Tonite is New Year’s Eve, so that means the town square is full of fireworks and firecracker vendors. Since our Open Air Market burned down, the vendors have temporary shops along the side streets, so the fireworks vendors had to move their displays to the front and inside the city square, a little ways away from the main vendor area, for safety.

The whole area is busy with people buying supplies: everyone will be eating and feasting and setting off firecrackers tonite to celebrate the new year.
Yesterday, my husband Lolo and I walked down to buy some. There were big ones and small ones.  There are Roman candles, and sizzlers, and regular fireworks. And there are firecrackers large and small: Piccolos that make a small bang, a belt of 360 that go off one by one after you light the fuse, and those bigger loud ones that make your ears ring.

For Lolo, it is revisiting his youth, when he and his friends would pool their money for a lot of small firecrackers and at least one big one, to the dismay of their moms. It’s a boy thing: The loud bang startles you and passerbys, and makes such a lovely sound…
Every holiday has some firecrakers and fireworks, but New Year’s Eve is the night of the Firecrackers. No sleep tonite: all day we hear them going off (the local boys find that throwing them against our concrete wall makes the bang louder. But when midnight nears, it sounds like a battle out there: not just the smaller Piccolo fire crackers used by small boys, but the really loud ones, and of course fireworks of all types.

It’s a wonder the place doesn’t burn down…well, sometimes it does: Cavite’s open air market partly burned down yesterday, so that mayor is planning to ban all fireworks and firecrackers tonite. Fireworks and firecrackers are banned in many of China’s major cities, but how any government could outlaw this beloved custom here is probably just wishful thinking.
Even the government’s fancy new politically correct campaign to “just say no” probably won’t work.

Fireworks and firecrackers are, after all, explosives, and dangerous: Last year there were 1300 injuries, many of them from the smaller “piccolo” firecracker beloved of little boys, and several deaths. Yet these numbers are much smaller than the “good old days” when shooting rifles and guns into the air resulted in a dozen casualties every New Year because the shooters didn’t recognize the fact that what goes up must come down.
The government tries to confiscate the more dangerous ones (The worst offender this year is one named “Bin Laden’s Bomb” is reported as powerful as five grenades). And there is a strict ban on carrying them on ferries and sea going vessels.

So if you hear of explosions in the Philippines in the next few days, it might not be a terrorist bomb, sewer gas, or dynamite used for fishing, it might be due to illegal fireworks.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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