Lake Danum/Lake Banao Photo by Preserve Sagada © Preserve Sagada
“We are territorial, power-hungry and more brutal than chimpanzees.”
-Frans de Waal
For Sagada, this place is commonly called Lake Danum, while people of the neighboring town, the iBesao, call it Lake Banao. This is because, as to how I understand it, the lake is a part of both municipalities’ ancestral domain. But while it is called a lake, it seems to be a pond.
On the other hand, there is an SP (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) resolution which was passed in 1976, expressing that the lake is under the jurisdiction of Besao and not Sagada. Although for the longest time, Sagada has been promoting, marketing, and earning from this lake more than Besao.
According to my husband, this is one of the most talked about topics at the information center today. Tourists who upon learning that it is temporarily closed said that anyway there is nothing to see there.
I replied to him saying that, that remark encapsulates one of the negative effects of mass tourism in Sagada. Mass tourism paved the way for hit and run or bullet tours that would squeeze in all major points of interest in just a one-day itinerary, worse are the day-trippers who could not even spend a night here. Take a picture of a place or a selfie with it and that’s it.
I added that the problem with the tourists Sagada caters to these days is that they cannot spend even at least 30 minutes, doing nothing, not taking any selfie, just emptying one’s mind and communing with nature. The first time I came here in 2002 when walking was the only means to get to all the tourist sites, 2-3 days was not enough. It wasn’t a problem at all because it gave me time to process the breathtaking beauty of Sagada and a promise to return.
Moreover, in Save Sagada, a question was asked whether a Sagada local should pay the environmental fee, and yes, I think we should. As a SACRED watershed and protected area, the 50 pesos can go a long way in meeting the demands of protecting and preserving this place.
So I think it is not about greed. For me, it is just high time for Besao to ask for a fee, since that jurisdiction is theirs and that they seem to check on and clean the place more often than anyone else.
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau said, “All good things are wild, and free”. The truth is, gone are those days when everything is free, when people enjoyed to their heart’s content the bounty of nature, FREELY as those wild horses that once grazed atop the peaks of Kaman Baneng (aka Marlboro) of Sagada and Bontoc. I told my husband, now where have all those wild horses gone?
What was once priceless and enjoyed by everyone especially the locals, now has a price. What was once roaming freely is now out of sight. Lands have become a subject of disputes, territorial and boundary issues arise. This is the PRICE OF TOURISM and DEVELOPMENT and we are paying for it now. So imagine if these two (tourism and development) remain unabated. What are we at risk of losing more all in the name of ”progress”?
UPDATE: The Municipal Mayor of Besao will be issuing an Executive Order to implement Municipal Ordinance 44 to PROHIBIT ALL HUMAN ACTIVITIES INCLUDING TOURISM effective immediately in Danum/Banao. The LGU of Besao will delve deeper into this issue and study the best courses of action to take to preserve and protect the place.