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10 Ways Tourists are Killing the Igorot Culture (and How to Stop Them)

Discover the top 10 ways tourism is harming the Igorot culture and what you can do to help prevent it.

The Igorot culture is a rich and unique part of the Philippines. However, tourism is having a negative impact on this culture. Learn about the top 10 reasons why and how you can help.

The Igorot culture is a significant part of the Philippines, especially in the Cordillera region. It has a deep connection to nature and traditions that have been passed down for generations.

Tourism is on the rise in Igorot communities. Many people are coming to see the beauty of the mountains and learn about the Igorot way of life. This can bring benefits, but it also raises concerns about how it might affect the Igorot culture.

This list explores the top ten reasons why tourism impacts the Igorot culture. It aims to highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with tourism. By understanding these reasons, we can work towards a more responsible and respectful way of tourism, one that preserves the Igorot culture and benefits the local communities.

1. Cultural Appropriation and Commercialization

Tourism often brings visitors seeking to connect with the Igorot culture. However, this eagerness can sometimes lead to cultural appropriation. Tourists might buy souvenirs that use sacred materials or designs, without understanding their significance. They may also dress in Igorot traditional clothing without grasping the cultural meaning behind it. These actions can trivialize the culture and turn it into a commodity, ultimately impacting the Igorot way of life.

An example of cultural appropriation is the case of a famous celebrity, who comes from a family of mega-famous parents, known for their striking looks. This celebrity once dressed in Igorot clothing alongside Aeta kids for a photo op. This instance was widely criticized for being scripted and inauthentic, seen as a form of PR stunt and cultural appropriation. It emphasized the importance of understanding and respecting the culture, rather than using it for personal gain.

Furthermore, it's important to note that non-Igorot individuals often dominate the sale of souvenirs and traditional clothing, rather than the Igorot people themselves. This aspect of commercialization can be problematic as it often sidelines the indigenous community and their opportunities for economic growth. Additionally, many individuals who rent Igorot traditional clothing for photo opportunities are typically not of Igorot descent, further emphasizing the issue of cultural commodification and commercialization.

Cultural preservation is essential to maintaining the authenticity of Igorot culture, and tourism's influence must be carefully balanced to protect these traditions. Responsible tourism respects the local culture and promotes understanding rather than exploitation. By being mindful of the impact of cultural appropriation and commercialization, we can better support the Igorot community.

2. Disruption of Traditional Practices and Loss of Authenticity

Tourism has brought changes to the Igorot way of life, impacting traditional practices like farming and religious ceremonies. Visitors often want to experience these practices, sometimes leading to conflicts and tension within the community. This disruption can strain the continuity of these essential traditions.

For example, the legendary Apo Whang-od, the mambabatok of Kalinga, has faced significant changes in her life due to tourism. Her art of traditional tattooing has attracted a flood of tourists. However, the demand for her tattoos has transformed a once-sacred practice into a commercial venture. The profound cultural significance of the tattoos has, in some instances, been overshadowed by their commercialization, resulting in a potential loss of cultural authenticity.

Moreover, as tourism influences the Igorot culture, there is a risk of losing its authentic core. When practices are adapted to meet tourists' expectations, the culture can lose its genuine essence. Preserving traditional practices and cultural authenticity is crucial for the Igorot culture to thrive while embracing the benefits of tourism in a balanced way. Responsible tourism should respect these practices and promote cultural understanding without eroding their authenticity.

3. Impact on Sacred Sites, Artifacts, and Language

The surge in tourism is not without consequences for sacred Igorot sites, valuable artifacts, and the preservation of the Igorot language.

Tourists' presence near sacred sites can disrupt the sanctity and significance of these places. Some sacred locations have been commercialized for tourism, often with an entrance fee attached. This practice can lead to a loss of respect for the sacredness of these sites and make them less accessible to local people.

One striking example of the impact on artifacts is the case of Apo Anno, a sacred mummy stolen from the Igorot community. The thieves believed it could fetch a high price in the market, illustrating how valuable Igorot artifacts are sometimes targeted. Apo Anno's theft underscores the challenges of preserving cultural heritage in the face of increasing tourism.

Additionally, the influx of tourists poses a risk to the preservation of the Igorot language and its cultural significance. As foreign languages become more common in the tourism industry, the Igorot language can face challenges. This language carries the cultural heritage of the Igorot people, and its preservation is vital for maintaining the authenticity of the culture.

Balancing the need for cultural preservation with the economic opportunities of tourism is a challenge. Responsible tourism should aim to protect sacred sites, artifacts, and the Igorot language, recognizing their cultural and historical importance.

