About 275 kilometers north of Manila, the town of Sagada has successfully engraved its mark in the Philippine map as one of the best places for its mystical caves, waterfalls and towering mountain peaks.
Sagada’s tourism arrivals as well as Baguio City were further boosted with several movies like Mike De Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising in 1977 starring Christopher De Leon and Hilda Coronel featuring unpaved roads and pine log cabins.
After Sagada residents appealed in vain to tourists not to visit Sagada during Holy Week, a blogger who claims herself “a small person who loves nature” has called the attention of Antoinette Jadaone, the acclaimed writer and director of the romantic comedy “That Thing Called Tadhana”, and blamed her for “the devastation (of Sagada) that was caused by your film’s hype.”
Jadaone’s movie was a critical and commercial hit that premiered at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival in November and went on wide release courtesy of Star Cinema in February. It also had a successful theatrical run in the U.S. last March.
In an open letter to Director Antoinette Jadaone, published on her blog last Tuesday, the blogger who identifies herself as “Kat” and goes by the name “the she-wolf” shared a photo of a crowded destination gathered on the summit of Mt. Kiltepan in Sagada that was originally posted by Facebook user Dayanne Crisologo.
The summit figures in a climactic scene in Jadaone’s movie where the heartbroken lead female character played by Angelica Panganiban purges herself of all her heartache by shouting into the clouds, “Ayoko na! Ang sakit-sakit! Ayoko na. (I don’t want this anymore! It hurts so bad! I don’t want this anymore)!”
According to the blogger (as published on her blog), “[I] have a moral responsibility to deliver it as sincerely as i can upon seeing the devastation that was caused by your film’s hype.
“i haven’t seen the movie thinking that it’s going to be a typical filipino film; however, the moment i saw your trailer, me and my other environmentalist friends only have one thing in mind: ‘magagahasa to gaya ng anawangin.’”
“We have a moral responsibility to take care of our environment for future generations to come,” she added.
The blogger, however, admitted that she had only seen the movie’s trailer, which she said was enough to make her and her “other environmentalist friends” conclude that Sagada was going to be “abused” just like Anawangin — a scenic cove in Zambales that was featured in the 2009 Star Cinema movie “And I Love You So”.
“[S]ince i haven’t seen the movie, i doubt you have shown LNT [leave no trace] principles nor have talked to the tourism office on how they should manage the influx of visitors as a result of showing your film.
“[I]nstead, we have this devastation — overcrowding. just look again at the photo below.”
She said Crisologo’s photo, published on Easter Sunday, “just manifested our worst nightmare.”
She implored Jadaone “to go back to Sagada tourism and initiate a continuous improvement project to prevent the same devastation of nature again.”
Well, this is the irony of Eco-tourism.
In any case, most of the comments to Kat’s blog: Jadaone is not to blame for the overcrowding of tourists and for whatever “devastation” visitors may have caused Sagada in general and Mt. Kiltepan in particular.
“Sometimes we cannot contain the number of visitors during holidays, especially walk-ins, so we endorse accommodations outside the town like inns and hotels in nearby Bontoc, Mt. Province,” Robert Pangod, municipal tourism officer of Sagada stated.
In the past 5 years, at least 20,000 tourists visited Sagada annually but in 2014, the Municipal Tourism Office recorded a total of 54,970 visitors. From January to February this year, Pangod said there were 23,000 tourists monitored by his office.
Jadaone’s latest film, “You’re My Boss” is her third straight mega-blockbuster (after “Tadhana” and “English Only, Please”, which she co-wrote but did not direct) as she retweeted a post by Star Cinema that announced the P65 million three-day gross of the Coco Martin-Toni Gonzaga romantic comedy.
As “You’re My Boss” was shot mostly in Batanes, it remains to be seen whether it would likewise cause influx of tourists.