“Fireworks like the 4th of July? Or war zone?” by Chad Robert Parker

The craziest fireworks display I’ve ever seen didn’t come on the fourth of July. When I lived in the Philippines from 1997-1999 I learned that Christmas or New Year’s eve rivaled anything I’d ever witnessed in America. The fireworks weren’t so colorful but more people had them and it sounded more like artillery. In 1998, I felt like I was in the middle of a war zone more than at any other time in my life.

We had just returned home, my mission companion and I, right before the sun went down. We thought we arrived safely ahead of the commotion. The natives don’t usually start the explosions flying until closer to midnight.

The neighbor who lived below us must not have gotten the memo. He’d already tipped enough bottles to be quite tipsy himself. We didn’t know much about him. He kept a low profile. We had heard that you don’t want to owe him past due or he could get ugly collecting from his illegal underground gambling scheme.

Like us he was a foreigner, only he was from Pakistan or maybe it was India. Anyway, I’ve never been to either place. Judging by my neighbors enthusiasm for fireworks I expect they have a good time celebrating, too. I stood in awe at the spectacle when my companion waved for me to get down. He was hiding behind the wheel of a vehicle. Fearing this crazy man laughing hysterically might have an unknown vendetta and take aim at me, I obeyed.

When we looked over the hood of the car we saw that the man had lit a big string of M-80 style crackles hung up like a banner in front of the apartment entryway. The locals described the fireworks as homemade from newspapers and gunpowder, created and stockpiled for this occasion in nipa-huts throughout the year. Not only were these firing off he was lighting off several bottle rockets. These projectiles zipped over the car at us. He scurried around maniacally and set off more ground bombs. We were out of breath laughing, just happy to survive the excitement!