I was inspired to write this article because of the Tourist Police whom I met in Burnham Park who didn't just help me carry my stuff, but was also kind enough to let me ride the taxi first.
It was a Saturday afternoon when I went to the Ibaloy Heritage Garden to pick-up some of the stuff I left there last week after the Sunday market at Session road. I told myself that I'll be quick because I should stay at home more, and like always, I enjoyed my stay too much and completely forgot that taxi's at night are very scarce. I was a little bit annoyed with myself because I'm carrying too much stuff, it's really cold, and I know that waiting for a taxi will be such a pain. I exited through the gate in Kisad road, in front of Lourdes Church , and as expected there were a lot of people waiting for taxis, so I decided to walk to Legarda road while carrying a lot of stuff. A few meters away, a man in uniform started to run towards my direction. I didn't even suspect that there's something going on behind my back because he's not really sprinting. I realized then that he wanted to help me when he reached for the things I was carrying and asked me where I was going. I told him that I'm going up to Legarda road and will wait for a taxi there. He took everything I'm carrying and walked towards legarda road. While walking I boasted that I had a lolo and five (5) uncles and who are also police officers, I also shared my opinion of what I think of their profession, and the recent issues concerning the Philippine National Police (Jonel Nuezca, the abduction/murder case in 2020, Ninja cops, etc). He was very polite and nice, and his statements were not defensive at all. Our conversation was cut short with a phone call, it was his mom, asking him if he's going to have dinner at home. From there I asked him about their preparation for the holidays and learned that he is a tourist police and that he'll be on duty on Christmas day and even on New year's eve. While waiting in Legarda, a taxi stopped in front of us and spoke to him in Ilocano. I must say, after all the criticism I told him I was a bit scared because I do not understand what they're talking about. He told me that I can go first. I was a bit hesitant at first but still trusted that this person, who I didn't know, who helped me carry my stuff is a kind person. In the taxi, the driver told me that he was actually on his way home already and only stopped for us because he thought that I'm with the police, he told me that everytime he sees a man in uniform waiting for a taxi, whether he is already on his way home or going to eat or take a break, he always goes out of his way to help a man in uniform, because his son is also one - assigned in Metro Manila.
I contemplated our encounter for days and it hit me, this is exactly what my professor, Atty. Sayarot, told our class back when I was in college; while we are sound asleep in our home, the Navy's are out there protecting our seas. Same with the Tourist Police Unit here in the City of Baguio, while we are enjoying our day outside with our family and friends; having picnics, running around, sightseeing, etc., the tourist police are there keeping us safe and keeping decorum while we are in the middle of the pandemic. For many, this may seem not a big deal, but looking at it with more consideration, these are not simple sacrifices. Some would say that 'it is their job', but what are they doing exactly?
Aside from their main duty; safety and security of both local and foreign tourist, the Tourist Police Unit is also incharge of the following:
- Traffic in the whole of Baguio City, specially on those that doesn't have stop lights
- Checkpoints and Entry points going to Baguio
- Safeguarding of all tourist spots in Baguio
And on a more personal note; I am well-traveled, not as a tourist, but as a student-teacher-researcher. And everytime I'm on the road, I make sure that I immerse myself just enough to fully understand the sentiments of the locals and still have the perspective of a tourist. Whenever I go to tourist spots or even in not well-known places, my main concern is the safety of going around, not because I think ill of the people but because it is already established that in most places, specially on crowded ones, there will be people who will take advantage of the 'naive ones.' And this is what I'm gushing about to those people asking me of what it's like to live in Baguio or what they should 'know' when going around in Baguio. And I always make it clear that whether in a crowded place or not, in a sea of unfamiliar faces, there's at least one man in uniform. I'm not saying that the locals or even other tourists will not be a help, but it should be noted that these men in uniform, specially the Tourist Police, are not just there to remind us of social distancing, proper wearing of face masks, or decorum. That in times of uncertainty; where to go, what to do, or if you have any concern at all, there's at least one focal person that you can completely trust.
It has been a year since I decided to settle here in Baguio and as someone who grew up in Metro Manila; never in my entire stay here, whether on crowded places or in empty ones, that I put my bag in front of me to safeguard my belongings. Never in my entire stay here have I been afraid to be alone in a park at night. Never in my entire stay here have I been afraid to go home late or walk in a dark or empty alley. And this is because of the comfort and assurance the tourist police have imprinted with their presence in the city.
I'm not glorifying anyone here, definitely not, but what I'm trying to make clear is; we can be an active critic of our men in uniform and still appreciate their efforts, works, and sacrifices.
This holiday season, if you happen to see a men in uniform; keeping decorum, assuring that you, your family, or friends will have a good time, don't forget to thank them, don't forget to appreciate that while we are with the comfort of our love ones, there are people who are in active duty looking after us.
Written by Fatima Jenesis Rosario and Edited by Francis Ed Villanueva