Eversince the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao Province, Philippines was featured in my Social Studies textbooks in grade school, I have dreamed of going there. They are often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. I am blessed to have been there twice.
Until I went there, I did not realize that there is not only one but many rice terraces scattered all over Ifugao province. The rice terraces in each area have their own characteristics especially in the materials used. Some used clay or mud while the others used stones for the walls of each terrace. Whichever material is used, all are very beautiful.
The Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras are more than 2,000 years old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao Province. They were built by the indigenous people of the Cordilleras using their bare hands. They were built in higher altitude and steeper slopes compared to other rice terraces. The rice terraces has shaped the lives of the people in the community. It is the source of their livelihood and has influenced their art. In 1995, the clusters of terraces at Bangaan, Batad, Mayoyao, Nagacadan & Hungduan became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were the first to be included in the cultural landscape category. They are likewise designated as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Site.
Batad Rice Terraces
The Batad Rice Terraces are located in Barangay Batad, in Banaue, Ifugao. Resembling an amphitheater, they are the biggest rice terraces in the province and probably even the world. They are so grand. The view is breathtaking. It makes one wonder how our ancestors could have done it with limited and crude tools. Through their painstaking hard work we are now enjoying magnificent vistas.
From Manila, my family chartered a bus. It took us about ten hours to reach Banaue, Ifugao Province. We left Manila in the evening and reached Banaue early the following morning. There are also public buses going to Banaue from Manila. After checking-in in our lodgings and having breakfast, we took a short rest before we started our adventure. There are no plush hotels in Banaue. Only inns, bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, homestays and other similar lodgings.
From the town of Banaue, we rented jeepneys (a popular mode of public transportation in the Philippines) to go to the jump-off point for the trek to the Batad Rice Terraces viewing area. The 1 ½ to two hours trek is not for the faint hearted. It is quite challenging physically. Some parts are very rough. A walking stick or pole is a big help to balance one’s footing.
We would occasionally stop either to rest or to enjoy the spectacular views around us.
During the trek, we would meet some locals carrying heavy provisions. We were panting with nothing heavy to carry but they made it look easy and even gave us smiles. They walked very fast despite the heavy loads. We also saw men doing some wood carving which is another means of livelihood of the villagers.
Our reward after the long trek. Stunning panoramas of the rice terraces. My family did not go down to the village at the bottom of the rice terraces.
Banaue Rice Terraces
The Banaue Rice Terraces are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site because of some modern structures nearby but are as equally magnificent. There are a number of viewpoints along the highway.
This picture was taken during my first visit to Banaue in 2002.
The Banaue Rice Terraces were featured at the back of the old series of the Philippine Peso one thousand bill.
The rice terraces of the Cordilleras illustrates how resilient the indigenous people were despite the difficulties in life. Life has never been easy for them even until today. Their communities are still so remote. Seeing the magnificence of the rice terraces made us respect them greatly. Sadly, some of the terraces have deteriorated because many of the present generation of villagers prefer to work in the towns or cities to have a better life for their families. The older generations are the ones mostly left to tend and preserve the terraces. Hopefully, with the help of the government, the deterioration can be lessened.
If one is physically able, going to the Batad Rice Terraces is an awesome experience.