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.
“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.
The southern zone composed of four villages – Ankileng, Nacagang, 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 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.
“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.
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 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 i-Sagada brother. 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 tour guides must take the task seriously not only for their benefit, but also for the 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 said 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 the i-Sagada believes in inayan, which prevents a person from doing wrong to another person or a thing because of fear of a supreme or higher being.
He said peace and safety and security of the visitors is not only the responsibility of the police, the barangay officials, and the barangay police action team, but also the community.
He said guides are also required to undergo training on safety including having 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,” Dula said.
Before the Covid-19 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