VISIT SAGADA. The municipality of Sagada in partnership with the community has launched the southern Sagada nature treat, tour and adventure that formalizes tours and visits to the Obwa Canyon waterfalls as shown in these photos, the Taccong traditional burial grounds, Balangagan caves and the Pinumdeng skyline sunrise as among the attractions. The launching of the southern Sagada tour is part of the initiative to give additional come-on and a new attraction to encourage not only new visitors but returning tourists. (Photos courtesy of Clinton Aniversario/ASSETG)

BAGUIO CITY – Tourists in Sagada, Mountain Province will have new places to visit and enjoy after community members gave the green light to the opening of the villages for organized tours.

Marami pang destination at kasama natin ang community sa pagbubukas at pag-welcome ng mga bisita para ma enjoy din nila ang iba pang magagandang lugar sa Sagada (there are still other destinations and we are one with the community in opening them and welcoming the visitors to enjoy the other beautiful places in Sagada),” Mayor Felicito Dula said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

The southern zone composed of four villages -- Ankileng, Nacagan, Takkong and Suyo (ANTS) launched the “Southern Sagada nature treat, tour and adventure,” before All Saints' Day.

The opening of additional tourist attractions in Sagada was earlier proposed to attract more tourists and put Sagada on the bucket list of local and international tourists.

Southern Sagada has the Obwa Canyon waterfalls, Takkong traditional burial grounds, Balangagan caves and the Pinumdeng skyline sunrise as among the attractions.

A camp site was also set up near the barangay hall of Suyo, which will have a tourist information center where coordination can be done and tour guides will be provided for the safety of the visitors aside from a ComPAC (Community Police Assistance Center).

Sagada, which has 19 villages is divided into five zones -- central, south-central, northern, eastern, and southern zones.

The eastern zone, where the Marlboro Hills is located, is expected to be launched anytime.

Dula said most of the existing and popular tourist destinations are located in central and south central zones like the Echo-Valley, Hanging Coffins, pottery, Sagada weaving, Bokong Falls and the Kiltepan sunrise, same as the town proper or Poblacion.

“They are ready to receive the tourists. The tour guides have been trained and accredited to bring the visitors and make them safe while in the village,” the mayor said.

Culture preservation thru tourism

Councilor Jaime Dugao, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of the town, during the launching of the southern Sagada nature treat, tour and adventure said that Sagada’s tourism is not just about the place but most especially about the people and the culture.

“In accepting visitors, we do not just show the beautiful place that we have, but our culture, the way we deal with people, our care for each member of our community that is why we want that the benefits from the industry that we reap be shared to the other villages in our town, to all our brother I-Sagada. We have our way of attending to our visitors, we will take it seriously and we will make sure that tourists will have no sad stories because it will destroy the whole of Sagada," he added.

Dugao said that tour guides must make sure that they take the task seriously not just for their benefit, but for their town.

“We have been tagged in the past as thieves because of some stories that were hyped but as we attend to our visitors, assuring their safety and that of their belongings, it is only then that we can erase the tag from the past,” Dugao said.

Dula, meanwhile, said the stories from the past were passed on with the young people of the present carrying the burden.

“It is a continuing challenge to us and if we properly treat the people who visit our town, our villages, our homes, the story will come to an end,” the mayor said.

He said that the I-Sagada believes in the “inayan” culture which prevents a person from doing wrong to another person or a thing because of fear of a supreme or higher being.

He said that peace and safety as well as security of the visitors is not only the responsibility of the police, the barangay officials and the barangay police action team (BPAT) but in accepting the tourists to the villages, the safety of the visitors has become a community responsibility.

He said that guides are also required to undergo training on safety including emergency and health safety skills.

“They have to be well trained because we are not mere tour guides but also security personnel of our tourists to go undergo nature trekking,” Dula said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Sagada recorded an average of 140,000 tourists a year and receives a big percentage of foreign tourists that arrive in the country. (PNA)