Left photo: Picturesque view of sunrise in Marlboro country, Lamugan, Sagada. Right photo: Paytokan hanging coffins usually visited in Sagada, Mt. Province. Accordingly, there are some coffins already hanged in 1960s.

The Lumiang burial cave, Sumaging cave, Paytokan hanging coffins and Lamagan Marlboro Country are some of the few prides of Sagada, Mountain Province ecotourism sites.  These sites were initially assessed for their carrying capacity during the learning event on carrying capacity (CarCarp) assessment on July 31-August 2, 2019.  The Coastal Resources and Ecotourism Research, Development and Extension Center (CRERDEC) of ERDB  led by Dr. Alicia L. Lustica, Center Director and Forester Chona M. Tura, Senior Science Research Specialist served as Resource Speakers during the event. The Carrying Capacity assessment was instigated by the Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Conservation Section of the Regional Office, DENR-CAR.

The municipality of Sagada, Mountain Province is blessed with several tourist destinations.  These include the Balangan cave, Sumaging cave and luminag-sumaging cave connection; eco-cultural tours of Paytokan hanging coffins and eco trail, Lumiang burial cave, weaving industry;  mountain trekking at Lamagan Marlboro Country where the beautiful sunrise can be viewed, Mt. blue soil or Kaman utek and Mt. Ampacao, and many others.  Sagada is about 157 kms from the City of Baguio and can be reached by all types of vehicles through the Halsema highway for 5-6 hours.  Direct travel from Cubao for visitors coming from Metro Manila can reach Sagada passing through the rice terraces in Banaue, Ifugao via Banaue-Bontoc Road with approximate traveling time of 14 hours.


Lumiang burial cave, Sagada, Mt. Province

The CarCap assessment was conducted in response to the influx of visitors sometime in October 2018 that beset the local officials and communities of Sagada.  The 173 inns and homestays in the municipality were fully occupied at that time, not to mention private homes that were utilized to accommodate the drastic visits of huge number of guests.  Expecting the chronological conundrum to happen in the environment within Sagada in the near future, CarCap of each tourist destination is timely to be undertaken.  Carrying Capacity as defined by the World Tourism Organization is the maximum number of people that may visit a tourist destination at the same time without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable decrease in the quality  of visitors’ satisfaction.

During the learning event, Officer-In-Charge of CENRO Sabangan, DENR-CAR, Ms. Elizabeth B. Antolin emphasized her vision for Mountain Province especially Sagada to have clean air, clean water, clean environment that will lead to a healthy community in the area.  This was corroborated by Sagada Mayor James B. Pooten, Jr and Dr. Lustica.  “The CarCap is an initial step towards environmental protection and management and enforcement of environmental laws to deter environmental degradation, which is one of the marching orders of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to the LGUs”, Mayor Pooten, Jr. said in his inspirational message.  On the other hand, Dr. Lustica stressed the importance of ecotourism carrying capacity assessment in the area since ecotourism is now one of the major sources of income in the municipality that should serve as a sustainable livelihood to the grassroots.

To expedite the CarCap activities, Forester Chona shared techniques on how to compute the Basic Carrying Capacity (BCC), Potential Carrying Capacity (PCC), Real Carrying Capacity (RCC) and the magnitude of limiting factors that affect the RCC.  This is by using an enhanced application of Boullon’s Carrying Capacity Mathematical Model with additional development of the Sustainable Accommodation through Feedback Evaluation (SAFE) Model called “CarCapculator” developed by Supervising Science Research Specialist Mr. Reynaldo L. Lanuza of ERDB-CRERDEC.  This was used during the initial CarCap assessment of some of the attraction sites in the area that really facilitated the determination of the carrying capacities of the tourist destinations subjected for assessment.

It is now a challenge to the members of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that comprised representatives of the different offices like DENR-CAR, DOT-CAR, NEDA, Municipal and Barangay LGUs, Tour Guide Associations and the WWRRDEC who attended the CarCap Assessment learning event to fast track the CarCap assessments of the four (4) initially assessed tourist destinations in Sagada, Mountain Province. Rhandy S. Tubal, WWRRDEC