Goodbye Gloria!

Many of us traditionally set off firecrackers and make a lot of noise on New Year’s Eve in the belief that they will drive away the bad luck of the past year and attract good luck in the coming year.

We are up against cultural belief that firecrackers drive away bad spirits, but what the public should know is that the firecrackers are the “evil spirits” themselves.

Bocaue, a municipality in the province of Bulacan, is where the country’s pyrotechnic industry is said to have started. Somewhere along MacArthur Highway, in Barangay Turo in Bocaue, is a place known to firecracker buyers as “The Strip.” It is a highway dotted with rows of firecracker and pyrotechnic stores.

The sale of fireworks is year round. But since it is the holiday season it is not a surprise to see the highway lined with makeshift stalls selling firecrackers of different kinds, sizes and intensity.

More and more are buying firecrackers as the new year approaches. And, along with this, firecracker accidents are on the uptrend. The figures are expected to increase as December 31 approaches.

The Naming Game

Firecracker vendors in a bid to boost sales of pyrotechnics for the New Year revelry, are continuously coming up with new types of firecrackers that are louder and more powerful and creatively giving them names with an equal intensity. The manufacturers of these underground products name them after events or personalities identified with huge explosions, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

These firecrackers pack so much punch and explosive power that they can shut off street lamps, trigger car alarms and shatter glass windows. They’re louder and more colorful, but also likely to be more dangerous.

To name some of the most popular firecrackers,

Ampatuan –The Ampatuan firecracker was named after Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. who has been accused of the massacre of several people in Maguindanao last November 2009. This came out last 2010.

Goodbye Gloria – This was coined as a farewell parody to Arroyo who step down last June 2010. This also came out last 2010.

Goodbye Philippines – is a pun which manufacturers coined for their product because each notoriously ginormous giant triangular firecracker discharges an explosion that could shatter a wall

Goodbye Earth – a firecracker whose size is triple to that of the ordinary “5-star”

Goodbye Universe – is as large as a typical “bucket of chicken,” a pack of 15-piece chicken parts, offered by fast-food chains.

In-Can –  is another popular underground brand. It is a virtual pillbox, and is usually ignited in the middle of an open field.

Trillanes – A 16-inch long cylindrical explosive named after the formerly detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. It was the favored firecracker back in 2007.

Bin Laden – named after the world’s top terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, for a reason

Gunaw  – to indicate it can create an explosion that could start the “end of the world”

Pacquiao – obviously named after Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. It comes in the form of thick, black phosphorus sticks and is reportedly bigger and more powerful than the piccolo.

As of today, I have not been updated of new releases…

I ask everyone, what event  that happened or which intriguing personality in 2011 could be worth given the recognition by using it as the name of new reincarnations of firecrackers here in the Philippines?

The Horn – named after Elena Bautista-Horn because of her controversial exposes or “pasabog” like the “Put The Little Girl To Sleep” assassination threat against her boss Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?  Do we want to blow a “Horn” on New Years Eve?

Impeachment Blast! – hailing the impeachment complaint slapped to the Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for her alleged allegiance to the former President Arroyo as evident to his court rulings.

Congress 188 – as praise to the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against the CJ. SC Administrator and spokesperson Midas Marquez could also call it “Lightning Strike” because of its lightning-like speed.

Piolo Loco – recognizing the KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual break-up announcement on national TV via The Buzz. It was in fact a very explosive but awkward “revelation”.

Sendong Sabog- to remember the worst Typhoon, with an international name of Washi, to ever hit the Philippines and destroyed properties and lives in Cagayan De Oro, Iligan and other places in Northern Mindanao. We need to get even by blowing it up to smithereens!

Davao Punch or Inday Punch – who could forget the not one but several punches of Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao against Court Sheriff Abe Andres while in an argument during a demolition of  squatter houses in their locality. Since the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight may not push through because of Mayweather’s jailtime, how about a Pacquiao-Duterte match?

Duterte Fingercrackers – highlighting the infamous middle finger salutes of the father and son Duterte of Davao. Vice mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Councilor Paolo Duterte both flashed the dirty finger on national TV in defense of their family member Sara Duterte.

