Sagada hits ‘desecration of sacred grounds’ by telecom firm

By GINA DIZON
Northern Dispatch

SAGADA, Mountain Province – Local residents here are opposing the construction of a communications tower for Globe Telecom on the Calvary hill.

Through a petition sent to the telecommunications company and appeals for support to the vestry of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin (CSMV) and the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP), the petitioners called for the immediate removal of the structure from the sacred area.

The tower stands on the generations-old burial grounds area of the town which is considered by most spiritual or religious persuasions as sacred.

The issue has gone viral on social websites with emotionally fired exchanges from both local people, migrants, advocates and friends of the community against a long list of allegations or violations committed by those who own and constructed the tower there. Local residents slammed the violation of the sanctity of the burial sites, the absence of consultation with the local community, the lack of free prior and informed consent, among others.

“We do not separate our reverence and respect for our ‘babawiyan’ (sacred spots) from the Calvary Hill and the cemetery where the yearly ‘pinag-aapoy’ (lighting of candles and peat wood near the graves) to commemorate our hundreds of departed annually on All Souls Day” the petitioners said.

“Our yearly ‘pinag-aapoy’ shows our sense of sanctity is inextricably linked to that Hill and to the cemetery where the graves and tombs of our dead are built,” Giovan Reyes, a native of Sagada and chairman of the Koalisyon ng Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas, Inc. (Kasapi) said.

Manila-based Episcopalian and a native of Sagada, Raymond Alipit said, ”We, the church cannot just sneeze and let this just go by and let the ‘Towering Inferno’ aflame and bring hell over us. It has gone too far and even redesigned the natural beauty and serenity of the sacred Hill.”

The contractor cut trees and built a supporting structure September this year. The uproar let the CSMV authorities schedule a special congregational assembly on October 7. They called for the relocation of the tower and tasked the vestry to deal with Globe on the transfer of the structure. It was not known when and where the tower would be transferred.

The petition also called for the restoration of the area by dismantling all the unwanted structures and by planting trees.

Concerned offices of the national government were also called for their appropriate action. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) did not issue a certificate of free prior and informed consent (FPIC), although initial field-based investigation was done in 2010 with the recommendations that all those affected shall be consulted. The process stopped there with calls for consultation from affected stakeholders. Northern Dispatch Reposted by ()

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