Dr. Jose Rizal, whose 117th death anniversary we commemorate today is reputed to be among the more peaceable heroes in our struggle for self-determination.
Rizal wielded not the bolo that has become symbolic of Andres Bonifacio but the pen to mirror in fiction like “Noli Me Tangere” and in nonfiction like “Letter to the Young Women of Malolos” the oppression under colonialist Spain against which our forebears revolted.
Rizal’s quiet ways did not spare him from an unjust trial, imprisonment and execution but his social critique continues to be integral to any movement to uplift the lives of Filipinos.
We remember Rizal’s sacrifice providentially enough near the bookends of different years and this ought to help us apply his philosophy of quiet engagement in the way we move forward to meet the new year.
The chronicles of people losing their limbs and lives while using firecrackers and pyrotechnics and dying after being hit by stray bullets make many of our fellow citizens wry footnotes to Rizal’s oft-quoted adage: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”
We would have expected 2012’s low number of firecracker-related injuries to signal the trend towards less and less bloody Christmas and new year celebrations.
Yet the Department of Health that has resorted to everything, including unleashing the dancing undersecretary, Dr. Eric Tayag in the campaign against firecracker use has recorded a rise from 167 last year to 170 this year so far in the number of fireworks casualties.
When will we ever learn? Does amnesia swoop down on us as soon as journalists stop reporting about the casualties in our celebrations?
We have clear options for addressing this public health issue. Davao City is marking its 13th year of racking up zero casualties due to its ban on firecrackers. A bill is pending in the Lower House to restrict firecracker use to experts. Sadly, authorities are slow on the uptake.
While they inch towards a solution, we must remember that there are more ways than one to skin a cat, more ways than respiration system-harming, ear-splitting, air-fouling and deadly firecracker use to celebrate Christmas or welcome the new year.
There are deeper, silent ways to brace for a new set of 365 and a quarter days, and they number and signify more than the noise that the stroke of midnight to Jan. 1 can contain.
Few resources should be invested in organizing those midnight barrages of noise, which to be safe should be generated by trumpets, pots and pans, car horns, shaken piggy banks and other similarly non-threatening objects.
We would all be so much better as persons and as a nation if instead of obsessing over one moment of euphoria, we spent more time quietly taking stock of ourselves, counting our blessings, letting go of our resentments, reconciling with our enemies, rediscovering our greatest dreams and planning what steps to take to be closer to fulfilling them.
We have had more than enough fireworks casualties to exhort us to welcome the new year safely. Let us learn our lessons in this regard to find in the new year a new us. Once and for all, let us prove that the great Rizal did not take the bullet 117 years ago for a people who would make a Yuletide tradition of maiming or shooting themselves.