A traditional new year celebration in the Philippines won’t be complete without the explosive NOISE from firecrackers. Those who have clogged ear passages will be very happy to know that every New Year’s Eve the country gets that “welcome to a war zone” feel. For those who don’t know, the loud noises and explosions are supposed to ward off evil spirits and usher in a good year for everyone. Personally, I didn’t mind the superstitions; I just loved making a lot of noise. I think most Filipinos feel the same way too — they just want explosions and bright lights to welcome the new year. Who wouldn’t feel good blowing things up and burn old tires in the middle of the road? There might be an anthropological explanation for that destructive streak in all of us but I won’t dare bring it up.
Anyway, back to the days of spending my hard-earned cash on useless pursuits. I used to buy firecrackers for New Year’s Eve. 13 years ago, I used to love buying firecrackers like the five star, judas belt and sawa, then, as quickly as I picked up that love of noise, I quickly got tired of them. Did I get tired of the superstitions? No, that came later. There was another reason.
Based on current prices, I would place the fireworks/ firecracker industry in the Philippines at around 800-million pesos. That is certainly enough cash in a quick sprint to warrant a support of the sale of the stuff to almost anyone, much to the detriment of the “younger” population (includes the youth and hardheaded adults). If one researches the medical emergencies during New Year’s Eve, one will find that almost all of them are attributed to firecracker injuries. It would be okay if those injuries were minor but that rarely ever happens. A typical new year celebration-related injury consists of bloodied hands and lost fingers. I think there’s also some visual damage. Knowing that doesn’t even stop revelers — blame tradition for that. Since it’s a regular occurrence, I think a person can actually send a holiday greeting like this one: Happy New Year. May you be blessed with a complete set of fingers in the coming year.
Did fear of loss of digital movement cause my dislike of firecrackers?
My mom and dad raised me to be a traditional Pinoy — inclusive of holiday celebration training. However, as I grew up and got exposed in the world, I realized that all that mind-conditioning they gave me was not enough to prepare me for what was in store in the real world. I often got in trouble by mixing up simple things into major complexities that could have been avoided had I been thinking that the world wasn’t a gigantic playground and not the other way around. As a result of my experiments, I ended up getting strapped economically during the first stretch of my adult life.
After I started with my family and I started-off earning my own cash, I knew I had to stick to tradition, as that was how my parents trained me; nothing should be more than family tradition. That’s when I started splurging my cash on paputok (firecrackers). I believed that since it was only once a year, there was no harm in it. After that, we can factor-in the economic crisis and the shrinking power of the peso towards the latter part of the 90s. I felt the pinch then.
Bottom-line was I woke up and realized that I was literally almost burning my money. Now, who in his right mind would do that? I can say that the I saw the evil of consumerism and the realization of my Ilocano blood lineage*. And come on, let’s all be rational for a change. If there was any truth to the superstition that the loud noises drive away the nasty spirits, then the Philippines should be experiencing waves upon waves of good luck. After all, our New Year’s Eve celebrations in the country rival the noise in a war zone.
Anyway, regardless of the noise, I wish everyone a happy new year and get through New Year’s Eve with all their fingers and wallets intact. 🙂
* The Ilocanos are known for their practical nature when it came to matters of personal finance.
- DoH backs LGUs’ ban on fireworks (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- New Year Filipino Beliefs and Practices (socyberty.com)