I could think of more, like the Rabusa Whistle-blower Bomb, the De Lima Defiance Rocket, the Angie Reyes Suicide Sparklers, the Topacio Ball Blasters, the DPWH Floating Fountains, the Lolong Laki Lusis, the Chris Lao Luces, 100 Blasts To Heaven, the Annabelle Rama Wildfire, the Anne Curtis Kwitis, Ako Budoy Baboom, the Unkabogabomb, etc…..but that would be a long list..whew!  How about you, please send me your ideas so I could compile it on a separate blog post.

Going Underground

In the efforts of the government to lessen the injuries caused by fireworks, the police cracked down and seized illegal firecrackers. However, despite their efforts, banned fireworks continue to be sold in stores and in the streets of Bocaue, Bulacan.

While the police were able to arrest the makers of banned firecrackers like the traditional pla-pla, kabasi and super lolo, dealers of the “illegal firecrackers” have resorted to selling their goods only to preferred customers on a made-to-order basis.

Banned fireworks are manufactured locally but are sold through the black market or are pushed surreptitiously through licensed vendors.

These firecrackers are not being sold openly but produced on order, making it more difficult for police to confiscate the firecrackers from vendors.

Local firecracker dealers in Bulacan revealed that most buyers are shopping for more powerful and “killer” types of firecrackers.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) promised to bolster the government’s campaign against banned firecrackers by going after the illegal manufacture and sellers.

They said they will be firm in enforcing the law against dangerous firecrackers and indiscriminate firing of firearms.

Policemen have been tasked to strictly implement the provisions of Republic Act 7183 known as the Firecrackers Law, regulating the size of firecrackers within the safe limits.

Below is a list of the firecrackers prohibited for sale and manufacture in the country by the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry

  • Watusi or the “dancing firecracker.” It was initially allowed for sale and manufacture under RA 7183, but was eventually banned because it causes poisoning when ingested, especially among children.
  • Piccolo – This firecracker has been the leading cause of firecracker-related injuries since 2007. The Department of Health banned it in 2007 because it can explode on the hands, and may cause death when ingested.
  • Super Lolo and Atomic Big Triangulo – two firecrackers specifically mentioned in RA 7183.
  • Mother Rockets – firecracker with a stick designed as a propellant upon lighting the wick.
  • Lolo Thunder – a powerful firecracker twice the size of a Five Star.
  • Pillbox – a firecracker that causes a series of sparks when lit.
  • Boga – traditional canon made from PVC pipe using denatured alcohol as explosive ingredient.
  • Big Judah’s belt – a string of firecrackers consisting of smaller firecrackers that number up to a hundred, and culminating in a larger and more powerful firecracker.
  • Big Bawang – a firecracker packed in cardboard tied around with abaca strings, giving it the shape of a large garlic.
  • Kwiton – aerial firecracker which explodes several times when lit.
  • Goodbye Philippines – giant triangle-shaped firecracker which packs a powerful explosion.
  • Kabasi – a triangle-sized explosive twice the size of a Pla-pla.

Other banned firecrackers include the “Atomic Bomb,” Five Star, Pla-pla, Og, Giant Whistle Bomb, Minitador and firecrackers without labels and other firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices that could endanger life and limb including ingenious underground fabrications and other dangerous firecrackers manufactured by illegal fireworks makers.

Meanwhile, RA 7183 allows the following firecrackers and fireworks to be sold in the country:

