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  • Adrienne Dy

#IdeasPositiveRun5: The fall of Metal Man, and the rise of Healthy Ignition

Team Transformer v2.0 brings positive change to a firecracker-making community in Cebu

Meet Metal Man. Shirtless, every inch of his skin covered with a shiny coat of gunpowder and other chemicals. A tiny spark of friction is all that stands between him and incineration, yet he works on, unaware of the impending danger.

But Metal Man is about to become extinct.

A group of students from the University of Cebu-Baynilad are out to get him – or more accurately, transform him. Clarice Almocera, Marefel Añora, Fritz Warren Burlaos, Jorge Patiño and team leader Angelyn Antonio aptly call themselves Team Transformer v2.0, and they’re bringing change to an entire community of Metal Men.

Brgy. Babag II in Lapu-lapu City, Cebu is the central firecracker-making community in the region. Its many puroks are named after their “specialty products”: Kwitis, Thunder, Whistlebomb. Purok Judas Belt is one of the larger communities, with about 30 workers producing roughly 5,000 firecrackers each monthly. They are the target of Team Transformer’s pilot project, “Healthy Ignition.”

Like their neighbors, Purok Judas Belt’s main health problems revolve around two main things: safety issues and respiratory threats. The students’ solutions? Introducing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and an improved manufacturing process.

Wearing protective clothing, gloves and masks logically reduces exposure to harmful and flammable substances. But the heat can get overwhelming, and gloves get in the way of san san, a manual process that requires the tactile estimation of the amount of gunpowder that goes into the firecrackers. So the team gathered some community leaders to co-develop the PPE with them. The result is more Mario Brothers than Metal Man – open-backed cool cotton overalls-slash-aprons that detach with one firm tug once they catch flame; and breathable cotton masks that can be adjusted for a more comfortable fit. The most important part is, as co-developers, the workers are actually proud to wear their products.

Likewise, the team managed to move working stations from inside homes (where people worked dangerously close to the children, the food, and the bedroom) to evenly spaced payag or work huts a safe distance from the residential area. The new locations have also tweaked the working style to a more “factory-type” system, which may potentially improve efficiency.

Angelyn and her team are supplementing these interventions with medical missions, clean up drives and health education geared towards keeping hazards and respiratory ailments at bay. They’ve organized a group of eager Health Rangers, comprised of kids aged 7 to 14, to help instill a culture of health and safety in the community.

The most fulfilling part for the team so far? “Kanya-kanya ‘yung community dati (The community used to be fragmented), but now they’ve become organized and actually help each other,” said Angelyn. Thanks to the team’s efforts, the magic of positive transformation is seeping into the lives of these firecracker makers.

The age of Metal Man is over; a safer and healthier Purok Judas Belt is on the rise.

This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun5 series, which documents the transformation of 14 communities through innovative ideas of 14 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time! Visit the Ideas Positive official Facebook page.

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