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Young Blood

Save Makamkamlis’ trees

01:33 AM March 29, 2016

IF YOU’VE ever been to Sagada and walked from St. Theodore’s Hospital down to Sagada Weaving on Makamkamlis Road, then you would’ve noticed the pine trees that line one side of that stretch.

In the morning, sunlight passes through the branches of the trees; on windy nights, the wind hums as it breaks through those same branches. It’s one of the reasons I love Sagada and keep coming back.

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Recently, those beloved pine trees have been marked with red paint in preparation for a road-widening project. They will be cut in order to ease traffic in town and accommodate more tourists.

As a tourist, I find this deplorable. I visit Sagada because I want to be close to nature. I enjoy the priceless thrill of walking on tree-lined roads and still smelling the pine, like we used to in Baguio before diesel took over. I love the trees, not because I am a tree-hugger, but because I also know that mignet (pine wood for burning) is valued by the community. It forms part of the rituals, warms many homes (mignet is a good fire starter), and keeps many spaces sacred.

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When I see these trees, I am reminded that we are a people rooted in tradition and community-centered still, despite the allure of individualism. So when I say “Don’t cut these trees,” what I’m really saying is “Don’t chop off my connection to my Filipino culture, of which Cordilleran traditions are very much a part.”

We have so much to learn from the I-Sagadan (as we do from most of our indigenous people). They are exemplary to me because despite the many influences and the cosmopolitan nature of this little village, they have maintained strong connections to their indigenous identity. Their brand of ka-Igorotan has also demonstrated that Western/American church values can coincide with local traditions and that by being true to and proud of their identity, they can be empowered as a community.

As a tourist, I have always felt lucky to be exposed to this community. I count among my blessings the many lessons the I-Sagadan have taught me, to say nothing of their tremendous generosity. I have benefited much, and always left Sagada feeling like I spent too little in exchange for their bounty. Imagine my discomfort at discovering this road-widening project that is purportedly for my benefit as a tourist. What do I gain from road widening? Nothing.

I imagine how my friends who call Sagada home must feel. I’m hurting at the loss of what makes a place beautiful in my eyes while they face losing their home—all because my friends and I who did not get the chance to live there want to see and experience what only they can. They will sacrifice their trees so that I can park my car… How do I wrap my head around that thought?

This is not a fair exchange, and as a tourist, I feel responsible. I call on my fellow outsiders (local and foreign)—the travelers, artists, mountain-lovers, walkers, hikers, free spirits, cultural workers, seekers, backpackers, business tycoons, actors, scientists, activists, clergymen and women, fashion designers, photographers, environmentalists, writers, newlyweds, all of us who have benefited from Sagada’s unique culture and climate—to take a stand alongside its people. Let us tell them that they need not lose their identity just so we can find ours.

And if you have never been there, yours is an important voice, too. Help campaign for responsible tourism so that you can see and experience the Sagada we know and love. And when you do visit, don’t just look for “That Thing Called Tadhana.” Get to know the people, ask about their traditions, culture and everyday life, and most of all, bask in the beauty of nature. Be grateful that the I-Sagadan have fought to keep their home whole and green.

Stop the cutting of Makamkamlis’ trees!

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Nash Tysmans, turning 28, is a European studies and international relations graduate of Ateneo de Manila University.

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TAGS: conservation, environment, nature, opinion, Sagada, Tree, Young Blood
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