CARMAGEDDON IN SAGADA AND THE PLIGHT OF THE GOLDEN GOOSE

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Carmageddon going to Lake Danum or Lake Banao. Sagada was once again not ready to embrace the onslaught of mass tourism during the recent long weekend. Photo by Raymond Gayman


Golden Goose-noun. a legendary goose that laid one golden egg a day and was killed by its impatient owner, who wanted all the gold immediately

Tourism woes in Sagada can be very complicated as Sagada is not just your typical tourist destination. A lot of factors have to be considered like environmental, social, cultural among others. Eventually, if push comes to shove, we might be expecting to see a national government intervention if we cannot solve this problem on our own. I think WE CAN but much of the problem lies within a community that MIGHT NOT SEE the problems and the need to solve it, and would rather take it more as a sign of “progress”.

If one must have noticed, the chaos lasted for two days or so? Now, sustainable tourism is not in any way like that. That was a typical representation of hit and run tourism. In the long run, with such a trend, it will leave Sagada high and dry. And when Sagada is of no use anymore to these tour operators, they would not mind dropping us in a heartbeat in exchange for another pristine and charming tourist destination.

Granted that tourism is the bread and butter of this town, and if earning (MONEY) is the main goal here or if people want tourism to be profitable while being sustainable, Sagada has to find ways to spread the influx of tourists all throughout the year. It is not about stopping tourism, but it is about REGULATING it. And most importantly, do not be scared of regulating it. By doing so, your means of livelihood is being safeguarded in a way that it is being made sure that it is sustainable and could thrive generation after generation. 

I may sound like a broken record, but one way to curb that chaos is to DEFINE, MEASURE, and EVALUATE Sagada’s TOURISM CAPACITY once and for all.

As long as it remains unidentified, Sagada will experience the leanest of lean seasons and the peak seasons will be like crumbs of bread that we all wait to fall off from a table, in a form of massive tourism influx in a day or two that is way beyond the capacity of Sagada.

And if this keeps on happening, this unabated tourism, eventually it will lead to Sagada’s demise. And this demise comes in various forms and not just its profitability as a tourist destination. It could be environmental, socio-cultural, etc., the death of the culture of inayan, etc.

We must also consider that we may be having too many rooms to accommodate the visitors but our sites or the entire town itself and its resources may not be able to handle this huge number of tourists coming in on certain days especially during long weekends.

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Road going to Lake Danum or Lake Banao and Besao on December 1, 2018. Photo by Raymond Gayman

Unfortunately, what happened during the recent long weekend has already become a perennial problem. I don’t think it is because we have gotten down into the bottom of things. Much of the remedy only touches the tip of the iceberg. Even some of the solutions proposed or implemented in the form of road widening projects and diversion roads are just STOPGAP measures to alleviate traffic woes. NO, these road projects will not solve Sagada’s tourism problems. Read more… The Problem with Creating and Widening Roads

And tourism problems are not just the pesky traffic problems, we have problems with tourists who only spend overnight and day trippers that are killing the locality’s tourism industry by spending a little of their money here, as a result, they provide more income to outside tour operators rather than the host community. Read more… SINAGAD ANG SAGADA: SAGADA IN THE HANDS OF TOUR OPERATORS

Marlboro sunrise viewpoint, what was once an off the beaten path was not spared from the onslaught of tourism over the long weekend.

Just my opinion, one can start even at the barangay level in curbing mass tourism. And since the carrying capacity remains undetermined, I would propose other than zoning, a moratorium on building new accommodations (for the meantime) while we figure out Sagada’s carrying capacity. This has been done in Barcelona as tourists have outnumbered the local residents. But I am not sure how the reception of this idea will fare here as almost everyone is eager to get their slice of the pie.

Another way is to have a more unified network of an office that coordinates with all business establishments, particularly with the accommodation. Inns should report to this office if they are already full or if they still vacant rooms left. And this has to be posted on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) since travelers highly depend on it nowadays and that is how the world seems to operate these days.

Because if the CARRYING CAPACITY IS UNDETERMINED, the influx of tourists will never be regulated and that is one way of KILLING THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS.

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Inayan and ‘The Generation of Secession’

*Rabbinic literature refers to the builders of the Tower of Babel as the “generation of secession”.

I think the culture of inayan (as how I understand this inayan, it is a concept wherein an individual exercises prudence over his or her thoughts and actions as to avoid doing something unpleasant like violations of taboos and norms and to instill order or harmony and discipline among others) has been declining for quite some time, the fact that tourism and business have been much of a priority rather than the community spirit among others, as displayed by towering structures bereft of considerations of how it can affect its surroundings and the people living around it, how we are more inclined to market Sagada more to increase the influx of tourists in this town rather than determining first its carrying capacity.

The red flags have been all over yet we refuse to believe that this place and its social, environmental, and cultural aspects have been decaying. The things that are happening right now that are attributed to the seemingly disappearing culture of “inayan” could be representations or worse results of such diminution as this could mean that we may have already reached or are way past our tipping point. I hope not.

I always refer to the story of the Tower of Babel in my conversations with my husband. And one time, he said that it is impossible for Sagada to experience landslides and sinkholes swallowed up by the ground because, despite Sagada’s Karst topography, the limestones are different here with a much better resistance to those natural disasters.

I always say, do not underestimate the wrath of nature. Don’t wait for the time when garbage will fill up all crevices and waterways beneath the ground. And that’s just the physical manifestation of a skewed balance of things and energy and that something even more dreadful could be happening within. Like a termite infestation, wherein a wooden post would seem to look normal on the outside, no signs of tunnels on the wood, but try knocking on it and it will sound hollow for everything has already been rotting or eaten up inside.

And the same thing goes with people, like how we seem to be not wary of moneyed outsiders who come in and bequeath us with gifts and promises. We could be walking, functioning, physical beings but deep inside us we could well be hollow, no foresight of what’s in store for the future, how our decisions could affect others and the next generations not only within our family but the whole community.

Yes, that Tower of Babel, such hubris of being gifted of an enduring paradise but not fully assuming the role of stewards, time will come when God or nature will topple down such arrogance that will make us understand what humility and gratitude are.

“We shall build a tower that will reach to the stars!” Having conceived Babel, yet unable to build it themselves, they had thousands to build it for them. But those who toiled knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned. And the minds that planned the Tower of Babel cared nothing for the workers who built it. The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many – BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! – Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.”
-Metropolis