  • Baby Rocket — Assembled with a stick that helps propels the contraption to fly a few meters before exploding. The firecracker is about 1-½ inches long by 3/8 inch in diameter with the stick about a foot in length.
  • Bawang — Larger than a Triangulo and with 1/3 teaspoon of powder packed in cardboard, it is tied with abaca string and wrapped in the shape of garlic.
  • Small Triangulo — Triangle shaped with powder less than the Bawang and usually wrapped in brown paper measuring ¾ inch at its longest side.
  • Pulling of strings — An inch-long less than ¼ of an inch in diameter with strings on each end that when pulled cause the firecracker to explode.
  • Paper caps — Minute amounts of black powder spread in thin strips of paper on a small sheet and used in children’s toy guns.
  • El Diablo or Labintador — Tubular shaped, about 1-¼ inches long and less than ¼ inch in diameter with a wick.
  • Judah’s Belt — A string of either Diablos or small Triangulos numbering up to a hundred or so and culminating in a large firecracker — usually a Bawang. It is like a belt filled with firecrackers and its counterpart the Sawa or snake, which is also like the belt but longer, literally a snakelike string of hundreds, sometimes thousands of firecrackers.
  • Sky Rocket or Kwitis — A large Baby Rocket designed to fly up to 40 to 50 feet in the air before it explodes.
  • Sparklers — Black powder coated on a piece of wire or wrapped in a paper tube designed to light up and glow after igniting.
  • Luces — Any of several kinds of Sparklers.
  • Fountain — Cone-shaped sparkler, which is lighted on the ground and designed to create, sparks of various colors and intermittent lights when ignited.
  • Jumbo regular and special — Similar to a “Fountain” but bigger in size.
  • Mabuhay — A bundle usually of a dozen Sparklers.
  • Roman Candle — A kind of Sparkler also similar to a “Fountain” but shaped like a big candle.
  • Trompillo — A pyrotechnic device usually fastened at the center and designed to spin first clockwise and then counter-clockwise and gives off various light colors when ignited.
  • Airwolf — A kind of Sky Rocket shaped like an airplane with a propeller to rise about 40 or 50 feet and emits various lights while in the air.
  • Whistle Bomb — Any firecracker or pyrotechnic designed to emit a whistle-like sound before exploding. Others are designed simply to whistle without exploding.
  • Butterfly — A light emitting butterfly-shaped pyrotechnic that floats above the ground.

Amending RA 7183

Republic Act (RA) 7183, or also called the law on pyrotechnic devices, lists types of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices–and specifies the amount of gunpowder used in them–that can be legally sold.

Under RA 7183, persons caught manufacturing, selling, distributing and purchasing banned firecrackers identified as illegal and dangerous may be imprisoned from six months to a year, and may be slapped with a fine from P20,000 to P30,000.

The said penalties in the law are too soft and seem to be so insignificant for the countless invaluable human lives and properties that are lost and destroyed.

Bills introducing stricter regulation covering the sale and manufacture of firecrackers are currently pending at the committee level at the Senate and have been so since last year.

One bill, proposed by Senator Manuel Villar Jr., provides stiffer penalties for making and selling banned firecrackers.

In the explanatory note of his bill, Villar said has proposed a fine of from P500,000 to P1 million and imprisonment of from six years to 12 years.

Companies making the banned firecrackers, and vendors who sell them, will also have their stock confiscated and their business licenses revoked.

According to the Senate Legislative Information System, it has been pending with the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs since August 2010.

The Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce–in a separate Senate resolution–held a hearing on the firecracker trade in November, where committee chairman Villar urged the Department of Trade and Industry to step up monitoring of fireworks being sold for the holidays.

“The sad fact is that most products are being manufactured manually in crude and unsupervised manner which makes it difficult for government agencies to ensure their quality and safety,” he said then. He also said firecrackers should include safety instructions on product labels, “including how far away a person should be when lighting a firecracker.”

In July last year, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also proposed the banning of firecrackers from residential areas.

Her bill requires local governments to designate areas for firecracker use “for purposes of national and local holiday celebrations.”

Under Santiago’s bill, the firecracker-use areas will measure 200 square meters at most, and should be in non-residential zones. Each barangay can only have one designated area for firecracker use.

Using firecrackers in a residential area will carry a fine of P10,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment for from six months to a year, or both.

The bill was referred in September last year to the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs, and on local government. Neither Villar’s nor Santiago’s bill have counterpart proposals at the House of Representatives.


Firecracker Alternatives

In his New Year’s message, the President urged the public to refrain from lighting up firecrackers and look for alternative ways on how to spend the New Year in a fun and safe way.

