SAGADA FARMING. A resident in Sagada, Mountain Province tends to his crops in this undated photo. Locals, who returned to farming when the pandemic halted tourism activities in the town, are now gearing up for the return of travelers as the town reopened its doors to tourists. (PNA file photo)

BAGUIO CITY – Mountain Province's Sagada, known for its rice terraces and lush farmlands, became even greener after a number of residents decided to go back into farming when the pandemic crippled the tourism industry, their main source of livelihood.

“They returned to farming, growing rice and vegetables because the income from tourism activities was lost when the nationwide lockdown was enforced,” Sagada Mayor Felicito Dula said in Ilocano dialect in a phone interview on Friday.

With the need to put food on their table, the residents went back to the basics, gathered all their unused pots and planters, readied idle yards, and started planting again.

“There was no money but there was food to eat and the people survived,” he said.

And without the usual packs of tourists, Dula said Sagada went back to becoming a quiet and clean town. Undisturbed for over two years, the white crystals of the Balangagan Cave turned whiter. “We can see more bats in the caves and the garbage problem of Sagada became well-managed,” he said.

Nowadays, the Sagada people’s primary source of income is tourism, with more than 90 percent of the businesses directly or indirectly under the tourism industry.

Locals either become tour guides or get employed in hotels, inns, homestays, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Others have turned to coffee growing and roasting.

Better services

Now that the town has reopened to tourists and relaxed its travel restrictions, the mayor said visitors can expect improved facilities and services made possible with the help of the Department of Tourism and the local government.

“We will see better services adopting the standards of the industry which the tourists will surely notice when they come back,” Dula said.

Tourists can also look forward to the usual activities in town come October.

“We have the Octoberfest to start with and others that will run until the Etag festival in February,” the mayor said. (PNA)