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Christmas Light, Solar Light

For the first time in three years since the Pandemic, all lights are up and out this Christmas holiday, 2022. As a result, the neighborhood in every barangay is well lighted. At least a few multi-colored lights are hanging at home, a commercial establishment, or a post of a power consumer ready to pay extra for the monthly bill. The lights come in various shapes and sizes.

At the mall yesterday, the colored lights shone radiantly, sending glee and excitement to the children. I saw many shoppers wearing no face masks, thus unraveling happy faces. Without the face masks outside their homes, everything seemed to be lighting up for families with children and Lola and Lolo. Most were chatting, smiling, and giggling at discovering new commercial items on display laced with colored lights and accessories. But wait, the Department of Health and the World Health Organization are still not declaring the Pandemic is over.

Christmas lights are THE highlights for everyone captivated by the season’s festivity. Christmas wouldn’t be like any other without the bright multi-colored lights twinkling and illuminating homes and the neighborhood. They are magical and joyful to look at. They conjure a light, happy feeling of hope and change. We cannot have a merry Christmas without the colored lights – big and small - around.

At the Mariners Canaman, school officials and staff led by Dr. Gabriel Jimenez switched on the lights of a giant Christmas tree that the General Services (GSO) workers rushed to set up for the first Friday of the month. The quiet, cheerful event also signaled the day of community reckoning for the anticipated 13th-month pay, bonuses, and other incentives. I reckon these are the most awaited December gifts to light up the hearts of each member of the working force during these challenging times.

That same day, December 2, the lights at the back of the Mariners gym at the Berde Asul, where the Citronella Oil Distillation plant now stands, turned solar, natural, organic, and colorful. The Department of Science and Technology-Region V and the Tabang Bikol Movement forged a Memorandum of Agreement for the turnover of the first off-grid 6000-watt solar panel to operate the production processes of a social enterprise in the Bicol region. Regional Director Rommel Serrano acknowledged the more significant challenge of replicating the project in all of Bicol but would need many more partners and government support. The livelihood facility is a collaborative project between the Department of Agriculture-Region V and TBM.

From dark to light

Meanwhile, the Mariners community has a unique way of celebrating the Christmas holiday. Aside from the traditional Christmas tree lighting is the yearly Alay kay Boboy Day. December 20, 1990, marked one of the darkest moments for the schools and offices of the Mariners System when its first Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Jaime Jimenez, Jr, died from a bullet pumped into his head by a drug-crazed gunman in Paranaque. The assailant fired as the young naval architect, mariner engineer, and training center president was driving his car carrying packs of Christmas gifts for street children, beneficiaries of his philanthropy.

For the families and survivors of crime, like Boboy’s, lights dimmed during the Christmases that passed without justice served for their loved ones. We recall the 1990s was a dark period of heinous crimes hogging newspaper headlines - of Vizconde, Villa, Jimenez, Maguan, Hultman, and others which led to the founding of the Crusade Against Violence. Many crime perpetrators were drug offenders and linked to corrupt local personages. Soon, many CAV members metamorphosed into an anti-corruption non-government advocacy group, the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC). The loss inspired Boboy’s family and friends to turn grief and darkness into light by organizing the Kalayag Foundation to continue the young man’s advocacy to help poor street children. The Kalayag spirit lives in the TBM’s Kurit Aki program, which takes to heart the need for psycho-social intervention for the poor and needy children in the region. It gives a ray of hope.

Light to become light to others

For most social advocates like me, Christmas lights remind us to inspire and serve others. In the religious context, light means creation. All earthly life is dependent on light. For those who undergo dark moments, lights remind us of our man’s capacity to overcome darkness and change. We can always find light, life, and hope, even in darkness. Light symbolizes life, prosperity, joy, and, in the broader sense, immortality.

Scientific and health/medical studies show that lights, like the colorful Christmas lights, can also trigger dopamine, the chemical in the brain that gives us the sensation of “feeling good”. Christmas lights of red, green, and gold are powerful Silent Night colors. We become more alert, conscious of our surroundings, and happy. Lights are linked with joy and good memories and help ease anxiety, depression, and stress.

The light emanating from traditional candles like those produced by the Ilaw ng Kababaihan can evoke a calm sensation, especially since their candles have a citronella scent.

There are two main kinds of light: natural and artificial. Whether one uses natural sources like the sun or a commercial electric lamp, they both illuminate the dark. The drawbacks? Artificial light is costly and very harsh on families’ purses. Bicol is the most expensive. Solar light from natural sunlight converted to electric current is the best. It is pollution-free and causes no greenhouse gases. It is renewable and available every day of the year, even on cloudy days. Other natural energy sources, from ocean currents and geothermal, are just waiting to be tapped. On December 20, after at the TBM Christmas get-together, the solar panel now-installed, will be switched on to light the big parole hanging on the TBM facility.

Let solar light shine upon us this Christmas season and on those who cause darkness with injustice and indifference. Let us be the organic light to light others - on Christmas and all year round, for a bright future ahead.


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