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The distinct heritage of Sagada

Sagada in the Mountain Province is technically a heritage town after a local ordinance declared all structures of cultural and historical importance as heritage sites.

Municipal Ordinance 03-2020, known as the Sagada Man-Made Heritage Sites Ordinance, preserved the town’s built environment that are significant in the “history, life, works and culture of the community.”

It defines as man-made structure any building or edifice either made of stone, wood, grass or materials or any combination thereof intended either as family or public shelter, community congregation and or gathering coupled with the noble intentions of its use and purpose.

The identified structures include the wooden Saint Joseph Church in the barangay of Kilong, all extant dap-ay or circular communal areas made from slabs of stone, all cogon houses used as residence, all rice granaries which are at least 50 years old, rice terraces in the town and culturally and historically-significant houses or structures.

The edifices within the Mission Compound of the Episcopal Church, locally declared heritage zone in 2017, were included on the list, as well as the Saint Theodore Hospital, the principal’s residence, the doctors’ residence, Saint Mary the Virgin Church, rectory, parish office, convent, William Henry Scott’s residence, Saint Mary’s School building, laboratory building, E.G.L. Centrum, girls’ dormitory, boys’ dormitory and Saint Joseph’s Rest House.

Pictures by Sagada native Eduardo Masferré on the town as well as all extant wood and stone art, which include “those attached to other tangible structures,” were declared part of the town’s heritage.

The declaration recognizes Sagada and its people’s “sense of unity and sacrifices in the crafting and building of their shelters, the tools and other artistic innovations, (their) solidarity role in defending their homelands, the territorial domain and ancestral lands, and the thoughts, knowledge and skills of the community people.”

The ordinance mandates these structures to be properly documented, included in tourism publications, and to have proper signage bearing details of these properties.

Any move to deface, later, vandalize, damage or destroy these sites will be penalized with a community service or required to pay P2,500 for the first to third offenses depending on the decision of the court. The offender may also be required to replace or restore the damages at his or her cost.

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