2016 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Kenyon College

The Road Ahead:
Navigating the Impact of
Tourism on Igorot Youth in the Philippines

Mentor: Sam Pack, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Students: Alexandra Hansen, Bradley Rainor, and Camila Velasquez

Project Abstract

Our project focused on the impact of tourism on the Batad rice terraces of the northern Philippines.  Traditional resource management practices have been disrupted by the introduction of a cash economy that has motivated the out-migration of young people to urban areas and the loss of cooperative labor required to maintain the rice terraces.  This economic shift from agriculture to wage labor has resulted in a concomitant cultural shift from communalism to individualism.

Uncontrolled tourism has caused irreparable damage to not only the physical environment but also the cultural landscape.  The effects are clearly on display in Baguio City.  Known as the “summer capital of the Philippines,” its cool climate has attracted droves of domestic and foreign tourists.  Baguio’s population today is more than ten times its capacity, resulting in pollution, traffic, land degradation, and water scarcity, among other problems.  The rapid growth of heritage tourism is emblematic of globalization processes that make the world a smaller place.  This research project offers a compelling case study of the myriad of ways in which the local and the global are both inextricably linked and mutually constitutive. 

Successful completion of this project would not have been possible without the continued support and assistance of the project faculty mentor’s close friend and colleague, Analyn “Ikin” Salvador-Amores, a professor of anthropology at the University of Philippines (UP) in Baguio.  Ikin facilitated the logistics of our research by finding accommodations for us in Baguio and introducing us to our research assistants/translators.  Donabel Sabado and Gabrielle Ticgue, both senior anthropology majors at UP Baguio, were invaluable assets in helping my students find contacts and facilitating data collection.

The effectiveness of community-driven tourism depends on the active involvement of all sectors in the locality.  Local stakeholders—the farmers, businessmen, government officials, indigenous knowledge holders and practitioners, youth, and non-government organizations—must participate in planning, policy-making, and implementing tourist activities.  Our research team worked with the host communities in Baguio and Batad to formulate a more sustainable community-based tourism development and management program for themselves. 

 Alexandra Hansen

Despite the fact that cultural heritage tourism in the Philippines has created economic benefits, the social costs to the country’s indigenous population have been significant. By researching the Batad rice terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Luzon, our research team was able to study the impact domestic and international tourism has on local Igorot peoples and culture. Fostering a deeper understanding of the complexity of tourism and indigenous rights, my research focuses on the Faustian dilemma local Igorots face as they continue to sacrifice a cultural heritage forged over thousands of years for short-term financial gains. My research directly focuses on the following questions: To what extent is tourism and globalization affecting indigenous rights in Igorot communities? How are Igorot communities asserting their rights and contributing to the overall effort of nation building? Finally, what are the prospective future outcomes for Igorot communities in terms of their autonomy? 

Through our student-faculty collaboration, Professor Pack assisted us in identifying our team’s Asian partners, guided us through our on-site work, and fostered various opportunities for intellectual, and academic growth. Moreover, the team also worked closely with Analyn “Ikin” Salvador-Amores, a professor of anthropology at the University of Philippines in Baguio. By collaborating with each other, as well as another local group, our team was rewarded with a plethora of raw data, and information lending to our projects.

I believe that this research experience will greatly contribute to my professional development and generate future career opportunities. As an Asian Studies, Chinese Area Studies and International Studies triple major, I plan on attending graduate school in Asia and to work there professionally. Through my involvement in this project, I believe that I developed the analytic reasoning skills, cross cultural-communication proficiency, and complex problem-solving competence needed in the professional realm. I look forward to sharing my findings both on campus as well as outside the Kenyon community, specifically at conferences that highlight undergraduate research.

Bradley Rainor

            During the summer of 2016 I had the opportunity to accompany Professor Pack and several other student researchers on a research trip to the Philippines. The focus of our research was indigenous groups, known collectively as Igorots, located in the Cordillera Mountains of the Northern Luzon. We conducted our study primarily in the city of Baguio and the village of Batad. My own research within this broader topic focused on a more specific current issue in the context of the Philippines: the challenges associated with modernization in these tourist destinations without appropriate development of supporting infrastructure and services. The effects of rapid modernization without development can range from unsustainable population sizes, increased air pollution, a lack of appropriate waste management systems, and the destruction of natural resources. In the city of Baguio, and even the small village of Batad, it is tourism, not industry, which drives this sort of rapid urbanization.

            Through my work with our research team, the University of the Philippines in Baguio, and our local contacts in both Baguio and Batad, I was able to learn more about the background of and challenges associated with increased modernization in Baguio and Batad. In addition, I was able to draw the direct connection between these challenges and the increased number of tourists to these areas. Increased numbers of people coupled with an increased reliance on tourism for revenue has created challenges for the village of Batad that are not unlike the city of Baguio. It is this connection between these two locations that drove the topic of my research throughout the field study.

            Since our return from the Philippines, we have begun compiling and organizing the research notes and footage our team collected over the course of the project. We have created poster presentations for the Kenyon College community and begun to write papers that members will present in a conference later this year. As we continue our work, we plan to prepare articles as a well as a short film to further disseminate our findings from this research trip.

Camila Velasquez

My project centers on tourists’ photographic behavior and social media use. It interrogates the ways in which tourist interactions with Igorot culture in Baguio and Batad translated into visual and virtual narratives. By looking at tourists’ motivations and understandings of their experiences, this research engages with practical concerns of a tourist industry. At the same time, it expands upon and re-examines academic literature on tourist photography and narrative by making use of studies on social media.  Specifically, I attempt to update Richard Chalfen’s (1967) model for studying the stages of tourist snapshots, interrogating its application in a context where most sharing occurs on social media platforms. The execution of the project thus hinged on the interactions with local people, both during the interviews on-site and via social media thereafter. Although conducted primarily independently, collaboration with UP Baguio students and other group members, as well as mentoring from Professor Pack, enriched my data gathering. This combination of rigorous, self-monitored project development and collaboration has proved advantageous in my current work environment and will serve as critical preparation for graduate school. In addition to having developed skills in research design and execution, I will have also gained experience with analysis and presentation. At this moment, I am applying Chalfen’s (1967) model to the pictures uploaded to the various social media accounts I have access to. Once this is complete and I have evaluated the model in relation to current literature, I will be presenting my results in conference presentation or paper. I expect to finish these by May 2017.