As people start to get ready for bed, members of the Bontoc women brigade also get ready to start their night rounds. With their flashlights and some wooden canes in hand, they head out inspecting computers shops, restaurants, and karaoke stalls.
Authoritatively, they tell off youths who have stayed out way pass the 10:00pm curfew to go home. Patiently, they remind establishment owners of the liquor ban and wait out until the last drunk is home.
“When there are drunks who have passed out in the streets, we drag them home or bring them to the police station if we can. If not, we try to put them in more secure area and leave cartons as blanket for them,” Bontoc Women Brigade Caridad Feshway shared.
As the night grows deeper, these “Ikit” (a term of respect for older women) also get into “real” action especially when dealing with drunkards. They single-handedly drag drunks home and break off fights. They pacify stubborn young men and deal with the shouting during fights. These elderly women give their hundred percent commitment in keeping peace and order in their barangays.
Commitment for the Future
Commitment is one of the most difficult things to give but for the Bontoc Women Brigade, nothing is hard for the sake of the future of their children and community.
Bontoc Chief of Police Faith Igualdo shared that since the women brigade started conducting night rounds, violations of curfew for minors, the liquor ban, and fighting incidents have decreased. The respect that the community have for the elders made the Bontoc Women Brigade more effective force multipliers.
“Noong nagstart sila (Bontoc Women Brigade) dun talaga napakalaki ng impact. Medyo mas bata pa sila noon,” Igualdo added.
After fifteen years of continuous efforts to help in the implementation of municipal ordinances, the Bontoc Women Brigade has been recognized by various agencies and organizations. They are the best practice of the Bontoc Municipal Police Office and the model for the La Trinidad Women’s Brigade and other municipalities in the Cordillera.
The Bontoc local government unit also gives the group Php50,000 yearly while the Provincial Government, at times, gives budget for uniforms. There are also donations of equipment from government and non-government organizations and individuals.
A Need for More Extraordinary women
In 2003, at least 40 women started the Bontoc Women Brigade under the leadership of then Councilor Caroline Castañeda. The organization is composed of four groups who do rounds in the four major barangays of Bontoc – Poblacion, Bontoc Ili, Samoki, and Caluttit.
As years passed, some of the members died while some were no longer able to join the night rounds as they have grown weak and suffered from arthritis. Many of the members are in their 60’s and 70’s with the oldest active member aged 79.
The challenge for the organization at present is the recruitment of new members who can continue the peacekeeping efforts of the pioneer members.
“Wala pang recruit na bago, yung younger generation sana,” Igualdo said.
The members of the Bontoc Women Brigade are your typical grandmothers who experience joint pains, blurry visions, and hearing problems that come with age but what makes them extraordinary is the commitment they give for the sake of the younger generations and the future of their communities. Juliet D. Pilotin(EDT/JDP/JPM-PIA CAR)