Sagada elders press council forlaw to protect traditions

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — A post wedding photo shoot at a burial cave pushed local officials of Sagada, Mountain Province to hasten the passage of a local legislation to ensure the protection of indigenous’ sacred places and practices of this upland tourist town.

It can be recalled that photos of a couple in wedding attires taken at the Lumiang Burial Caves posted on facebook several weeks ago created an uproar from indigenous peoples causing the person who posted the photos to remove them. The couple and the photographer were tourists.

Jaime Dugao, the indigenous people’s representative of the Sagada town council in a phone interview said the incident should be treated as a lesson for Sagada folk and tourists alike. “We consider our burial caves a very sacred place because it is where the spirit of our ancestors are and it should be respected,” he reiterated.

Dugao added that the continuing education of tourist guides and Sagada folk especially the younger ones about their culture is not yet that extensive. He said educating tourists about their culture is part of the town’s tourism program. But with the influx of tourists, not all tourists can be oriented, he said.

Dugao said they talked to those who were involved and explained to them the impact of their actions. He explained that in their indigenous belief, the tourists’ actions may bring harm to them or to the community. “Nothing has happened yet, which is good but if something happens in the future and the elders might decide to hold a cleansing ritual,” he said.

“There is no law prohibiting anybody from taking a photograph at the burial caves but nobody from Sagada does that especially while wearing a wedding gown. It is basic respect. I have not witnessed or know of a wedding in the cemetery,” he explained.

Dugao shared that the incident pushed local officials to craft a local legislation on the respect of sacred places and traditional holidays. “We have long been planning to create local laws for the protection of sacred places like burial grounds, it has been long overdue,” he said.

Dugao said he will file two resolutions at the town council; one for the protection of sacred places and another for the observance of traditional holidays for local folk and tourists alike.

He explained that in the observance of traditional holidays, community folk are not allowed to roam around. He said tourists will not be banned to enter the town but their movement around the town will be restricted. “They can come during the observance of our traditional holidays, go to the villages, talk to the elders, interact with the locals and learn of our culture and traditions and from our rich history. The caves and waterfalls are not the only tourist attractions,” he said. # nordis.net

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