Sagada netizens hit travel firms over selling ‘panag-aapoy’

>> Thursday, October 13, 2016

By Gina Dizon
SAGADA, Mountain Province – “Panag-aapoy” is just around the corner and Sagada folks are angry  at travel agencies selling  the traditional practice of burning ‘sa-eng’ (fatwood) every eve of  Nov. 1 at the cemetery as a “festival” to entice visitors to buy their package tours.
Manila-based Lakbay Pinas Travel and Tours in its online site with corresponding tour offers packaged the traditional “panag-aapoy” as a “festival” got the ire of netizens.
The advertisement was later deleted from the travel company’s site after netizens angrily commented saying the traditional “panag-aapoy” is not a festival.  Lakbay Pinas packaged “panag-aapoy” in 2015 as a festival.
Lakbay Pinas though retained its regular promos offering a low of P2,750 per person for a three- day and two- night tour in Sagada covering  accommodation on lodging  and transportation on dates near Nov. 1.
Manila-based Raisen Travel and Tours offers P2,850 per person for two nights accommodation and transportation with ‘Panag-aapoy Festival’ as a come-on this Nov. 1 for tourists to visit Sagada including its other natural attractions.  
The amount covers services for the tour coordinator, travel insurance and taxes and registration fees upon entering Sagada.
The Nov. 1 practice is packaged as “Panag-apoy tradition” by Manila-based Hideout Travel and Tours and offers a three- day and 2 night- accommodation for P2,699 per person.   
Panag-aapoy as a ‘Festival’ was promoted since 2010 by bloggers calling the practice as a “festival of lights” and a “festival of fire.” The traditional practice began to be sold as a ‘festival’ over the internet by travel and tour agencies since 2012 to the present.
Manila-based Happy Juanderer Travel and Tours  in 2014  offered P3,050 per person for those wanting to see for themselves a “Panag-aapoy Festival” with the amount covering two nights accommodation and transportation from Manila to Sagada and vice versa.
Sagada Mayor James Pooten said “panag-aapoy” had  never been commercialized by the community. “Panag-aapoy is a traditional practice among the people of Sagada to respect the dead and not a festival to be merry,” he added.
Sagada folks consider a festival as joyous when gongs are played and people dance contrary to death related moments observed with solemnity.
“Panag-aapoy” is  yearly  tradition of burning  “sa-eng” or resin wood to warm the graves of  departed members of  families and  relatives every eve of  Nov. 1.
Lighting the sa-eng is also combined with candle lighting and starts around 4 to 5 p.m. after church service when the priest blesses the names of the departed and the ‘sa-eng’ to be used in the cemetery.
Steve Rogers, an American who stayed long  in town and married a Sagada lass said the community should be the one to decide their events whether these  activities are festivals or not.
A community festivity is done during ‘babayas’ or wedding celebrations and during the agricultural  ‘begnas’  where people after a solemn ritual observe this with festivity to ask Kabunian for  good harvest of crops, continued flow of waters, longevity, and sickness not to enter the community.
“Promoting panag-aapoy  as a tourist attraction without consulting first with the Local Government Unit, the Dap-ay, and the Episcopal Church  which hosts the event  is just not acceptable,” he said.
Indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) to the Sangguniang Bayan Jaime Dugao said “panag-aapoy” is meant for people of the community to honor their dead and not for tourists to gawk at.  
Sagada is populated by Aplai indigenous peoples who strongly hold on to their customary practices even with the entrance of early American missionaries in  1900s and with  backpacker tourism in the 1970s to the invasion of mass tourism in the late 1990s till now.
Affirmed by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the Sagada people’s collective being as a community is ingrained with them rights to their age-old customary ways  including natural  resources around them such that their very consent to their intangible practices and tangible properties commands their approval.
As of presstime, the social concerns committee of the Church of St Mary the Virgin shall be gathering  to discuss rules on the conduct of Panag-aapoy at the cemetery come November 1. The cemetery is located within the Mission Compound of the  CSMV.


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