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Sagada and its neighboring locations are a favored tourist destination, perfect for a long weekend or road trip with friends. But before you head on over, take note of these helpful guidelines to keep your trip positive – not just for yourself, but for the locals and others around you. (READ: 6 travel mistakes that harm beautiful destinations)
1. Please respect the culture. Keep a distance from rituals or any sites you are told are sacred. Do not touch or disturb coffins or burial sites. Do not attempt to join or film any ritual without direct permission from the presiding elders. Do not disturb mass in the church or shoot videos/photos in or around the church during mass.
2. Please respect the people. Sagadans are not exhibits in a museum or zoo. Ask permission before taking pictures or video of people, especially elders. Please don’t ask us “where are the Igorots.” We are the Igorots. We do dress in traditional clothing for special occasions, but please don’t expect any of us to pose in traditional clothing for pictures, because we don’t do that.
3. Please secure necessary permits. If you need to do field research, interviews in the community, conduct pictorials or film anyone and any place in Sagada, please go to the Office of the Mayor and make sure you secure a permit and pay any necessary fees. This permit will determine if your activity is allowed or not in the community. Guides are not allowed to secure any permit for such activities.
4. Please manage your expectations. Sagada is a community, not a museum. If you want to see the way we lived a century ago, there’s an excellent museum in Bontoc; please visit it. Don’t think, or say, that we have “lost our culture” because we no longer live in traditional houses or dress daily in wanes and tapis. We are indigenous people and we are deeply attached to our traditions and culture. We are also modern, well educated people who are comfortable in any living or professional environment the world offers.
5. Please walk whenever possible. Walking is an essential part of the Sagada experience. The air here is cool and clean; you won’t get all sweaty. The views are spectacular, and you’ll enjoy them more on foot than crammed into a metal box.
Sagada is a small town and places are close together. If you are going out to browse the shops, walk. If you are going from a hotel to a restaurant, walk. If your hotel is outside the town, drive to the edge of town and walk. If you’re strong enough to walk through the caves, you’re strong enough to walk to the caves. Walk. It’s good for you, you’ll see and enjoy more, and you’ll help reduce our traffic problem. (RELATED: British backpacker’s PH adventure part 2: Caving in Sagada)
6. Please conserve water. Sagada suffers from water shortages, especially during dry season and periods of peak tourist flow. This can lead to diversion of water from our farms and rice terraces, where it is desperately needed, to support tourism. If you are going hiking or caving, bathe after, not before. Please bathe quickly and with as little water as you can.
7. Please manage your garbage. Littering and tossing garbage outdoors are unacceptable and disgraceful: just don’t do it. Sagada has no municipal waste disposal system; every household and business has to manage its own waste output. Try to minimize the garbage you generate. As much as possible, what comes here with you should leave with you.
8. Please be kind to the people in our kitchens. Our restaurants are small kitchens that can only handle a few meals. When we say, we don’t have food anymore, it means the stock we bought during the market day has already run out. We don’t serve food frozen from weeks or months ago. To get better service, order your food at least 3 or 4 hours before your meal. That way, we have more time to prepare your food and serve it as soon as you arrive in the restaurant.
9. Please use your vehicle responsibly. Our streets are narrow, and on-street parking creates a serious traffic problem. Parking on the street is prohibited by local ordinance. Please follow the law, even when others don’t or if someone tells you it’s ok to park on the street. If you’re asked to back up or pull to the side of the road to allow passage of a bus or other oncoming vehicles, please cooperate. If you are parked in a way that obstructs traffic, move. Do not load/unload in the middle of a road. Pull to the side so that other vehicles can pass.
10. Please help us keep you safe. Sagada is a mountain town filled with caves, cliffs, canyons, streams and forests. They are beautiful but people can and do get hurt or lost. We do our best to keep you safe, but we need your help. Guides are required in the caves for your safety, not for our profit. Please hire accredited guides and respect the prescribed guide to guest ratio.
We do not allow children to guide, for their safety and yours, so please do not hire children as guides. We strongly recommend guides for hiking or exploring.
If you choose to hike without a guide, please be responsible and tell your guest house where you plan to go and what time you plan to be back. Bring a mobile phone and make note of emergency phone numbers. If you go missing we will look for you, at any time of the day or night and in any weather. Knowing where to start is a huge help. If you plan to sleep somewhere other than your guest house, get in touch and let them know, because they will report you missing and we will go out looking for you.
11. Please be modest. This is a small, conservative town, and we like it that way. Please save the revealing clothing for the beach, and save the displays of affection for your private space. We are not known for nightlife: business in Sagada closes at 10PM. If you like to party all night that’s fine, but you’ll have to do it somewhere else. There is no commercial sex here, so please don’t waste your time looking for it.
12. Please give your share to help us preserve our environment. All visitors (tourists, non-Sagada residents) must register at the Municipal Tourist Information Center and pay P35.00 for the environmental fee. Your receipt will be checked upon entering caves and other tourist areas. – Rappler.com
Tracey Santiago is a project director of NCCA and Steve Rogers is a long time Sagada resident, writer and recently married Sigrid Longid, a potter.