Editorial: By “torotot” and “parol”

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

WE CAN learn from our neighbors.

People have their pride of place, more so during the holidays. We would like to think we celebrate loudest and grandest.

Yet, from two cities, we can take a cue in aiming for holiday revelry that’s also safe, ecologically friendly and sustainable.


Working to learn from the examples set by Davao and San Fernando Cities may add more substance to celebrations that truly value past, present and future.

Cue from “torotot”

There were 99 firecracker-related injuries recorded in Central Visayas during the recent Christmas and New Year celebrations, reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Justin K. Vestil last Jan. 2.

The monitoring by the Department of Health’s (DOH) 7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) showed that this year’s figures are higher than the 84 who were injured during the same period of the previous year.

The DOH 7 profile shows that 68 percent of the injuries were incurred at home, with the rest occurring on the streets. About 59 percent of the victims were setting off the firecrackers when they were injured. About 4.1 percent of the victims drank liquor prior to their accident.

Firecracker injuries include those that have a limb amputated, ingest a firecracker (usually the prohibited “watusi”) under the notion that this is food (always involving children), and suffer from a firecracker fragment getting into the eye.Some of the accidents occurred when the victim tried to light up an unexploded firecracker, pointed out DOH spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag in a Jan. 1 article in Sun.Star Network Online.

It is not only firecrackers that cause the record of injuries to rise during the holiday. Stray bullets cause injuries and even fatalities, making the country’s welcome of the new year “one of Asia’s most violent,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona was quoted at the start of 2013 by Sun.Star Network Online.

The DOH has stressed the role of local governments, parents and consumers in implementing and observing the laws concerning illegal firecrackers (i.e., Piccolo, declared illegal years back, caused 45 percent of the injuries this year). It is also pushing for community-based fireworks display to minimize injuries.

One can also be inspired by the 11-year track record of Davao City whose ordinance banning the making and selling of firecrackers has resulted in zero casualty during the holidays.

To usher 2014, a Torotot (horn) Festival was held in Davao for the first time, attracting participation from barangays in a bid to organize the most number of party horn blowers to set a new Guinness Book record, reported Sun.Star Davao last Dec. 31, 2013.

Lit by the “parol”

Davao’s success in sustaining its pyrotechnic ban, keeping its citizens safe and free from injuries caused by firecrackers and gunfire, and reinventing the “torotot” is worth emulating.

The political will of local leaders and residents to follow the law intended to reduce firecracker- and gunfire-injuries to zero can be replicated in other cities.

Some of those advocating only for a partial ban on firecrackers cite the possible repercussions on workers and families depending on the seasonal demand of firecrackers.

Yet, the pyrotechnic industry does not only risk people’s health and safety, they are fire hazards, especially since many homes in densely populated communities are involved in the backyard manufacturing of firecrackers.

The pyrotechnic industry is also involved in the illegal deployment of children and minors for making and selling fireworks. Aside from providing cheap or even unpaid labor, children have the slight fingers and dexterity necessary for production.

The dilemma presented by the hazards of the pyrotechnic industry and the necessity of livelihood have to be confronted by local governments, which must have the political will to enforce the law without compromise.

Filipinos can be inspired by the feat of San Fernando City to promote its “parol (local lantern)” industry, which provides year-round employment to residents involved in making its “ParulSampernandu (giant lanterns).”

Recently, the iconic handicraft of San Fernando City got the attention of CNN.com, which declared the City of San Fernando as “Asia’s Christmas Capital.”

For the past 80 years, the LigliganParul, or Giant Lantern Festival, attracts competitors, gives pride to Fernandinos and employs local lantern makers the whole year, reported Sun.Star Pampanga last Jan. 4.

Taking a cue from the “torotot” and the “parol,” Filipinos can truly get the most from the holidays.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 06, 2014.


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