Author’s Note: I just did this paper for my Southeast Asia 30 class’ completion. It reminded me of how the pristine beauty and richness of our nation continues to be exploited by Imperialism and yet there remains segments of the population who believe in the “benevolence” of the American Empire.
It could be paralleled to a zoo, once a hub of educational experience in the field of biology and environmental science, now treated as a commercial centre with its convenience stores and souvenir shops. It doesn’t take a scholar to realize that there’s something wrong in looking at nature and culture as exploitable products instead of pedagogical tools.
The industry of tourism nowadays defeats its very purpose, rooted in the neoliberal order of the global economy aggravating the encroachment of globalization on smaller cultures in the developing world. Transnational companies imbibe a culture of consumerism, encouraging popular culture as the driver of their product’s demands, and this manifests itself in tourism in the exoticism and commodification of indigenous cultures and natural wonders.
Indeed, the economy has always dictated how the political and cultural superstructure of a society forms, since the class divisions it creates dictate what access to political power and cultural capital particular classes have. This is prominent in the fact that our economy is subservient to imperialist economies such as the United States, parroted in tourism trends that cater to the taste and needs of foreign tourists.
We have much to gain from our cultural heritage. Case in point is the wonder of the world, the Ifugao Rice Terraces, which scientists in the fields of agriculture, engineering and the social and environmental sciences continue to learn from. Other cultures have much to learn from the historical context of the creation of the terraces, speaking of the value of collective action, adaptive technology and ingenuity. Yet despite this, it has been marketed primarily for its aesthetic value.
This is apparent in the preservation scheme of the terrace, where only the terraces slated to be frequented by tourists enjoy subsidy for maintenance, while the rest are left in a state of disrepair. Conveniently forgotten is the fact that these terraces are still agricultural lands used by the present indigenous peoples. There’s a problem when the state prioritizes funding based on tourist demand, while consideration for the livelihood of the agricultural sector is left in the margins.
Tourism should not be market-driven, but educational in character. People should be able to tour our countries and come out wiser about how our nations came to be carved out from the struggle of our culture to survive both the internal geographic challenges, and the external factors of the empires that come and go.