Bontoc Women still Man the Night Watch
By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol/ Nordis (Northern Dispatch Weekly)
BONTOC, Mountain Province — On June 27, some six elderly women gathered at a waiting shed in Samoki village of Bontoc with their flashlights in tow. As soon as their police escorts arrived, the night’s round started.
These Bontoc mothers and grandmothers are members of the Women’s Brigade that help keep peace and order in the town. Samoki is but one of the villages in the town center where establishments are selling liquor.
Caridad Fersway, who is in her 60’s said they help implement the town’s liquor ban and curfew. She said establishments are no longer allowed to sell liquor by 10:00 PM until the next morning. She said their town also imposed a 10:00PM curfew. She said that they now include computer shops in their rounds.
“We warn them on the first round, they should be closed and have stopped serving alcoholic beverages by the time we return,” she said.
Fersway said they stop patrolling at around midnight or until all shops are closed and all the drunks have gone home.
Fersway said the Samoki women brigade is composed of 12 members. She said that when they started in 2002, all members do the rounds every night but later they realized it would be better if they take turns.
“But we take turns now, the other six will do the rounds tomorrow,” she said.
Fersway said they tend to their rice fields, swidden farms and some other house work during the day and then the rounds at night. She said the shifting allows them more rest.
Caroline Castañeda, the town brigade’s president said they started with 64 women patrolling all over the town in 2002. But this year, she said they are down to 40. She said some died and the others could no longer withstand the physical challenge. She said that the youngest member is 30 years old and the oldest is more than eighty years old.
Castañeda said that aside from helping keep the peace, they also help implement proper waste disposal. She said they also do tree planting twice a year.
Labor of love
Castañeda said what they do is volunteer work. She said the funds they receive from the provincial and municipal governments is used for uniforms, flashlight and batteries.
“I am over 70 years old now but for as long as my physical strength allows me I will continue to do the rounds,” said Cecilia Ofo-ob.
“We volunteered and made a vow to man the night watch for our children and grandchildren. We do not really get tired because it is for our children,” Ofo-ob said.
Ofo-ob shared that somebody donated some stun guns and truncheons for their safety. “We do not want to use them because we do not want to hurt anybody. We would rather just talk to them,” she said.
Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey in a separate interview said they offered the brigade to man the day watch over computer shops allowing school children to stay on during class hours but they refused. He said the offer was made in consideration to the health and safety of the women.
“They said they are still fit and can handle the situation,” Odsey said.
Odsey said the women are not being paid for their services. But he said the municipal government give them incentives.
SPO2 Gilbert Batane of the Bontoc town police station, who accompanied the Samoki women said that after more than a decade that the women brigade has been manning the night watch, the establishments and towns folk have become more cooperative. He said that most establishments would already start closing down their shops at 10:00 PM.
Batane said that today most of the time, the women brigade would help the establishments send their drunk customers home. He, however, said there are still some stubborn ones.
“There some shops who would close but actually continue the drinking session inside,” he said.
He said the brigade members would patiently knock on these shops and make them obey.
PO1 Paul Afidchao who also accompanied the Samoki women said dispersing those drunk and asking shops to close is more peaceful and easier with the brigade’s help. “Those drunk would fight the police but they would not dare disobey their mothers, grandmothers, aunties and wives,” he said.
Afidchao said the police would continue mobile patrol beyond 12 midnight after the women brigade have gone home. “But by that time nobody is loitering around anymore so it makes our job easier,” he said.
So just as the clock strikes 10:00PM in Bontoc, establishments selling liquor close down knowing that their mothers and grandmothers will come to make sure they would anyway. Even the local folks who are already drunk know that they have to be on their way home.