Blazing Trails: The Women Firefighters of Taguig

March 30, 2016 by Rome Jorge

They go into harm's way and face fear like true soldiers. They keep families safe and secure like policemen. They inspect premises like detectives. And they educate people on safety and prevention like teachers. Only the bravest, most skilled, and most dedicated become firefighters of the Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP). And women firefighters are proving they’ve got the right stuff when things get too hot to handle for most.

Winning ways

At the 5th Mayor Lani Cayetano Inter-Barangay Fire Olympics last March 16 to 18, women firefighters went toe-to-toe with their male counterparts in activities that proved they are equal to the task: Rescue and Transfer Relay which challenged their skill in transferring a victim’s body, Fire Extinguishment which examined their proficiency in using a fire extinguisher, Bucket Relay which showcased their swiftness in filling up a tank with 50 gallons of water, and Tug-of-War which tested a group’s strength and teamwork.

And the overall champion? Barangay Central Signal. It also happens to be the station with the most number of women members.

This year’s Fire Olympics was held at the Taguig Baseball Stadium along Pedro Cayetano Boulevard, a perfect venue as the wide sprawling fields were far from any building and residence, since some of the competitions necessitated the creation of controlled fires.

The event was among several initiatives of the local government, which included a joint house-to-house inspection by the BFP and the city’s Barangay Affairs Office throughout all of the city’s 28 barangays. On March 9, the BFP-Taguig also conducted its annual “Barangay Ugnayan” seminar, to evaluate and strengthen the capabilities of barangay volunteers in fire response.

March is Fire Prevention Month and it couldn’t be more apt. During the hottest time of the year – from March to April – the Taguig Central Fire Station recorded 65 fire incidents in 2014 and 63 fire incidents in 2015. The total of fire incidents annually for Taguig is 244 in 2014 and 245 in 2015.

It’s because of this danger that the city's firefighters continuously hone their skills, stay vigilant, and continue to work alongside the communities they serve.

Only the worthy

Firefighting is traditionally considered a man’s job. But for Chief Public Information Services, FO3 Hannah Marie Velasco, it was to grant her father’s wish.

Velasco recalls, “When my father was still alive, he wanted me to be in the army. When he died, I wanted to enroll in the PMA (Philippine Military Academy) but since I’m the only daughter, my mother didn’t allow me. So when I learned there’s a job opening in the BFP in Albay where I’m originally from, I immediately applied. I was offered an interview and I passed all the qualifying and agility exams. When I was told that I was going to be absorbed in the Bureau, I told the Dep-Ed (Department of Education) that I was leaving the teaching profession. Now I live in Taguig and work for the BFP here.”

Like Velasco, SF01 Novissa Renomeron also hails from the province and saw her profession as a path to a better life. She reveals, “Nag-graduate po ako from Leyte College nung 2001 at naghanap ng opportunity dito sa Metro Manila. In 2002, nag-take po ako ng fire officer exam na kino-conduct ng Civil Service. Naipasa ko po yun tapos yun ang ginamit kong eligibility para makapag-apply sa Bureau of Fire Prevention. [I graduated from Leyte College in 2001 and looked for opportunities in Metro Manila. In 2002, I took the fire officer exam offered by the Civil Service. I passed it and used my eligibility to apply for a position with the Bureau of Fire Prevention.]”

Overcoming challenges, finding fulfillment

To be part of the BFP, one must pass numerous qualification tests and undergo rigorous training.

Velasco shares the most daunting aspect of her training. “The Australian rappel, it’s like you’re facing death. But I overcame that fear – I performed it and even enjoyed it. The most fulfilling part of this job is when you overcome your fear. You tell yourself that, yes, you’ve done what the men would have done.”

She adds, “Firefighters not only have to be good in rescue and in providing medical services, but we also have to be vigilant about inspection and prevention.”

Indeed, it’s a tough job for anyone – man or woman. Renomeron recalls, “May isa kaming narespondehan na sunog ng madaling araw. We were the first responder. So doon ko talaga nasabing bumbero ako. Kasi nakahawak ako ng hose, bumomba ako. Tsaka yung fulfillment mong hindi mo ramdam yung init, yung pagod. Parang napakalakas mo pag nandun ka. [There was a fire in the wee hours of the morning, and we were the first responder. As I held the hose and doused the flames, that’s when I truly believed I was a firefighter. It was so fulfilling, I didn’t even feel the heat and the fatigue. I felt so strong.]

She never fails to be challenged by her work. “Nakita ko na marami palang ginagawa ang mga bombero – hindi lang po fire prevention at fire operations. Dun nag-umpisa yung journey ko, dun ko na-appreciate at napamahal sa akin ang trabaho ko. [I saw that firefighters have to be able to do a lot of things – not only fire prevention and fire operations. That’s where my journey started and that’s where I learned to appreciate and love what I do.]”

Women at the forefront

The women are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and have earned the respect of their fellow male firefighters.

Velasco attests, “I felt no special treatment just because I’m a woman. What they do, we also do. Whatever training or strenuous activity they undergo, we also go through. There are no exemptions. And we’re very competitive.”

Renomeron reveals that she doesn't mind serving alongside the men in the same fire station, noting, “Ang lalaki naman kasi hindi nawawala yung respect nya sa mga kasama. [The men never lose their respect for their colleagues.]”

With more and more women filling the ranks of the Bureau of Fire Prevention in Taguig, and with the kind of dedication and passion they display, the city is safer than ever.

Put these numbers on speed dial!

In case of emergency, call these numbers:
(+632) 837-0740
(+632) 837- 4496
(+632) 642- 9982

The Bureau of Fire Prevention’s Fire District IV – more commonly known as Taguig City Fire Station – is located at CRB Road, ARCA South (formerly FTI Complex), Western Bicutan, Taguig City.

There are also 3 sub-stations:
Bagumbayan Fire Sub-Station - (+632) 544-1076
Tipas Fire Sub-Station - (+632) 543-5623
MRT Fire Sub-Station - (+632) 838-5200

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