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A less smoke-filled beginning in 2017

Another year has passed. We once again find ourselves at the beginning with several chances to start anew. The New Year is always significant to so many because it marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another and we all tend to feel optimistic because we want the new year to be better than the one before.

I know that’s how we all felt celebrating New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31st. 2016 was a challenging year but not without blessings too. Our family was grateful for so much so we looked towards 2017 with hope that it will be even better. I remember awaiting the stroke of midnight with my family with our glasses held high and our lucky round fruit wishing for the best in the year ahead.

One of the things I noticed about New Year’s Eve this time round though was that it was much more quiet than celebrations in years gone by. While there were fireworks and occasional pops and bangs, they were nothing compared to the firecracker displays we had seen before. This was actually a good thing. While celebrating is fun, firecrackers can be dangerous and it has always been a sad new year tradition to read the paper the next day and see all the injuries and deaths that may have occurred due to improper firecracker use, accidents, or worse loose bullets.

While there were indeed some injuries this year, the numbers have finally seemed to decrease (by as much as 60 percent according to DOH Secretary Ubial). I can only hope that that means Filipinos are learning (albeit slowly) to be more careful and cognizant of those around them. It helped too of course that DOH launched a very comprehensive Iwas Paputok campaign that advised Filipinos to use other noisemakers such as horns, whistles, and etc instead of dangerous paputok.

I am glad the year passed peacefully and with less firecracker mayhem than in years passed. Even driving home from the festivities was a lot more peaceful without feeling like we were driving through a war zone and barely being able to see through the thick smoke. I remember before it was always a legitimate concern that we might run over a live firecracker or get into an accident due to poor visibility. That was not the case this year. Smoke was at a minimum and even when we drove home just a little passed midnight, it was not as hard.

Hopefully this healthier and less smoky start is the beginning of a good trend in the country. With abundance of information available to them perhaps Filipinos can be entreated to be healthier and avoid things that can do them harm. One example would be lessening the dangerous firecrackers. And another would be smoking. In line with a less smoke-filled beginning this New Year I am happy that President Duterte has taken up the cudgels against smoking in public places.

This tough no-smoking order is the toughest anti-tobacco laws in the country and implementation is going to be difficult overall, but I think it’s an important law that will help the country not only prevent smoke pollution but also curb the incidence of diseases that are associated with smoking including respiratory diseases and even several types of cancer.

It is time we followed countries like Singapore that are very strict with their littering and smoking in public places policies. After all, we can all see the benefits that these countries have reaped when it comes to having cleaner, healthier, and safer public places. After all, realistically, smoking offers no health benefits to smokers and at the same time endangers innocent bystanders who happen to inhale the second hand smoke. It’s time to kick the habit or at the very least, restrict it in public.

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I have always admired Pope Francis ever since he was elected to become the leader of the Catholic Church. I have written more than one column about my admiration for our pope who showcases love and compassion and inspires Catholics all over the world to do the same. He is truly the embodiment of Catholic values and leads by example, putting the poor first and reaching out to those in need. He is someone we can truly look up as a role model and someone to emulate.

As the New Year came in, the pope once again called on all of us to be more compassionate and humble in 2017 and reach out to one another and help those in need. He said that he felt bad that the world has become more “cold and calculating” and I have to agree. If there is one thing that became quite evident in 2016 it was that unity has taken a backseat and everyone was “out for themselves.” Today, we find the world more divided then ever and it is that divisiveness that I truly feel will cause problems further on down the road.

I think we can all learn something from the pope and try to be more understanding of others this 2017. If there is one thing I hope we can all add to our list of New Year’s resolutions it is be healthier, happier, and more accepting of our brothers and sisters. After all, at the end of the day, we are all in this together. If we band together I believe we can all achieve our goals and dreams that much quicker. Here’s hoping for a successful, happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017 for us all.

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