A citizens’ environmental watchdog today gathered in Plaza Miranda in front of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila to urge the public to celebrate Christmas sans extravagance and wastefulness in deference to the grave humanitarian crisis unfolding in Northern Mindanao.
The EcoWaste Coalition lighted candles and called for “Simpleng Pasko” (Simple Christmas) amid the heartrending devastation left by tropical storm Sendong in Mindanao that took the lives of over 1,000 people and left thousands mourning and homeless.
To dramatize their advocacy for “Simpleng Pasko,” three kids donned mock gift boxes with the words “Reduce,” “Reuse” and “Recycle” as others sung Christmas carols, while a man dressed as Santa Claus asked passersby to opt for austere celebrations and "help Sendong survivors."
“We invite the faithful to celebrate the joyful season in a way that is closer to the simplicity of the first Christmas and to find inner happiness in looking after our fellow human beings and the environment,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“By toning down our celebrations to bare essentials, we avoid falling prey to the obtuse consumerism that has veiled the genuine meaning of Christmas and literally wrapped our surroundings with trash,” he explained.
For her part, Tin Vergara, EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner said that “money saved from the lavish gifts, parties and fireworks can be used to help Sendong survivors rebuild their homes and their lives.”
“We’re not asking people to junk Christmas, but to embrace a ‘Simpleng Pasko’ and find abundant joy in responding to the call for humanitarian help from the disaster survivors,” she added.
The group exhorted the public to give generously to disaster relief and rehabilitation programs initiated by various church, civil society, media and government organizations to help the flood-ravaged communities, especially in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
Specifically, the group urged the public and private sectors to cancel planned firework shows and divert the funds to aid grief-stricken families in reconstructing their houses and in coping with their psychological and economic losses.
A “Simpleng Pasko,” according to the group, would require a conscious effort to cut down holiday expenses and wastes and rejoice in an austere and eco-friendly celebration of the Redeemer’s birth.
Unrestrained celebrations eat up huge amounts of raw materials and energy, and generate voluminous wastes and pollutants, including greenhouse gases that cause the planet to heat up, the group pointed out.
The discarded plastic bags, disposable containers, packaging materials and party leftovers from Christmas bazaars and parties usually end up in marginalized communities where these are either buried or burned, posing health and environmental hazards to residents.
“We therefore urge the public to be environmentally responsible and remember the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) as Christmas is observed,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.