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Into Nan CLUP Tako?

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 (2014)

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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?

Save Sagada Posts

What is Save Sagada?

Save Sagada aims to promote awareness on the protection, conservation, and preservation of Sagada’s nature, culture, and heritage and  promote environmentally responsible and culture sensitive travel and tourism.

As one of the tourist spots in the country and dubbed as the Shangrila of the North, it has been attracting visitors from all walks of life, all across the country and around the globe for many years. This picturesque town in a valley is blessed a cool, highland climate, offers a plethora of breathtaking natural landscapes and a rich and living cultural heritage.

With the advent of technology and commercialization in this quaint town, Sagada is drastically being carried away in the background of looming buildings, paved and concrete roads and pathwalks and the urban-like hustle and bustle. The excessive and drastic development poses a foreboding threat in the ecosystem and socio-cultural life in this place.

This blog is an avenue for updates and discussions on any related topics with regard to the advocacy of saving Sagada or anything under the Sagada sun.