When rain started pouring in the afternoons of April, I have been seeing Alapo Ikay digging the vacant piece of land in front of our house in the morning until noon. One would see her tend the soil with a tapis wrapped around her waist, a not so common thing for the modern Igorota to don these days except during special occasions, and her gentle demeanour shines with the colorful beads around her neck while her head is wrapped with a floral scarf under a wide-brimmed hat, as she does a very laborious job of tilling the soil with a hoe and her bare hands. I approached her and asked if I could have her picture taken. After mumbling a few words in Kankana-ey with the usual “ Ay, apo…”, she straightened her back, arranged her hat and looked warmly straight into the camera with her Mona Lisa smile.
Alapo Ikay like any other alapos of Sagada, is truly the salt of the earth. She is one of the many facets of the old Sagada, that I am afraid my son and his children and the rest of the next generations might not be able to get a glimpse of someday. No longer seeing women in their tapis tending the vacant parcels of land may not be as much as of an issue to some as things change as time goes by, but such dismissive mindset or detachment from the past speaks of the changing consciousness of the people that I fervently hope would not completely ail this landscape. What we all see coming is that the lands they used to till could no longer be around someday. Maybe it will be replaced by crowding and towering hotels or houses or god forbid, would be for the taking by non-locals or even locals whose vested interests are not considerate and coherent with the values of the community.
Sagada is indeed teeming with blessings especially from Mother Nature and equally blessed with a very rich culture, no wonder why it even attracts non-locals not just for a visit but with aims of cashing in on its its bounty. And again, for the record, I am not being sentimental out on a whim or being afraid of change. I just simply think that above all these, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which is very vital in directing us towards the path of sustainable development,seems to be floating somewhere with its implementation seemingly nowhere in sight.
Sagada is already way behind other places identified for sustainable ecotourism since the time it was declared as an ecotourism destination back in the early 90s, if my memory serves me right together with some places in the Philippines such as Palawan. Palawan had their strategic environmental and development plan passed in 1992. But with the rate urbanization sprawls in Sagada, I believe our Comprehensive Land Use Plan or CLUP leaves a lot to be desired. Quite ironic though on how Sagada has been cashing in on the trend of “eco-tourism” but seems to be undermining eco-tourism’s primary goal of protecting the environment.
Urbanization or development or whatever it is called is slowly creeping outside the poblacion. Resorts with swimming pools are being built in unlikely places like in the middle of rice paddies, beautiful natural vistas are now blocked by high-rise buildings and pathwalks are now turning into narrow alleys. If building and zoning polices exist, there will be a clear delineation between business and residential areas and whatever structure that will be built should meet the requirements and policies set. Not because we have ownership over the land and all the money in the world to build a Tower of Babel-esque structure, we can just do it so without considering pertinent things as well as how it will affect others . The CLUP is supposed to lead us to the right direction together with the culture of inayan and ayyew.
I firmly believe that the lands of this valley like any other lands, deserve the much-needed respect from its descendants and visitors. Maybe next time we pour cement on the ground, we at least leave some space for the earth to breathe and for us to be connected back to our roots, before we think of putting it up on sale and throwing our trash around, we first try to remember that once this very soil we step on right now were toiled and cared for by the ancestors with their blood, sweat and tears.
Published on preservesagada.wordpress.com (2014)