4. Negative Environmental Impact

The increasing flow of tourists into the Cordillera region has raised concerns about its environmental impact. Tourism, while providing economic opportunities, can take a toll on the environment.

Tourism-related activities often lead to pollution, such as litter left behind by visitors. Some sacred sites and natural wonders, like the Banaue Rice Terraces, have suffered from littering and pollution. These practices can harm the environment that the Cordillera region holds dear.

Additionally, the logistical demands of tourism, including the construction of accommodations and allocation of resources for tourists, can lead to deforestation. For instance, the building of lodging and infrastructure has encroached on natural habitats, contributing to climate change and affecting weather patterns.

Energy consumption by tourists is another significant aspect of this environmental impact, further exacerbating climate change. Travel, accommodation, and various tourist activities require substantial energy resources, contributing to the region's carbon footprint.

An example of this can be seen in the Cordillera region's endeavor to meet the energy needs of tourists while maintaining a balance with environmental preservation. Sustainable tourism practices are crucial to mitigate these environmental impacts and ensure a harmonious coexistence between tourism and the environment. Responsible tourists can also contribute by being mindful of their ecological footprint during their visit, including their impact on climate change.

5. Economic Disparities and Exploitation

Tourism can be a mixed blessing for Igorot communities. On one hand, it offers job opportunities and economic growth. But if not managed wisely, it can create economic inequalities and exploit local resources.

Take Sagada, for example. It's a place where tourism has brought benefits to the community. Many locals have found jobs in accommodations, guiding, and hospitality, making their lives better. Sagada shows that responsible tourism is possible, balancing economic gains with preserving culture and nature.

However, in bustling tourist hotspots like Baguio City, things are different. Here, intense competition can lead to pronounced economic disparities. Some thrive while others struggle to keep up, and locals may face rising living costs due to tourism.

It's important for businesses in Igorot communities to hire local residents and pay them fairly. Importing workers from outside can make economic disparities worse. Fair wages are not just a choice but a necessity to ensure tourism benefits everyone.

Additionally, the demand for souvenirs and traditional products can lead to overexploitation of resources. It's not just about profits; it's about preserving cultural authenticity. Responsible tourism should reduce economic disparities, prioritize resource sustainability, and protect Igorot culture and nature. Responsible tourists play a role in making tourism benefits more equitable, regardless of the competition level.

6. Conflict and Cultural Erosion

Tourism can sometimes be a source of conflict and tension in Igorot communities, leading to the erosion of traditional values and culture. One aspect that often sparks conflicts is the misunderstanding of Igorot clothing by tourists.

Some tourists arrive with the misconception that Igorot people always wear traditional clothing. This misunderstanding can lead to stereotypes and misguided expectations. When tourists express surprise with the phrase "Nasaan ang mga Igorot?" or "Where are the Igorot people?" expecting to see everyone in traditional attire, it reflects this misconception.

The reality is that Igorot people, like everyone else, wear everyday clothing in their daily lives. They preserve their traditional clothing for cultural events and special occasions. Misunderstandings like this can contribute to conflicts and cultural erosion as locals may feel pressure to conform to these misguided expectations.

Furthermore, tourists who wear Igorot traditional clothing without a deep understanding of its cultural significance can be seen as disrespectful and appropriative. For example, some visitors might dress up in Ifugao burial clothes, which are meant to be worn by the deceased. This lack of awareness and respect for the clothing's significance can lead to tension between tourists and locals.

Responsible tourism practices should focus on dispelling such stereotypes, fostering cultural understanding, and promoting the respectful use of traditional clothing. Tourists should be encouraged to respect and appreciate the customs and traditions of Igorot communities. By promoting accurate cultural understanding and ensuring the respectful use of traditional clothing, tourism can contribute to the preservation of Igorot culture and values, rather than their erosion.

7. Gentrification and Displacement

Tourism has brought about a profound transformation in places like Baguio City, where the original settlers have not only been pushed to the suburbs but have also faced land-grabbing. The impact of tourism in these areas has become so extensive that tourists now play a dominant role in running the cities, with limited involvement from the original settlers.

The influx of tourists has driven up property prices, making it difficult for the original settlers to hold onto their ancestral lands. Many have been forced to sell or lease their properties due to the economic pressures created by tourism. As a result, tourists have come to own significant portions of land, housing, and businesses, often without considering the long-term implications for the indigenous communities.

This imbalance of power and influence in running the cities can have far-reaching consequences. It not only disempowers the original settlers but also dilutes the cultural authenticity of these places. Responsible tourism practices should aim to address these issues, ensuring that the rights and interests of the indigenous communities are protected, and that they have a say in the development and management of their own lands. This way, the original settlers can reclaim a more active role in their communities and retain their cultural identity.

