Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Banaue wakeskating, waking up call

The wakeskating incident in Banaue has drawn so much praises and criticisms, even among the people who are from the area have divided opinions.

For some, it's a degradation of nature and to the spirits of the land, but to some, an opportunity. For a few, it's just survival.

Some environmentalists criticized the activity saying it will destroy nature and even Ifugao Congressman Baguilat see it as inappropriate. A rice terrace is for planting rice only said some.

Some defended the activity since the viral video will surely promote the place and bring more tourists in bringing more income to the business establishments in the area dependent to tourism.

The landscape scene at the back of the 1,000.00 peso bill after planting season.

But do we really need to promote the already famous terraces with such activity? Isn't it already famous that's why those wake skaters were attracted to do their wake skating in the first place? Isn't it the other way around that those wake skaters are the ones promoted by the already famous place that is considered by some as the 8th wonder of the World?

To some who defended the activity, they say that tourist arrival is dwindling especially to the West Side where apparently it was taken out of the Heritage site list.

Then perhaps the answer goes back to the basic. Why was it made famous in the first place? Was it because of fun activities? We all know it became famous because of the awe-inspiring view of the terraces and the beautiful native huts that once were there. Only pictures of that once beautiful place were enough to encourage people to visit the place. There was no need to stage promotions like the wake skating stunt even when trips to go there was not as convenient as today. Yet tourists flock the area like pilgrims on a journey to their holy place.

If you go now to Banaue, you will see modern buildings and houses and a lot of terraces not maintained. It is disappointing and some parts are already off the list of the World Heritage Sites. The reason why people want to go there is slowly disappearing.

But can we blame the people? I guess everyone deserves progress in every way. Who wouldn't want to live in a better house with less maintenance? Who wouldn't want to earn better income doing more convenient work?

But then, the place is dependent on tourism and because of progress, we are taking out the very reasons why tourists are visiting our beautiful places? Can we get our tourists to like our place once more without the need to do stunts like the controversial wakeskating?

I guess that depends on what we want to trade for it. Are we willing to tear down our beautifully made concrete houses and create a hut with straw roofs that we need to change every five or ten years? And do our people who mostly are now educated willing to go back to work to the land and maintain it so that tourists can keep coming? 

Yes there are trade offs that need to happen if we need our old famous places back but I guess we will not be seeing that happening soon, maybe never. 

But as for now, as many from that place commented, they needed the promotion and as far as the viral wakeskating incident is concerned, it will surely bring many tourists back to that place. Some would say it is a "band-aid" solution that will last as long as the viral video is still going around. Surely some tourists will still be awed and some will be disappointed. Some will surely try to do the same or similar stunt.

I guess for now we have no other options but to use similar solutions to bring tourists to those people dependent on tourism activities. Everybody needs food on the table. On the part of the stuntmen, they are just doing what they dreamed of accomplishing and shouldn't be blamed. In the first place, our tourism slogan is "More fun in the Philippines" (which we "again" copied from the 1951 More fun in Switzerland campaign) and we shouldn't be angry at people having fun in our tourism sites? And another thing is they asked permission from the owner of the privately owned property and were allowed to do the activity. To the owners of the place, it's earning a living.

But will it destroy nature? Terracing the mountain already destroyed part of nature. But will it destroy the terraces? Probably if it becomes a regular activity. Those are the things we will be trading off when it comes to commercial promotions.

So until the people there are willing to trade-off convenience for tourism marketability, we will be needing more similar promotional activities to invite tourists in. 

But could there be a better way? Perhaps there is and that's up to the people living there. They already allowed this commercially made activity, perhaps they are willing to open up for more ideas. If I am to be asked, I have my own opinions. But who would listen to someone who never own a parcel of land, much less a rice paddy? Perhaps someday I will write about it.

And what can the government do? No matter how many budgets the government will allocate to repair the damaged terraces if the people there have already changed their ways, I believe it will just go back down again. It will need constant maintenance and the longer it was neglected, the rehabilitation expenses will be higher.

I guess we can never bring back the old glory of the Banaue Rice Terraces. It's not the people's fault and it is not the Government's either. We asked the government for better roads, they provided it. It gave us convenience to transport better materials to build our homes leading us to transform our lands to modern metropolis. Soon it will just like be any other places else where in the Country and will not be so attractive anymore.

The so-called progress and the ever changing way of life will continue to transform the land and the people and will continue to adopt to the changes. I guess the only thing we can do is to conserve what is left and find better ways to promote and advertise our wonders.