La Trinidad brigade upholds peace

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014


LA TRNINDAD, Benguet -- When night falls in the Valley, a different breed of women prowl.

As the night deepens, a group of women meet and start their ritual of walking the streets of the Valley in search for solace, armed with nothing but an iron will and a resolute spirit.

The La Trinidad Women’s Brigade, composed of women 40 to 70 years old, walk the streets and alleys sending home drunken minors, asking business owners to close up and giving motherly advice to spirited groups in drunken huddles.

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Mayor Edna Tabanda upon taking her seat as chief executive imposed an 8pm halt in serving liquor despite a clamor from business owners and bar operators to extend hours of serving alcohol in the province capital.

Firm in her decision and fortified by feedback of groups advocating the permanence of the time schedule of the ordinance Tabanda remained steadfast in her resolve to regulate the time of serving alcohol in establishments.

Mila Bingcola, president of the La Trinidad Women’s Brigade, said there are over 50 women involved in the night patrol, starting with an initial five pilot areas; Balili, Betag, Poblacion, Pico and Puguis baranagys.

The group was formed through the prodding of Valley Top Cop Byron Allatog, who thought it best to ask women of the town to help keep the peace.

Allatog said the women are effective in sending people home, taking their age as leverage in enforcing the law.

Police teams are assigned to each group of the women night watch to protect them from irate drunks as they go on with their advocacy.
The areas have now expanded to Poblacion, Puguis, Pico, Cruz, Tawang and Lubas starting with their initial night patrolJanuary 18.

Taking the cue from the success of the Bontoc Mountain Province Women’s Brigade to which locals attest are successful in breaking up fights and sending drunkards home because of their age and gentle prodding, partygoers tend to heed the call of these senior ladies manning the night watch.

The Bontoc Women’s Brigade

The example of the Bontoc ladies started in 2001, with a handful of these fearless women going on the night watch armed only with flashlights and a whistle resolutely breaking up spirited parties and keeping the peace in Bontoc.

For many, the ladies of the Bontoc Women Brigade are regarded with a stubborn resentment when they gently prod beer drinkers to go home, regardless of drunken protests though they calmly go on with their work, not minding the teasing and occasional violent reactions.

On the onset, the brigade received an incentive of only P1,000 a year, divided into 365 days, the brigade receives a P2 a day allowance. But the group has grown into a bustling 40 member team from its humble beginnings of less than 20 active elderly women.

The women now receive the incentives of a barangay tanod, saying legislation has provided a small increase in their incentives over the years.

The women then, were only armed with a blue jacket, a whistle, batuta rod and handcuffs. However the women hardly use the tools, their presence alone is enough to rouse a drunken man to consciousness and peacefully order him home.

The La Trinidad Night Watch

Joining the women in their nightly routine, starting from the Benguet Capitol going to Cruz, we were able to enter over 30 small restaurants cum bars.

Bingcola, with a team of over 30 women, patiently knocked on doors of establishments which appeared closed but obviously had patrons drinking the night away.

Establishments reluctantly opened their doors to the elderly ladies, with squeamish smiles, swearing to drink up and go home while Bingcola gives a short lecture on the curfew as well as the benefits of going home early.

Patrons hide in shame as the elderly women scold them and send them home, some stand their ground and drink away, some talk to them and try to reason, while some, quietly lament their presence.

Bingcola said all women in the night watch are on a purely voluntary basis. They have no uniforms, no flashlights, not even a whistle.

As they assemble at the kilometer 5 police station, only cups of coffee are given the volunteers and possibly, a ride back home if a patrol vehicle is available Bingcola said. Sometimes, the women have to go home themselves after their patrol.

The night watch sends home drunks and also monitors gambling activities if they come across a group into card games or the like.

Virgina Rivera, now 73, a retired midwife, and president of the barangay Poblacion team said, “We know the people here, they are our sons, nephews, nieces, grandsons, neighbors and friends, and we can speak openly to them.”

“We want them to have a brighter future, and we want them to finish their studies,” Rivera explains her reason for doing this nightly.

The night patrol starts at around 8pm and ends at 11pm at the latest, making the night a full beat for the women of the Valley.

Business establishments are getting used to these unique women of the night, regarding them like they do their nagging mothers or imposing aunts.

As the month of March champion women all over the country, the La Trinidad Women’s Brigade prowl the streets to keep the Valley safe.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 13, 2014.

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