Additionally, during holidays when tourists flock to Baguio, other Igorot communities often choose not to visit because of the traffic and overpopulation caused by the surge in tourists. This further highlights the challenges of tourism's impact on indigenous communities, as their traditional ways of life are disrupted by the influx of visitors.

8. Loss of Privacy and Cultural Integrity

The influx of tourists into Igorot communities can compromise both the privacy and cultural integrity of these localities. This impact is felt in various ways.

Firstly, the presence of tourists can disrupt the privacy of local residents. Igorot communities, like any other, deserve a sense of personal space and tranquility. The constant stream of visitors can make it challenging for locals to maintain their privacy and peaceful way of life. In recent years, the rise of vloggers and content creators who document their visits to these communities has further contributed to the loss of privacy, as these online platforms expose the daily lives of Igorot people to a global audience.

Moreover, the exposure to different cultures and values that tourists and vloggers bring can erode the cultural integrity of Igorot communities. As visitors and content creators arrive with their own expectations and ways of life, it can lead to a dilution of the authentic Igorot culture. Local customs and traditions might start to adapt to meet the demands of tourism and online viewership, potentially losing their original essence and significance.

One notable instance illustrating this impact is the controversy surrounding Apo Whang-od and the social media influencer, Nas Daily. Nas Daily gained immense popularity for his travel and culture-related content. During his visit to the Kalinga region, he featured Apo Whang-od in his videos. However, this visit and the way it was presented in his content sparked outrage and accusations of exploitation.

Critics argued that Nas Daily leveraged Apo Whang-od's fame and age for his personal gain, effectively turning her into an online sensation for content creation. A significant issue that emerged was Nas Daily's development of an online course related to Apo Whang-od's tattooing, undertaken without her knowledge or consent. This incident raised essential questions about the ethics of using indigenous cultures and traditions as content without due respect, understanding, or consent.

Additionally, the intrusion of tourists into sacred local events like the Panag-apoy of Sagada is a growing concern. The Panag-apoy is a significant ritual where the local people light bonfires to honor their departed loved ones on All Saints' Day. However, in recent times, tourists flock to this event, often more interested in taking photos than respecting its spiritual and cultural significance. This disruption can be deeply disheartening for the local community, as it interferes with their personal moments of remembrance.

Responsible tourism and content creation should aim to avoid such controversies and disruptions by prioritizing cultural sensitivity, respect, and consent from the communities involved. This way, tourism and online platforms can genuinely contribute to preserving the cultural integrity and privacy of Igorot communities.

9. Resource Exploitation and Disease Transmission

The tourism industry can exert a twofold impact on Igorot communities, contributing to resource exploitation and an increased risk of disease transmission.

Tourism often results in the exploitation of local resources, including land, water, and natural materials. As more tourists visit the Cordillera region, the demand for resources escalates. This heightened demand can lead to unsustainable practices, such as deforestation to make way for tourist facilities or the over-extraction of water resources. Such activities can have a detrimental effect on the environment and, consequently, the well-being of Igorot people who rely on these resources for their livelihoods.

Moreover, tourism can introduce the risk of disease transmission to Igorot communities. For instance, consider a scenario where a tourist with HIV obtains a tattoo from a traditional artist like Apo Whang-od, and their infected blood unintentionally comes into contact with the artist. This example underscores the significant risk that tourists can inadvertently bring diseases to these areas, where residents may have limited access to healthcare. A single outbreak can have devastating consequences, particularly in remote regions where healthcare facilities are scarce. The potential for disease transmission highlights the need for responsible and sustainable travel practices to safeguard both tourists and the local population.

Responsible tourism should prioritize the sustainable use of resources and incorporate measures to prevent the spread of diseases. By doing so, tourism can be a positive force for both the preservation of the environment and the well-being of Igorot communities.

10. Erosion of Traditional Values and Practices

The presence of tourists in Igorot communities can have a profound impact on the preservation of traditional values, beliefs, and practices, potentially leading to their erosion over time.

As tourists visit the Cordillera region, they bring with them diverse cultures and values. While cultural exchange can be enriching, it can also challenge the indigenous beliefs and practices of Igorot communities. For instance, picture a scenario where a well-intentioned but inexperienced visitor, often described as a "woke" young person, attempts to explain modern concepts like gender identity to the older Igorot men. This cultural contrast may inadvertently create tensions and lead to misunderstandings.

