Banaue Rice Terraces

The Banaue Rice Terraces (Tagalog: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe) also called Payew, are 2000-year old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by ancestors of the indigenous people. The Rice Terraces are commonly referred to by Filipinos as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. The terraces are located approximately 1500 meters (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometers (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps are put end to end it would encircle half the globe.

Locals to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces, although more and more younger Ifugaos do not find farming appealing, often opting for the more lucrative hospitality industry generated by the Rice Terraces. The result is the gradual erosion of the characteristic "steps", which need constant reconstruction and care. In 2010 a further problem was drought, with the terraces drying up completely in March of that year.

Historians agree that the rice terraces of Banaue were built by the original inhabitants of the rugged mountain. The geograhical terrain of the land made it impossible for the settlers to produce their basic needs and have enough food for everybody. Thus, they had to device ways and means to meet their needsWith every strength, they manually terraced the mountain side in order to maximize their agricultural land. This engineering and architectural feat has overwhelmed the great minds of our generation. This is compared to the Great Pyramids of Egypt. However, the distinction lies that, the Pyramids were forcibly built by slaves whereas the terraces were built by the motivation and love of ordinary men. No less than the UNESCO declared the Banaue Rice Terraces as a world heritage.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Banaue Rice Terraces is not composed of only one but rather four main terraces in different locations. These are the Batad, Bangaan, View Point and Hapao rice terraces. They are named after the barangays where they can be seen.

The most prominent of these is the Batad rice terraces. For those who haven’t been to Banaue, the rice terraces were featured in the movie “Mumbaki”. The “stairway to heaven” features the ingenuity of the first inhabitants as one can see the literal terrace from the top of the mountain until the floor of the valley. Nestled in the center of the Batad rice terraces lies a village where the main source of living is obviously farming. Aside from tilling the land, the villagers showcase their craftmanship through wood carvings and weaving which is a major tourist destination. Going to Batad is not for the “weak of knees”. After a bumpy two hour jitney ride from Poblacion to Batad junction, one has to brace another two hours hiking before reaching the actual view. However, if one wants to see another attraction, one has to hike an extra hour to see the fifty meter high “Tappiya” water falls. The water comes from the same source which irrigates the whole mountain side. One cannot help but be amazed by the scenery.

When it comes to beauty and granduer, the Bangaan rice terraces is not left behind. Ten more minutes of bumpy ride from the Batad junction, one can already view the actual terrace without having to hike. It’s not an accident that they named the placed as such because the terrace is shaped like a pot. Thus, in our dialect, it is termed “banga”. Much like its neighboring terraces, it also plays a major role in providing the basic needs of its surrounding village.
If one is not prepared for physical burden, then, the View Point rice terraces is the most appropriate destination. This is located after a relaxing twenty-five minute ride from Poblacion. The actual rice terraces can be seen along the highway which connects Bontoc and Banaue. Due to its accessibility, it is the most frequently visited scenery. Souvenirs such as wood carvings, weaved wall decors, necklaces and T-shirts printed with ethnic designs are found here.
Last but not the least is the Hapao rice terraces. Tourists, hikers and mountain climbers alike go there because it offers a variety of attractions such as a hot spring and a scenic mountain aside from the terrace. It is one and a half hour away from View Point.
Visiting these four magnificent rice terraces can be completed within two days. Most tourist guides suggest going first to Hapao then going all the way to Batad and spending a night there. In the next day, the route is from Batad to Bangaan then backtracking to Poblacion for lunch or snack, then lastly to View Point for the souvenirs.
Ifugao Rice Culture

The terraces are vastly found in the province of Ifugao and the Ifugao people have been its caretakers. Ifugao culture revolves around rice and the culture displays an elaborate array of rice culture feasts linked with agricultural rites from rice cultivation to rice consumption. Harvest season generally calls for thanksgiving feasts while the concluding harvest rites tungo or tungul (the day of rest) entail a strict taboo of any agricultural work. Partaking of the bayah (rice beer), rice cakes, and betel nut constitutes an indelible practice during the festivities and ritual activities.
The Ifugao people practice traditional farming spending most of their labor at their terraces and forest lands while occasionally tending to root crop cultivation. The Ifugaos have also been known to culture edible shells, fruit trees, and other vegetables which has been exhibited among Ifugaos for generations. The building of the rice terraces, work of blanketing walls with stones and earth which is designed to draw water from a main irrigation canal above the terrace clusters. Indigenous rice terracing technologies have been identified with the Ifugao’s rice terraces such as their knowledge of water irrigation, stonework, earthwork and terrace maintenance. As their source of life and art, the rice terraces have sustained and shaped the lives of the community members. Ifugao previously belong to the Mountain Province as a municipality but on June 18, 1966 in effect of Republic Act No. 4695, Ifugao became an independent province.


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