Another long weekend has passed and you’re probably posting your pictures on Facebook and Instagram about your marvelous trip to Sagada. Those numerous photos you’ve taken using that ridiculous monopod which you’ve waved around town while you clicked at ooh-this and aah-that with your face always somewhere in the picture. You become the envy of your friends for you were able to ‘conquer’ Sagada and you went on indulging them with your stories of mountains and Igorots. Blah-blah, yada-yada.
Forgive the cynicism but you make us hostile. Yes you bring moolah to our place. You eat our food, sleep in our beds, buy our goods—you’ve created one major livelihood for us. But this does not entitle you to act like you own the town. The first rule in entering a place beyond your territory is to display utmost respect to its people, their values, and the environment. If you cannot do that, then Sagada is undeniably not for you.
You must have overlooked the fact that Sagada is a small 5th class municipality and we’ve never packaged our place as a pretentious getaway haven that caters to your city comforts (not unless you’ve been misled by your travel agencies who, if you happen to know, are not natives to the place and do not know jack about the community). It grates our ears when you come here being stuck up while you look for your Starbucks and your McDonald’s. You snobbishly demand for towels and hotel amenities from our lodges and homestays yet you must have forgotten that you’re only paying a measly sum for your accommodation (FYI, we have the cheapest inn charges). (Another side but necessary note: My blood still boils whenever I think of that cheap visitor who stole my boots and my books when we’ve graciously welcomed you to utilize my own room just so you can have a roof over your head for the night.) Our wood-paneled rooms are clean, warm, and cozy and if you think you should be getting more than these from your 300PhP or less, then you’re bonkers. We don’t run hotels, we’re humble innkeepers.
You grumble sneeringly at our fluctuating internet signal and act as if your disconnection from wawawa means your life. We don’t need to remind you that you’re in a rustic town way up high in the mountains where people have long since lived lavishly and generously without the internet and your urban sophistications.
You know, we’re willing not to mind your tactless disregard of our reverence and preference for simple living—that which we wish to supposedly share with you. But you go beyond being gauche. You come to our place and ask for jutes or mj or ganja like it’s buying pandesal from the next door bakery. You regard the locals as if we’re nitwits and you mock our ethnicity with your ignorance. Your incessant and
stupid (for lack of a better but apt term) queries about where to find Igorots with their tails, Igorots who stage dances for your sheer pleasure, and Igorots living in caves makes the Igorot in me want to throw my Igorot spear at you.
You come and litter our place without the tiniest thought for our town’s cleanliness, cause public disturbance like you’re still back in your sleepless cities, invoke heavy traffic with your vans and SUVs—mindless of ‘no parking’ signages posted right where you senselessly parked your vehicle. You do not heed our municipal ordinances and even have the audacity to be arrogant when we try to relay these to you.
It’s pretty obvious I’ve zeroed in on local tourists. Truth is, we’ve grown biased and have come to appreciate foreign visitors more because they know how to appreciate us back. Since the town opened its doors to tourism decades back, foreigners have kept on coming back for the countryside experience which Sagada primarily offers. They come with nothing else but their big backpacks and the expectations of delightful experiences with our nature and our people. They don’t come seeking for what’s not here, they’re not pretentious, they give reverence to our traditions and are not at all ignorant with regards to Sagada’s taboos and values.
Though time has inevitably changed the whole backdrop, we have kept our values in place. We Sagadans still appreciate the same things. We give the highest reverence to our simplistic rural life and if you can’t respect that, you and your toffee-nosed self do not deserve the Sagada experience.
I have to stop. My obvious hostility might drive you away. Do bear in mind that I do not at all reflect the whole town’s sentiments. And as another disclaimer, I am not generalizing. There are a lot of local tourists who are in awe of the place and its people, for what it is and for who we are. You are the kind of visitors we would love to keep on coming back.
Respect begets higher respect. So if you encounter a Sagadan with raised brows and you find we’re not as friendly and hospitable as we innately are, you know there’s a reason for our hostility.