What Sagada Can Teach Us About Responsible Tourism

The photo below was taken by my friend Con Cabrera during our most recent trip to Sagada, Mountain Province. In an effort to avoid the Labor Day Weekend / #hugot crowd, we opted to spend an hour hiking elsewhere to get a much, much better view of the sunrise. And what greeted us along the trail is a cute mountain dog we conveniently named Simba. He had zero fucks to give–he just rolled around and explored the edges like this sea of fluff would catch him if he falls.

Yeah, you got it right. To my left is Simba, to my right is C.’s very own Trekker Teddy named Tedric. One real animal, one stuffed animal, and one human in a properly framed photo. Props to my friend.
Yessir. A dog with his head (and his paws) above the clouds. He will go places. 🙂

It appears that animals (real or stuffed) had the most fun in this trip. The afternoon rain caught up with us while trekking towards Bokong Falls, so we stopped midway and took shelter–but that was until the water swelled and we had to hike back to the highway, drenched. Prior to this, though, Tedric had a super great time. It was his first time at Echo Valley.


This, however, is not the whole point of the post. Haha!

While having coffee at the side streets of Sagada Town, I struck a convo with one of the locals and asked how the town was holding up with the influx of tourists (since Tadhana). It’s been said a number of times, a lot of them are not happy with the situation–of water shortage, of #hugot troops marching as if to sink Kiltepan, of trash, of too much traffic along the town’s main thoroughfare, and of the scarcity of parking.

It’s not only the Sagada people who are facing a tough choice between tourism dollars and sustainability. There’s Sitio Pungayan of Mount Kabuyao in Benguet province. Once upon a time, it was a quiet little town until a local soap opera turned it into Sitio La Presa. Lo and behold! This madness! Stalls have been put up, trash is already accumulating.

I love the Mountain Province! But while on the way home to Manila, I thought that the best way to help the place is to see less of it. Parang tough love, it breaks my heart! To every tourist / lakwatsero / traveler / adventurer out there, I implore you, be responsible. It’s not just about paying the environmental fee or providing raket to the tour guides. No, this time, it’s not about the economics.

It’s about minimizing the impact of your stay in the locality, so you’d have somewhere to come back to after 5, 10, 20 years.

In practical terms? You don’t waste water. You pick up your trash (I’m a smoker so I keep all the butts in a special section of my backpack). You respect the local culture. You should be mindful of restrictions (if SAGGAS says Sumaguing Cave is already full and closed for the day, please don’t insist on taking the tour anymore). If you can take public transport, please do so and don’t be the cause of a gridlock.

Mountaineers subscribe to a set of outdoor ethics called LNT (Leave No Trace), which I think is appropriate anywhere, even in your bakuran. Read up, girlies! 🙂 For your quick reference, though, here is a summary:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
    • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
    • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
    • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
    • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
    • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

All good? 🙂

See more at: https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles#sthash.b4QM46wP.dpuf



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