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The Banauemarker Rice Terraces are 2000-year old terrace that were carved into the mountains of Ifugaomarker in the Philippinesmarker 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.

The Banaue terraces are part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, ancient sprawling man-made structures from 2,000 to 6,000 years old. They are found in the provinces of Kalingamarker, Apayaomarker, Benguetmarker, Mountain Provincemarker and Ifugaomarker, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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.

Prehistory

The Banaue Rice Terraces do not have recorded data on how it was conceived in history and that historical account of China before the Shang Dynasty is disputable however historical (Nowhere in this book does it mention anything about Miao people from China, Bogus citation) studies and evidence have linked the terraces to the Miao tribe that thrived in China. Emperor Yu the great launched a siege to eliminate the Miao tribe who rebelled against him from 2205 to 2106 BC. The survivors of the Miao tribe fled to the south where some of them crossed the South China Seamarker. A few of these survivors reached the Cordillerasmarker. The Miao tribe who were one of the official group minorities recognized in mainland Chinamarker, they lived in cold wet mountain regions which made the Cordillera Mountains an easy transition from what they were used to in the mountainous southwestern region of China. Chinese features are also clearly seen in the natives of Northern Luzon. Similarly, the rituals and traditions of the Igorots and Ifugaosmarker also show a significant resemblance to Miao culture.

The Miao are also known for cultivating terraced paddy fields and this innovation was brought to the Cordilleras, along with the influence of Tang Dynasty trading were also adapted, carabaos, fruits such as mandarin oranges, vegetables, utensils, pottery and handicraft. The Banaue Rice Terraces became prevalent with the Miao interaction with ethnic cultures of the Cordilleras before the advent and arrival of the Spanish Inquisition. This acculturation of the two cultures took on a new identity in a different environment which links us to the first records in history of the terraces.

Panoramic view of the Banaue Rice Terraces


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.
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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 Provincemarker as a municipality but on June 18, 1966 in effect of Republic Act No. 4695, Ifugao became an independent province.

Organic farming

In March 2009 the Ifugao rice terraces was declared as free from Genetically Modified Organism . An event was organized in Dianara Viewpoint for this announcement where it was graced by Gov. Teodoro Baguilat, Mayor Lino Madchiw, Greenpeace campaigner for Southeast Asia, Daniel Ocampo and Cathy Untalan who was executive director of the Miss Earth Foundation. Before the announcement ceremonies, 3 Mumbakis performed an Alim, a tribal ritual to ask for blessings where an animal is offered to the gods.

Tourism

Another thriving economy in the Banaue Rice Terraces is tourism. The Tourism industry has developed a number of activities for visitors which may include the traditional sight seeing of the terraces and visits to the tribes at the foot of the terraces. A Mumbaki (traditional Ifugao witch doctor) is also recommended to visitors, these doctors can perform spiritual healing rituals.Domestic tourism however has gone down over the past few years. A contributing factor to this is the treatment of Domestic tourists by the local guides in the area where it has been reported that on a few occasions the guides drop you the instant a foreign visitor comes along.The Batad Environmental Tour Guides Association (BETGA) in association with the Batad Baranguay authorities are currently laying a concrete track down from the Batad Saddle to the village proper.

Julia Campbell

United States Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell came to the rice terraces on 2007 to do voluntary work. Before going to Ifugao she had been going around the Philippines to do volunteer work mostly in the southern regions of the country where she also learned to speak Filipino in her 19 months of stay in Bicol. Julia disappeared on easter Sunday while she was hiking a mountain trail, she was last seen in the village of Battad in Ifugao on April 8. Her body was then found on April 18 in a shallow grave 10 days after her disappearance. After initial investigations, a 25 year-old wood carver named Juan Donald Duntugan was turned over by his mother to the authorities. Duntugan gave the Ifugao police a written confession which states that he killed Julia by hitting her with a rock when he mistakenly took Julia as another individual who has bullied him previously. Duntugan was charged with murder and is awaiting his sentence in the regional trial court of Ifugao. The killer was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the decision was done in the native dialect of the Ifugaos on June 2008. As of this time this incident was the most notable due to its news coverage specifically one that directly involves a tourist or foreigner visiting the terraces.

Preservation

Evidence of erosion
The Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras was been named as a world heritage site by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1995. It has passed by UNESCO’s standards due to the blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment as a living cultural landscape. It has passed 3 criteria’s of UNESCO:

  • Criterion (iii) - The terraces have been used as the community’s sustainable and primarily communal system of rice production.
  • Criterion (iv) - The rice terraces are a memorial to the history and labor of unrecorded generations which may span to several thousand generations.
  • Criterion (v) - The rice terraces are a good example of land-use as a result of the interaction between the community and the environment.


The Banaue Rice Terraces have also been in-scripted to the List of World Heritage in Danger on 2001 as the dangers of deforestation and climate change threatens to destroy the terraces. Another contributing factor is globalization where the younger generations of the Ifugaos have recently had the opportunity to gain access to media and education, most of the younger Ifugaos have opted to come to the capital for work instead of the traditional farming tradition.

The Ifugao epic Hudhud

Aside from the terraces, the UNESCO World Heritage List has proclaimed the Ifugao epic Hudhud as among the one of the world’s intangible heritages in 2001. The Hudhud consists of narrative chants performed mainly by elder Ifugao women usually during the rice sowing season, at harvest time and at funeral wakes and rituals.

Other notable rice terraces in Ifugao

Aside from the Banaue Rice terraces there are 4 other similar terraces, the Batad rice terraces, Mayoyao rice terraces, Hapao rice terraces and Kiangan rice terraces. The Batad rice terraces are located in Barangay Batad in Banaue, these terraces shaped resembles an amphitheatre. The Mayoyao rice terraces are for a rice variety called tinawon, a rare type of organic rice which are grown in red and white variety in these terraces. The Hapao rice terraces are located in Hungduan, these terraces are stone-walled and dates back to 650 AD. The Kiangan rice terraces is similarly located in Banaue, here they grow the rice varieties of nagacadan and julungan.

References

  1. filipinasoul.com, ‘The Best’ of the Philippines - its natural wonders
  2. nscb.gov.ph, FACTS & FIGURES, Ifugao province
  3. About Banaue > Tourist Attractions
  4. Department of Tourism: Ifugao Province. Accessed September 04, 2008.
  5. History of the Philippine Islands, Volume 1 ISBN 1426421206
  6. History of the Philippine Islands, Volume 1 and 2 ISBN 1426421206
  7. World Heritage Sites and Schlessinger Media and ISBN 9781417103423
  1. filipinasoul.com, ‘The Best’ of the Philippines - its natural wonders
  2. nscb.gov.ph, FACTS & FIGURES, Ifugao province
  3. About Banaue > Tourist Attractions
  4. Department of Tourism: Ifugao Province. Accessed September 04, 2008.
  5. History of the Philippine Islands, Volume 1 ISBN 1426421206
  6. History of the Philippine Islands, Volume 1 and 2 ISBN 1426421206
  7. World Heritage Sites and Schlessinger Media and ISBN 9781417103423


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