Intrusive Tourist Denounced: Sagadian Demands Respect for Indigenous Peoples' Culture


In red circle: Two local tourists in Sagada, Mountain Province spotted meddling during a sacred ritual called "Begnas." Dalawang salimpusang turista sa sagradong ritual na Begnas sa Sagada (in red circle). Siguro naman kahit sinong local tour guide nagsabi sa iyo na “pwede”, tinanong nyo muna sarili nyo – na dahil kayo ay mga mangmang sa kaalamang kultura ng Sagada, dapat taga observe lang muna kayo. Bigyang respetu ang inyong nakikita upang ang iyong presencia ay marerespetu rin. Some Begnas elders thought these guys must be sons of Sagada who have come home for the Begnas they simply let them be. To an elder’s horror, dalawang salimpusang turista nga! No Sagada bloodline. Not belonging to any clan or any of the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th generation of Sagada’s genealogical tree. Neither married to local women nor are they practitioners of local customs. Begnas has deep spiritual reverence that Sagada’s ancestral spirits and mortal onlookers must have frowned at the site of g-stringed men wriggling through with neither Igorot blood nor Igorot skin! This holds true with gong playing accompanying the ritual. Playing the gong is NOT for everybody,especially kung turista ka lang, but to whom the gong beater's bloodline connects. The sanctity of its sound, especially during Begnas, becomes ugly, breaks or stops when one player is off-beat and produce a clangy noise instead. Do you, Sagada tourists, really think you have the rhyme and reason to hold and beat that gong with a blank mind or just plain curiosity? Do you know the implications of your clangy performance and what this means to the synergy of local gong players? Do you know what ancestral spirits do during gong playing in the Begnas and what it means to practitioners and community members? Having no ancestral roots, nag observe lang muna sana kayo. Next time you set your foot in "strange" places, hold that curiosity and obsessive fascination to yourself. Bisita lang kayo, matutu kayo ha. Begnas is no spectacle or entertainment unlike the “Grand Canao” – the symbol of perversion, bastardization, and commercialization of Igorot culture. It is hoped that Sagada first timers do not follow this perverted "learning". If you think you have “discovered” or “unearthed” anything from your "learning" of “other” culture, you have only exposed tourist arrogant ignorance to public ridicule. To my fellow compatriots especially tour guides, its about time you rethink who is a tourist and what the implications of his presence brings. Tourism is not synonymous to friendship and long term learning. You do not have to please everything he desires or wants. They are there temporarily to enjoy but this enjoyment must not be at the expense of our cultural dignity. At kung ang hanap nila ay Jollibee, hotbath or hindi kayang maglakad at uunga-unga even along gentle slopes our nature provides, you can naman politely say, "this place isn't for you. And we did not ask you to come here but since you came here, there's a bus leaving tomorrow for Baguio". There, he can spend his money at Jollibee.

Soon, the LGU, clan representatives, local business, the church, tour guides and Dap-ay will come together with plenty of questions to ask and risks to take in protecting our culture and environment from the morass this type of tourist-exoticists bring. Whatever it takes to rethink or redefine Sagada’s tourism, let me inject this on your grey matter: our culture is not up for grabs and its purity is non-negotiably ours to protect.

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