Thursday, April 17, 2008
So: ‘Tapis’ cops
By Michelle P. So
Caught in the Net
AT the International Igorot Conference held this week in Banaue, Ifugao, local policewomen dressed themselves according to their tribes’ colors.
So, some 40 female members of the Cordillera Police Regional Office paired their blue cop blouses with tapis and wore their usual cop shoes, the two-inch black pumps. In their tapis, they were relieved of desk and patrol work and were assigned instead to the Banaue Hotel to frisk IIC guests and participants.
Chasing robbers in tapis has consequences that Cordillera PRO Director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin didn’t want to see. Like the tapis getting undone and exposing thong underwear, heaven forbid.
In the Cordillera Mountains, the tapis tells the story of a tribe and its culture and temperament. It is a colorful hand-woven wraparound skirt that has neither a zipper nor a button. Knee-length, the tapis is held together by a sash tied tightly around the waist.
The thing with the tapis, it is one size fits all and its sash has only one length. It may have something to do with the size and shape of the women in the mountains. Most of the native women I saw in the Cordilleras were toned and had muscular legs.
The tapis cops in Banaue and Sagada, the two Cordillera provinces frequently visited by tourists, draw the interest of visitors who are not used to seeing law enforcers in native wear. They are part of the “Top Cop,” an acronym for “tourism oriented police, community oriented police.”
The tapis cops will be visible during “festivals, important occasions, visits of dignitaries and weekends when there is an influx of tourists” but not on days outside these occasions. On regular days, they will be in their full police uniform.
I asked Rima Opina, the Sun.Star Baguio reporter who wrote the story about the tapis cops, why only the female members of the police force are required to wear a piece of the local costume. What about the policemen? Isn’t this gender discrimination in the work place?
Rima replied that the male members of the Cordillera tribes wear the bahag, a woven loin cloth with a small cover for the crotch and the butt, and the exposure can distract visitors, especially because it’s cold in the Cordillera region. The policemen may find the interest in them a little bit much to handle and they can’t run after robbers without a throng of women and mhin behind them.
I see. I mean, I imagine what I cannot see. The thing with the bahag, it feeds prurient thoughts that are better shared with women friends and Sun.Star Cebu editor Lorenzo Niñal than with mothers and Lungsuranon editor Fr. Marnell Mejia.
An aside: At the Dinagyang in Iloilo last January, I never saw so many male butts exposed in one day. The sight distracted me from, well, I forgot. It was a greased butt here, a feathered butt there. And there was this contingent that had its male dancers only in thongs that covered their pride with a mini ati mask.
Back to the tapis cops. According to Rima’s story, the Cordillera tourism office has been promoting the use of the native attire as a way to depict the culture of the Igorots.
I agree, but I’d like to see the male members of the police force in costume too. What’s a little distraction?
But notice the columnist wants guy cops to go native too...