SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE: In mystical Sagada, where beliefs and traditions are intertwined with community life, residents frown on any act of disrespect for the living and the dead.
This deep respect for their departed kin is manifested in the way locals guard and protect their burial caves. Here, burial grounds and rituals for the dead are sacred and held with solemnity and reverence.
So when a young couple decided to have their pre-nuptial photo shoot inside the Lumyang burial cave, local officials and residents were incensed.
In the Mountain Province, an entire community mourns with the bereaved family and attends the rituals and ceremony. The immediate family members of the deceased do not leave their homes within a certain period of time.
The people also believe that the soul of a dead person is a guardian for the living.
These beliefs were pointed out in a forum conducted by Indigenous Peoples Representative to the Sagada Municipal Council, Jaime Dugao.
The dead are meant to stay in their resting places—in traditional burial caves or cemeteries, Dugao said.
Recently, netizens criticized a scene in the movie Above the Clouds that was shot at the Lumyang burial cave.
The movie is about a grandfather, played by Pepe Smith, and his relationship with his estranged grandson played by Ruru Madrid.
The scene that caught the ire of elders and residents shows Smith opening one of the coffins in the cave, a tourist destination.
But critics argued that the act of opening the coffin was done inside a burial cave and this gave the wrong signal that visitors can open the coffins to satisfy their fancy.
In the forum, elders explained that the cave is the resting place of their ancestors and should be given due respect.
A British TV series, Moaning of Life, also got the ire of residents for reenacting the practice of hanging coffins on a mountainside.
The production outfit of the TV series and the locals hired during the filming were reprimanded by the Sagada Municipal Council, which ruled that the Me and You Productions should not show the scenes taken in Sagada.
The municipal council ordered that an elder, the secretary to the mayor and the guide who participated in the mock burial should discourage other people from doing the same act.
The production company was slapped a fine of P10,000 but it was unable to pay the penalty. The local guide had to pay the fine for desecrating a scared place.
A scene in That Thing Called Tadhana, a popular movie that starred JM de Guzman and Angelica Panganiban was also frowned upon by elders because it showed Panganiban screaming on top of a mountain in Sagada.
Residents got more angry when tourists started copying Panganiban and would scream “Ayoko na, ayoko na” at the Kiltepan rice terraces.
The elders said it was an insensitive act to do in a sacred place.
With filmmakers and commercial artists converging on the town to shoot films, the number of tourists increased to 65,000 last year. This year, officials are expecting about 100,000 visitors.
But locals are weary of visitors because of their disrespectful acts.
As part of efforts to reduce “skirmishes” with tradition, a regulation was formulated for movie productions and documentary filmmakers. The Municipal Council created a Review Committee composed of the mayor, members of the council, representatives of indigenous groups, and the tourism committee to see to it that municipal ordinances are enforced.
Under the proposed rules, a visitor who disrespected sacred areas will undergo a cleansing ceremony, a cultural tradition conducted on the desecrated site. The offender shall shoulder all expenses incurred for the ceremony.