Instead of trying to ignite firecrackers with names such as Goodbye Philippines or Goodbye Universe, President Benigno Aquino III said that the New Year could be better welcomed by saying “Goodbye Kapahamakan” and “Hello Pagbabago.”

“Humaharap po ako sa inyo ngayon upang makiusap: Sama-sama nating salubungin ang bagong taon, gamit ang ingay—hindi mula sa paputok—ngunit sa kolektibo nating sigaw sa isang masigla at mas ligtas na pagdiriwang,” the President said.

“Napakarami po kasing nalalagay sa panganib dahil sa paputok. Umabot po sa isanlibo at dalawampu’t dalawa ang nadisgrasya noong nakaraang taon. Karamihan po rito ay dahil sa paggamit ng paputok; at ilan din ang napinsala ng ligaw na bala at pagkalason,” he said.

He added that aside from putting people’s lives at risk, firecrackers also pollute the environment.

“Huwag na po ninyong tangkilikin ang mga paputok na ito; ipag-alaman din sa kinauukulan ang mga makikitang nagtitinda o may tangan ng mga ito,” he stressed.

He also expressed his full support to the campaign of the Department of Health dubbed APIR (Aksyon: Paputok Injury Reduction).

“Nakikiisa din ako sa Aksyon Paputok Injury Reduction o APIR campaign ng Department of Health. Ang layunin po: bawasan ang mga nasasaktan at nasusunugan sa pagdiriwang ng Bagong Taon; ipakilala ang isang panibagong anyo ng selebrasyon,” he said.

“Maaari po tayong magtipon sa kani-kaniya nating mga pasyalan at plaza upang panoorin ang mga fireworks display na isinasagawa ng ating munisipyo at ng pribadong sektor.”

As a safer way to spend New Year, the President urged the public to just watch fireworks displays or use safe sound-producing objects such as trumpets, kitchen wares, and other musical instruments.

“Maaari ring mag-ingay sa ibang paraan—sa kalampag, sa torotot, o sa tugtugin. Ligtas na paraan po ang mga ito,” Aquino said.

“Panahon na nga po ng bagong pag-iisip. Sama-sama nating salubungin ang Bagong Taon nang ligtas, nang may pagpapahalaga sa buhay at sa kapaligiran. Magdiwang tayo kipkip ang mga babala ng DOH at ng buong pamahalaan upang makaiwas sa disgrasya,” Aquino added.

I am not sure if the Health Department could still come up with “scarier strategies” to discourage firecracker use and be more successful in preventing injuries and deaths.

The DOH before has reported many who have died and presented many of the injured that required amputation of the limbs to save their lives. They even showed through media the medical tools used to cut of the affected body parts. Several circulars display the many gross injuries that could happen once you encounter a close proximity explosion.

It is high time that reckless merrymakers ought to learn their lessons not to disregard government warning and safety reminders. There are many other safe and meaningful ways of welcoming the New Year sans the traditional fireworks.

The New Year celebration can still be fun without firecrackers.

We can also clank improvised cymbals such as pot covers or pans. Jangle some maracas from used tin cans and rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns.

Play homemade drums that could be created out of big water bottles, biscuit cans or buckets, and create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

For our own safety, the public should use the traditional “torotot” and other sound-making instruments.

Final Note:

This New Year, I just wish we could really blow up the real “Ampatuan” or finally bid “Goodbye Gloria” to the “little girl” now detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC).

We have this gut feeling inside that tells us that certain perpetrators of crimes and injustices are indeed bad to the bone.

Amputating them by body parts would no longer work because their entire humanity may already be infected with the poison of greed and immorality.


 “Pagka gumamit po kayo ng paputok, definitely baka maputukan kayo. Kawawa naman ang inyong kinabukasan… Sino ang magtatrabaho para sa ating mga mahal sa buhay kung kayo ay paralyzed na, di na makakagalaw o makakakilos ng maayos? Sa mga kabataan naman, future ninyo ang nakasalalay dito.”

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Arsenio Reyes
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 13:40:39

    Ang galing talaga! The best ang article mo Sir. Thanks!!!


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