It will be just hours before New Year’s Day in the Philippines and Filipinos will literally welcome 2007 with a big big Bang!
Yes, we are a riotous lot and very loud revelers at that; just drive by or walk around in every nook and cranny in the 7,107 islands be it low tide or high tide when the clock strikes at midnight and you will know what I mean--
From the loud, energetic dancing in the streets to the boisterous drinking sessions like there is no tomorrow to the never-ending explosions in the air and smoke-filled surroundings, we’re one hell of a nation that really knows how to party come hell or high water.
And many of our countrymen will pay the heavy price literally and figuratively in terms of money and limb for we really are a stubborn people and inherent in each one of us is his/ her own set of beliefs/ views on things that would put Rizal’s Filosofong Tasyo to shame and the most glaring one in our character is that we don’t want to be told, period.
So, the usual warnings from authorities on the dangers of firecrackers or firing guns during the revelry will once again fall on deaf ears and we can be sure of hundreds of horror stories about the celebration gone awry the day after.
I remember when I was a little kid in my hometown of Tiwi, Albay where my playmates and I would scour the riverbanks where the bamboos are a-plenty looking for the biggest ones in order to have the best and loudest bamboo cannons in the barangay. All you can hear during the night are the booming exchanges between the bamboo cannons manned by different group of kids trying to “out- bomb” each other in a safe and friendly manner. The distinct sounds of the bamboo cannons fueled by kerosene were unmistakable that usually brought joy and happiness to the neighborhood kids, burnt eyelashes, hair and all. Alas, firecrackers were unheard of then. Now the native bamboo cannons are extinct at least in our place.
I remember when I was in my teens, where my friends and I would play with firecrackers until kingdom come. We literally burned whatever money in our pockets then and everything else in our way for at the stroke of midnight; we would light up some used automobile tires on the road and explode those Whistle Bombs, Rebentadors, 5- Stars, Super Lolos, Pla-plas and Bawangs with wild abandon to the consternations of the “old-timers" who could only shake their heads in amusement as well as resignation regarding the way we welcome the new year. Some show - offs would even hold the tip of the firecracker until it exploded; fortunately for them they emerged from their stunts unharmed. We surely had fun and more.
Believe you me, I’ve seen every conceivable and inconceivable act perpetrated by our countrymen just to celebrate the new year -- numerous victims of bullets, knives, fists and firecrackers all being rushed to the emergency room screaming in agony and some were ultimately hushed by death.
I’ve seen a friend rushing to help an uncle being ganged up by a group of drunken men and getting stabbed 13 times in the process. My friend survived but his uncle did not what with the “beinte -nueve” being stuck into his neck and hitting the Carotid Arteries that spurt blood like a fountain until he staggered to the ground lifeless.
I’ve seen a drunk old man brought to a nearby clinic with a towel wrapped around his right hand and when the young intern removed the made- up bandage, she screamed in horror for what’s left of his hand was just the three metacarpals and you could see the “white” bones protruding amid the scarlet liquids oozing from within. Just another case and a useless entry on the notorious “Pla- pla” in the hospital’s log book.
I’ve seen a very young boy with a bullet hole in the face courtesy of his drunken uncle- policeman doing an impersonation of Dirty Harry with his supposedly “empty” pistol and “accidentally” hitting his nephew with a “phantom” bullet or so he claims while doing the “make my day“ dialogue.
I’ve seen a young man with an ice-pick lodged in his chest, courtesy of his best friend obtained from a drinking session gone sour where they argued on some inane subjects like the “chicken and the egg.”
I’ve seen a 12- year old girl with a broken skull lying in a makeshift stretcher, a hit and run victim followed by a broken man who was driving under the influence earlier and tried top sped away from the crime scene but was chased and caught up by the angry crowd when he ran into a dead end and was meted street justice swiftly. Both he and his victim were brought to the same place where despite the interventions and everything, nothing could really save them.
In all of these tragic events there is only one common denominator---
Drink responsibly and have a Happy New Year!
And here's something that I have written on New Year's Eve a long time ago during a lull in the chaotic ER of one of the busiest hospitals in Quezon City, Philippines...
Throw the bomb
before it explodes
right into your own hands.
In this age of broken bones
and mangled hands,
you explode firecrackers for fun!
But I don’t have the heart for such
I am nothing but a fat coward.
So, whenever I want to have some fun
I have my gaseous fart to trust!
It’s the safest that you can get
Without endangering any limb.
Try it if you must
And you can kick my butt
If it doesn’t work out right.
Manigong Bagong Taon po sainyong lahat!