossible for the children not to be exposed to firecracker use until a law is enacted to

ban firecracker use except in designated areas, such as parks, with proper supervisory control. Those citizens who shall use firecrackers in their homes shall be properly punished through a stiff fine or a jail term. Cebu’s local government units should introduce an ordinance to designate a specific location for the use of firecrackers and henceforth no firecrackers can be used outside such areas.

The use of rocket flares or pyrotechnics should be regulated and should require the prior approval of local government units.

Again, such violation should be punished accordingly.

The use of explosive powder during New Year’s Eve is tremendously increasing and the air pollution it has created is a serious threat to the health of people exposed to such an environment.

Lucky are those who are properly sheltered in air-conditioned premises. Thousands of people are exposed to the toxic air from the exploding firecrackers and pyrotechnics.

Why is there a complacent attitude among our government health officials, who should lobby Congress for an enabling act that will designate areas for firecrackers, for the safety and health of inhabitants? Who among the 2010 political candidates will support such an enabling act or local ordinance?

A strong lobby is in order, coming from environmentalists, civic, religious and professional organizations to enact an ordinance to control the use of firecrackers or pyrotechnics within designated areas. Mayor Duterte of Davao City in Mindanao has succeeded for many decades in maintaining zero casualty related to firecracker use.

Obviously, it is a question of political will to stop air pollution during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve revelry.

In the early 1950s, nobody, but nobody, ever exploded firecrackers during Christmas Eve since people observeD solemnity during the midnight mass. Today, the midnight mass has to be moved to 8 p.m. because the church officials fear that exploding firecrackers might harm the faithful.

Are our Christian beliefs and the tradition of keeping a solemn Christmas Eve now being overwhelmed by the Chinese tradition of driving out evil spirits through noise?

Why can’t the religious organizations tell these firecracker users to respect our beliefs by not exploding firecrackers so that the mass can once again be reset to midnight?

Then, the family can go home and enjoy the fresh air and a quiet and peaceful Noche Buena, as observed in the past for many decades.