Sagada locals plead for responsible tourism in powerful campaign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — Five years since the release of romantic comedy film "That Thing Called Tadhana," Sagada in Mountain Province is still on a tourism boom. But with the deluge of local and foreign tourists, the natives are calling for a more sustainable and responsible tourism.

The local government of Sagada teamed up with a nonprofit organization to create a striking campaign — released days before the start of the Holy Week — to inform tourists on how to be respectful to their culture, their land, and the people who live there. 

One local told tourists to show respect to burial sites. Sagada is home to the famous Hanging Coffins wherein coffins are placed on the side of cliffs. He also told them to listen to tour guides and avoid areas which are considered sacred.

This is similar to the call of another local who said tourists should ask for permission before taking photos of the natives. He added that tourists should never ask the locals to pose in their traditional attire of "bahag."

One also called for tourists to conserve water as this commodity is also what they use for the irrigation of the farms and rice terraces.

An elder also asked tourists to be modest and reiterated that there are no sex workers in Sagada.

A young woman called for the tourists to be understanding of small businesses in the area, adding it will help if they book and order in advance so their food can be prepared before they get to the restaurant.

Tracey Santiago of Responsible Travel Philippines said the messages from the locals were rehashed from an existing 2015 guideline created through a consultation with the LGU and the natives.

"Yung guidelines, ang ganda ng pagkaka-craft, but very few people read it. 12 guidelines yun. 'Yung iba hindi nila tinatapos basahin, they will just read a few. Tapos wala na, itatapon na," she told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

They knew they had to repackage it. So in the age of social media, the group and the LGU decided to make a visual campaign that will be released online.

"At first we took videos and then pinapabasa namin sa kanila. Pero bago namin i-shoot iyun, pinabasa na namin sa kanila. (Sabi nila) 'Ay oo, tama ito, totoo ito,'" Santiago said.

After the videos, they took photos of the locals and saw that it created a more lasting impact.

"Because you may not be hearing them but you're able to look at their eyes and at their face, you're able to see and feel the expression, especially 'yung guidelines na na nandoon are more of pleads of the community. It hits you," she said.

Santiago said that even though the campaign focuses on the locals of Sagada, tourists can apply these rules to whatever place they are visit.

"What we're trying to promote here is more than responsible tourism, it's a kind of mindset that when you try to change your ways positively when you travel, you also create positive changes in the community. That's the kind of consciousness we want to promote," she said.

The Department of Tourism also reminded travelers to practice responsible tourism by respecting local traditions and practices. It also urged sustainable tourism.