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Word from the Institute - December 2014 By Prof. Nene Pimentel

To us, Filipinos, Christmas is not only a day, but a season, of happy festivities, and of exceptional acts of kindness.

Unlike other countries, where Christmas is celebrated only on December 25, in this country, the season begins in November when radio and television stations start airing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” or “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” even if Christmas is far from white in this snowless land, and reindeers are found only in children’s fairy tale books.

That was what Christmas meant to our people several decades ago.

Caroling homes of friends was the name of the game for the kids, then, and even for adults.

And children visiting their ninongs and ninangs - to kiss their hands, and receive gifts in return - was de riguer in crowded towns, and even in remote villages.

Indeed, firecrackers were, even then, exploded. But, firearms were not a part of the noise-makers on Christmas Day, or on New Year’s Day until - if the recollection is correct - in the late 50s.

In fact, the writer of this piece recalls one such unwelcome incident on an evening during the Christmas holidays in 1958.

After visiting his intended,  at her home in Project 8, Quezon City, on New Year’s Day, he boarded a passenger jeep that plied the route along Taft Avenue in Manila on the way to his boarding house.

As there were only a handful of passengers in the jeep, he had a lot of space to enjoy the ride, and he had his forearms resting on his knees.

The firecrackers, however, were bursting beside the houses along the road that one could practically hear no other sound but the “bang” and the “boom” of the holiday explosives.

All of a sudden, something hit his left wrist so forcefully that it swung his hand from his knee.

Instinctively, he looked at his wrist. It was not wounded. But, it had a slight scratch.

Then, he saw a spent .38 caliber bullet on the floor of the jeep.

The media, then, did not report how many casualties our people suffered from the uncaring holiday revelers.

But, last Christmas day, it was reported in the media that there were 73 firecracker injuries, and one death. And the New Year festivities had 714 injuries, out of which, 12 were caused by stray bullets.

The taping of the muzzles of the guns of the police ordered by thepolice authorities certainly helped minimize the number of injuries.

But, how does one tape the muzzles of the guns that are unlicensed in the hands of so many  people?

It’s a problem that the government and the people must somehow begin to tackle before the situation worsens. And the work must start at the level of the local governments.

The ban against firecrackers and the firing of guns has been successfully implemented in Davao City. All because, the city has a Digong Duterte as its no-nonsense Mayor.

If Davao can do it, other cities can also do it.

Firecrackers - and the firing of firearms - do not whiten the Christmas holidays. They only blacken the season with toxic fumes, and, worse, with lethal bullets.

By all means, therefore, firecrackers should be banned. Then, who knows, it might be easier to monitor, and consequently, to discourage firearms holders from firing their guns “to celebrate” the Christmas season.