A subdued New Year celebration in Quezon as families donate to Sendong victimsBy Delfin Mallari Jr., Maricar Cinco and Mar S. Arguelles
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — Due to appeals for donations for the victims of tropical storm Sendong, the New Year parties for a number of families here were subdued. Some families decided not to spend too much on firecrackers and pyrotechnics.
“My family donated our traditional budget for firecrackers to the typhoon victims. The clan just banged pot covers and tin garbage cans. I set the volume of my rock music to full volume and that’s it,” Felicisimo Mendoza, a government employee, said in an interview Sunday morning.
A college student said he also donated the cash gifts he received from his godparents to calamity victims in Mindanao.
“The money was supposed to be spent for New Year’s noise and gimmicks. But I sacrificed my annual trip this time for a good cause,” said the student who requested anonymity.
For most residents of Lucena City, the low level of firecracker noise during the height of the celebration was a strange event.
“The noise was muted and short. But it was a welcome change,” said a market vendor.
Supt. Ramon Balauag, Lucena police chief, said only two firecracker casualties were reported in the city.
He said the police campaign against illegal firecrackers also helped in the reduction of firecracker victims.
Across the three regions of Southern Luzon, the number of those injured by firecracker blasts in Bicol (Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Masbate) Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) also noticeably dropped, health and police authorities, said.
Overall, 108 persons (Bicol — 32, Calabarzon — 70, Mimaropa — 6), who sustained firecracker injuries but these were lower than those recorded in the previous year, the police said.
In Bicol, for example, the number of fireworks injuries dropped by almost half, with only eight cases reported on the eve of the New Year, Dr. Ferchito Avelino, Department of Health (DOH) assistant regional director in Bicol, said Sunday.
Avelino said this number brought to 32 the cases documented since Dec. 21 to midnight of Dec. 31, 2011 and the early hours of Jan. 1, 2012. But it was still a 37.2 percent drop from the 51 cases recorded in the 2010 holiday season all the way to the New Year celebration to greet 2011, he said.
DOH records indicated that of the 32 cases in the region, nine cases were reported in Camarines Sur; eight cases each in Albay and Sorsogon, six in Camarines Norte and one in Catanduanes.
No injury from stray bullet was reported.
Most of the fireworks victims were male (30). The victims’ ages ranged from 10 to 50. At least five of the victims, all males, were reportedly under the influence of alcohol.
As for the type of fireworks that caused injury, Piccolo fireworks had the highest number with 16 victims, followed by Kwitis (rackets)with 5; Bawang-4; and one each for Baby Racket, Plapla, Pulling String and improvised explosive device.
In Mimaropa, the six injured persons included a municipal councilor, Ramer Ramos of Odiongan, Romblon. He sustained minor injuries in the eyes in an accident caused by a fountain, a cone-shaped sparkler, according to provincial health officer Dr. Edmund Relo.
Relo said the blast broke the councilor’s eyeglasses but said Ramos was already out of danger of losing his sight.
The blast victims in Calabarzon were mostly from Cavite and Rizal, based on data provided by health and police authorities in these provinces.
There were at least 30 firecracker injuries reported in Cavite and 20 in Rizal, accounting for more than half of the 70 reported in Calabarzon.
In Laguna, provincial health officer Dr. Alsaneo Lagos said five people were brought to the provincial hospital in Sta. Cruz on Saturday evening. He said since the start of the holiday season, the government hospital had recorded ten firecracker-related injuries, mostly caused by the “labintador.”
At the Calamba Doctors’ Hospital in Calamba City, four persons sustained minor injuries; while two — a 46-year-old man injured by “lusis” and an eight-year-old hurt by “piccolo” had to be admitted for operation. A one-year-old baby was brought to the hospital after having ingested gun powder but was later discharged, according to the hospital staff.
In Los Baños town, two men were rushed to the Los Baños Doctors’ Hospital. One man, 28 years old, sustained burns in one hand due to gunpowder, while the other had to have his hand sutured due to the blast from a “bawang.”
In Cavite, provincial health officer, Dr. Nelson Soriano said more than 30 persons had been injured by firecrackers. Most of the victims sustained injuries in the hands and fingers due to “piccolo,” he said.
Romilyn Jalea, a resident from Barangay Poblacion 4 in Indang, Cavite, reported to police that a stray bullet reportedly from an armalite landed inside their home on Saturday evening. No one was hurt from the accident, said the Indang police chief, Chief Inspector Joselito Sisante.
Meanwhile, the fire bureau in Bacoor town was investigating if a firecracker had a caused the fire that razed 100 shanties in a community of illegal settlers in Barangay Zapote 1, Bacoor on late Friday. Jason Luna from the regional disaster risk management council said the fire happened at around 4 p.m. and reached the fourth alarm before it was put out three hours later. Authorities have yet to confirm if the two persons, initially reported missing during the fire, had been found.
Only 10 cases of firecrackers injuries were reported in five government hospitals in Quezon province, according to Dr. Agripino Tullas, Quezon provincial health officer.
In Virac, Catanduanes, officials at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center reported two victims – Jesus de Lasa Jr., 13, of barangay Cavinitan, Virac, who sustained an eye injury due to a wayward fireworks; and Rafael Ramirez, 39, of barangay Palta Salvacion, Virac, who was hit by an errant “kwitis” (baby rocket). Both incidents occurred Dec. 31, 2011.
(With a report from Fernan Gianan, PDI Southern Luzon Bureau)