The quiet charm of Sagada

SAGADA may be the best place to fall in love or cure a broken heart -- depending on your life crisis.

The highland town in the Mountain Province is innately quiet, tightly bound by tradition and cared for by an amiable people who have slowly opened their doors to tourism.

Sagada has been a favorite spot for travelers both foreign and local, famed for its intricate caves, hanging coffins, evolving cuisine and rustic ambiance.

Reviews and misconceptions of the town have been due to the mixed group of curious travelers captivated by its simple charm.

The town came into the interest of the entire nation when an independent film decided to make it a central part of its storyline, pitting movie greats to portray its lead characters eternally in love with love.

The movie, “That Thing Called Tadhana” (That Thing Called Fate) is a 2014 Filipino romantic comedy film starring Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman, written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone. It earned a Best Actress award for Panganiban.

It will go down the annals of pop history as the film catapulted Sagada into a Mecca for healing broken hearts.

If you watched the film, you will be scarred for life thinking it is fine to shout at the peak of Mt. Kiltepan while waiting for the picturesque sunrise.

Tourism officer Robert Pangod said after the film was released, it took a while for the masses to pick up on the film slowly building up and picking up steam, doubling tourism arrivals.

In 2014, arrivals were at 64,570 spiking in 2015 to 138,000. Pangod said there has been a steady increase since.

The movie portrayed its lead characters shouting their heartaches at the Mt. Kiltepan but Pangod cautioned incoming tourists on doing the same antics.

“They cannot shout at the area as it is a sacred ground and it will disturb the peace; they can do that in the Echo Valley,” Pangod explained.

Pangod said the common misconceptions of tourists are brought about by mass media, reviews and expectations for the town.

Sagada has a strict curfew with stores closing by 9 p.m., covering the town in a quiet hush after dinner. The area also is a walking town, with vehicles scarce as locals determined to hike their way around, unless there is a private vehicle or scheduled public transport.

Most of the destinations in Sagada are sacred, with it being labeled as burial grounds, meeting places by elders or private land owned by locals, photo ops in these areas are always sensitive and should be permitted by locals.

Last year, the ill-advised pre-nuptial shoot at the ancient burial grounds was widely condemned and shunned by the community.

Noisy and skimpily clad tourists are always not welcome anywhere, more so in Sagada where people are soft spoken and basically pious.

Tourism has forced the town to open up as statistics show in 2012 there were only 20,000 logged to have visited the town followed by 30,000 in 2013, gradually bloating to uncontrollable numbers.

Pangod said there are rules crafted for tourists in the town, inscribed into a local law passed by aldermen in a bid to put into place guidelines for order.

A Save Sagada page has been set up over social media which has become a forum for locals and conversationalists to converge and exchange ideas.


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