Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sitio Nagpana: Indigenous Tourism of Barotac Viejo

The Aeta community of Sitio Nagpana lies in Barangay Lipata, 12 kilometers from the poblacion of Barotac Viejo. The community lies hidden from view to those visiting the area.

Everything about the Aeta community reflects sensitivity to the environment and respect for the area's traditional Aboriginal owners since the 1950’s. Early settlers were said to have come from the neighboring provinces of Antique and Guimaras. The sitio covers 938 hectares of verdant forest land where 200 hectares is identified as a “reserved area” for its watershed and 40 hectares is intended for housing and its school. Presently, it has a population of 741 aetas living in 168 houses.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)

Framed by stunning mountain views, it is home to Nagpana Falls where guests can enjoy a host of activities revolving around it, while still having time to explore the spectacular scenery surrounding the community. It has a pavilion with two rooms that can accommodate overnight stays with ten persons per room. It has toilet and bath with running water coming from a hose that is connected from a spring situated on the upper portion of the Nagpana Falls.

Visitors to Nagpana have the privilege of touring through indigenous guided- walks with a knowledgeable Aeta guide in the person of Mrs. Raquel Mateo who provides insight in to the Nagpana landscape and can enhance their experience through a showcase of its indigenous craft of nito-weaving.

The nito vine is a richly-colored tropical vine coming from the fern family. It is a forest vine that grows as a secondary forest cover clinging to trees and rocks. The vine must be gathered first then exposed to sunlight to dry. As a vine material, it does not need to be treated by soaking, scraping or hacking processes to enhance its natural beauty and color. The elements are mostly flat flexible strips popular for in matting.

The weavers of Nagpana uses this to produce baskets, hats, bags, coin purses, leis, coasters, placemats, bracelets and even rings. It is even used as inlay material for table tops and furniture accessories exported abroad. Weaving nito is this aeta community’s primary means of increasing their income. The Nagpana Nito Weavers Group established in 2005 is currently made up of 42 members.

The indigenous Nagpana people are very much aware of their cultural and natural heritage and the roles it plays in their daily lives. Thus, their identity as a community is primarily dictated by the heritage resources that they are blessed with.  

With indigenous tourism, we must understand the important role we play in the wider community and the need to maintain good relationships with all of our stakeholders including indigenous and community groups, non-government organizations and government authorities. 

It is essential for policy makers of to set the limit of tourist activities in fragile sites such as Nagpana where their cultural rights within its well-preserved environmental setting should be enforced by law.  The numbers of tourists must also be strictly controlled as well as strictly regulate tourist behavior by instituting clear and strict rules regulating tourism activities in the community.  These regulations should be community-derived and transparently enforced.  Profits must be kept in their community. The tourism industry should understand the regulations and the reasons for them, and be satisfied that the fair and equitable enforcement of the rules of these rules, and well as the uses of the revenues levied from the industry are used to promote the industry through the development of necessary infrastructure.

Tourism practitioners must focus on raising the cultural awareness among their policy makers and the community members, and in having a clear understanding of the impacts and risks of tourism development. With a good understanding of the cultural resource and its economic potentials, the local government can plan on how to best attract tourist revenue while sustain its heritage resources, in particular, and the support the services that the municipality is required to provide to sustain tourism.

The municipality of Barotac Viejo has many resources, both cultural and natural, that make it extremely attractive for development as a tourist destination. Know more about the Aeta community of Nagpana in Barotac Viejo on September 4-8, 2012 at the fountain area of Robinsons Place Iloilo as the municipality supports the 8th Tumandok for the celebration of tourism month of the Iloilo Provincial Government. For more information, please contact Mrs. Lorie Ann Dumdum-Municipal Tourism Officer, Barotac Viejo at 09995796398.


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