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Sagada Caves: We Also Need Space!

Not until zoning and building policies will be implemented do we start to slow down this unabated development. People get away from the concrete jungle not to relax in another concrete jungle (the latter could mean, concrete in the middle of a jungle, pun intended). But keeping this place pristine should not be primarily for the tourists but for us. Something is really wrong when roads are paved with tourism in mind and not the people.We say, there nothing permanent in this world but change, yes, it is inevitable but the question is, do we change for the worse or for the better? Now, it leads me to wonder what’s in Sagada’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. It is time to bring it out. I hope it isn’t a plan for Sagada to become the next Baguio.

With regard to the cave, years ago this has already caught even the attention of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, which led her to introduce a resolution in the senate aiming to rightfully preserve the coffins and caves in Sagada. Got no idea what happened next. But this only goes to show this is not just a petty issue. In Palawan, there is a certain number of visitors allowed to enter the underground river daily, and one reason is not only because cave formations can be harmed by the slightest touch but surprisingly even by the slightest breath. A cave crowded with people means an elevated CO2 level. Now imagine a peak season especially during the Holy Week where the queue inside the cave is intermittently brought to a standstill because the crowd is just too big. As much as we would like to share the beauty of the cave to everyone, we have to consider that a scenario like this will eventually lead to the dissolution of the existing features of the cave.

Photo by Mae Parcon

Photo by Mae Parcon

The traffic during the peak season is yes, still the same. It only becomes worse each year. I got feedbacks from most tourists who say they don’t mind walking at all. Recently, Iloilo City has transformed the busiest district and the center of the city into a walking city. It was thought to be impossible at first but the vision of a habitable and walking city proved to be an inspiration to the Ilonggos. I would like to quote something from a blog entry here , “But if you’re going sightseeing, or even just going to look for a place to eat, for the love of all that’s holy, WALK! Leave your fumes belching SUVs on the high road where parking is permitted. Walking is what the locals have been doing even before anything on wheels were invented.”

That is why my friends leave their cars behind in Manila and travel here by bus even with kids as young as 6 years old. Because they know the situation here and what they came for is not to cruise around with their cars but to experience the joy of walking. But of course we cannot expect everyone to do the same or even forbid them from bringing their vehicles here, but at least we could try regulating the number of tourists coming, because the carrying capacity of a place is very important and should be considered all the time.  When I saw how Dao-angan up to Ambasing was turned into a one way road cum parking lot, I thought that the road in the outskirts of the town like in Nangonogan would be a better place where they can park their cars since it seems to be bigger as compared to that in Dao-angan. Why not use that space.

What I also fear is when officials start to think of paving this paradise to put a space for parking. Truly, there is wisdom in the lyrics of the song Big Yellow Taxi by the Counting Crows, Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. 

The will to be in politics is so insurmountable but where goes the political will when seated? If there is a CLUP, I wonder what’s in it and where it is leading us to. The traffic jam, absence of building and zoning polices just represent the tip of the iceberg. I believe this also speaks of the changing consciousness that is reshaping and ailing this landscape. Maybe we have become too individualistic? Unfortunately, most of the time we keep mum about things or turn a blind eye towards it and say, “That’s just the way it is”. But I believe it isn’t supposed to be. If there’s one thing that needs an overhaul, I think that would the mindset of the leaders down to the people. As I always say, change is inevitable, but it should not be a change to become worse.

Every day, I look out from my study and I see the Dap-ay sitting pensively in a bit of a somber mood not until  men gather there and light a fire. Like the smoke that float aimlessly from the Dap-ay, it makes me think, where is the Dap-ay going, where is Sagada going?


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