Moreover, tourists might express opinions that contrast with the deeply rooted beliefs of the Igorot people. They might question or dismiss these indigenous beliefs as outdated or superstitious, suggesting alternative worldviews. For example, some tourists might assert that the real son of God is a figure like Apollo Quiboloy, which stands in stark contrast to the traditional beliefs held by the Igorot community.

The influx of tourists can inadvertently alter the dynamics of these communities, leading to a shift away from traditional values and practices. As residents adapt to meet the expectations of tourists, there is a risk that their cultural heritage may start to lose its original essence and significance. This gradual erosion can lead to a disconnect between generations, with younger members of the community growing up with a diluted understanding of their own culture.

To address this concern, responsible tourism should prioritize efforts to safeguard and promote the preservation of traditional values and practices. Encouraging cultural exchange while respecting and preserving the core of Igorot culture is vital for maintaining the cultural richness and identity of these communities. It is essential to strike a balance between welcoming tourists and ensuring the continuation of indigenous beliefs and practices that have been passed down through generations.


1. Why is the Igorot culture significant in the Philippines?

The Igorot culture is of great significance in the Philippines due to its deep-rooted traditions, unique way of life, and rich connection to nature. It plays a vital role in the country's cultural heritage.

2. How does tourism impact the Igorot culture?

Tourism can impact the Igorot culture in various ways, from the risk of cultural appropriation and erosion of traditional practices to environmental effects and economic disparities within the community.

3. What is cultural appropriation in the context of Igorot culture?

Cultural appropriation refers to instances where tourists inappropriately buy souvenirs, wear traditional clothing, and engage in activities that commodify Igorot culture without understanding their cultural significance.

4. How does tourism affect traditional practices and cultural authenticity?

Tourism can disrupt traditional practices, such as farming and religious ceremonies, leading to the potential loss of cultural authenticity in the Igorot culture.

5. What examples illustrate the impact of tourism on sacred sites and artifacts?

The theft of sacred artifacts like Apo Anno, a sacred mummy, demonstrates how tourism can pose a risk to the preservation of Igorot cultural heritage. Some sacred sites have also been commercialized for tourism.

6. What environmental impact does tourism have on the Cordillera region?

Tourism can lead to environmental damage, including pollution, deforestation, and energy consumption. These activities can harm the region's natural beauty and contribute to climate change.

7. How does tourism create economic disparities in Igorot communities?

While tourism provides economic opportunities, it can also create disparities, as seen in places like Baguio City. Intense competition and the unequal distribution of benefits can lead to economic challenges.

8. What is gentrification, and how does it affect Igorot communities?

Gentrification is the transformation of a neighborhood due to an influx of wealthier residents. In Igorot communities, this process can lead to the displacement of original settlers and the domination of tourism in the cities.

9. How does tourism affect the privacy and cultural integrity of Igorot communities?

Tourism can compromise the privacy of local residents and erode the cultural integrity of Igorot communities, particularly with the rise of vloggers and content creators who expose their daily lives to a global audience.

10. What are the consequences of the erosion of traditional values and practices due to tourism?

The erosion of traditional values and practices can lead to cultural tensions, misunderstandings, and the dilution of Igorot culture. It can also result in a disconnect between generations within the community.

11. How can responsible tourism help preserve the Igorot culture?

Responsible tourism involves respecting local customs, preserving cultural authenticity, and contributing to the well-being of Igorot communities. Travelers can play a role in supporting the preservation of the Igorot culture by being mindful and respectful visitors.


In conclusion, it's essential to recognize that our discussion of the impact of tourism on the Igorot culture is not a stance against tourism itself. Tourism can bring numerous benefits, including economic opportunities and cultural exchange. However, it is crucial to approach tourism in a responsible and respectful manner to ensure that it enriches rather than diminishes the Igorot way of life.

The Igorot people's way of life, deeply rooted in their connection to nature and rich traditions, is at risk of erosion as tourism continues to grow. To address these challenges, responsible tourism practices are essential. These practices should prioritize cultural sensitivity, respect for local customs, and a focus on preserving the cultural authenticity of Igorot communities.

While it's crucial to promote cultural exchange and understanding, it's equally important to ensure that the Igorot culture retains its authenticity and integrity. By fostering a balanced relationship between tourists and the local communities, we can work towards preserving the Igorot culture while reaping the benefits of tourism.

As travelers, we play a significant role in this equation. It's our responsibility to be mindful and respectful visitors, supporting the preservation of Igorot culture, protecting the environment, and contributing to the well-being of the communities we visit. Through responsible tourism, we can help ensure that the Igorot culture continues to thrive for generations to come.

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