WE FILIPINOS celebrate Christmas with a big bang as early as the month of October. Indeed, our celebration is known around the globe as the longest holiday of the year. As we could see now, every side street or “barangay” road strip, and light post are decorated with colorful lights and lanterns. Our favorite radio stations are also regularly playing Christmas carols and we often join humming the songs with glee.
Aside from the traditional Christmas tree, the lantern or ‘star’ is an iconic and meaningful decorative object in every Filipino home. The lantern reminds the Christian community of the ‘big star’ that guided the three noble kings to pay homage to the newly-born child, Jesus. So, to commemorate this special occasion, we always find innovative ways especially the kids to decorate our windows, doors, and living areas using these different lanterns and decors.
As part of their school projects, aside from the traditional Japanese papers, school children are encouraged by their teachers to look for local and waste materials such as rice husks, used plastic bags, candy wrappers, fruit peelings, dried seeds, tin/bottle caps, sea shells, plastic straws, ribbons, floppy discs, old newspapers, and rice sack nets to adorn the skeletal frame of the lantern.
In so doing, these school children become resourceful and creative; consequently increase their level of awareness and understanding in the value of recycling and reuse at the early age. At the end, this simple school project can make a difference in avoiding these waste materials being thrown away or without use at all, and becoming an environmental problem.
Several research studies conducted in the past focused on how these local waste materials particularly wastes from the agricultural processes to be utilized for alternative construction materials, either as lightweight and coarse aggregates. Unfortunately, this developmental research is not given much priority – as pushing further our scientists and engineers in the universities, colleges, and national institutions to collaborate in developing innovative ways for managing agricultural wastes. In this way, it can help promote and commercialize these alternative materials without jeopardizing the quality of the structures but rather enhance its strengths, durability, and physical features at a lower construction cost.
AS WE CELEBRATE XMAS, these colorful lanterns will always bring peace, hope, and love to Filipino families amidst the struggles in every natural calamity that strikes the country yearly.