It’s the same every December as we hove towards New Year. Like some twisted scene in the horror Saw series or yet another moment of carnage from Baghdad, newspapers and TV news here in the Philippines lead with graphic tales of kids blowing their fingers off with dodgy firecrackers.
Fireworks here are dirt cheap, available everywhere and to everyone, enormously popular and dangerous as hell.
Yet, despite the gory, blood spewing images every late December the number of firecracker injuries always rises. On the front page of today’s Philippine Star (December 28th issue) a report notes how the number of injuries is once again on the up – with 86 reported (including eight amputees) since the Dept of Health started tracking these wounds on December 21. Last year from December 21 to January 1, a total of 600 people were injured – a number authorities say will be surpassed this time around.
Among the most popular fireworks are the Gatling Gun-esque coils of firecrackers called sawas or pythons, which fire off 2,000 noisy rounds for under US$9 (at the bottom left of picture). Efforts to ban certain types of firework have proved nigh on impossible so widespread a cottage industry is the business of pyrotechnics in the archipelago. One particular type authorities are keen to outlaw is the boga, an improvised bazooka style canon made out of PVC – the risks of a backfire with these homemade devices being all too apparent.
Auld Lang Syne, prodigious quantities of spirits, and snogs all round might be the images and sounds most readily associated with New Year in my native country but out here the dawn of a new year is always tinged a ghastly red.