Wonderful Banaue Rice Terraces
"A world treasure you must not miss..."

Banaue Rice Terraces of the Ifugaos

Majestic Banaue Rice Terraces

When I was little, every time I see or hear the word “Banaue” I feel good because I am conscious that this Philippine wonder is a beautiful place.

I also remember we have a wall photo at home of Banaue's terraces – and it looks so great and amazes me.

Due to its amazing sight and somehow mysterious origin, even people from all over the world come to see and enjoy this majestic bare-hand-man-made structure.

Historical Background

Banaue Rice Terraces, or Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe in Tagalog language, are rice paddies built by Ifugao tribal people for their daily sustenance.

It is built on the hills and mountain-sides expertly following their shapes and contours. 

Banaue Rice Terraces. It is one of the wonders of the world build by bare hands with primitive tools. It is, among many terraces in the mountain province, that was built with stones and mud. It is over 2,000 years old, a treasure that is handed down from one generation to the next and is still in existence being managed and preserved with the same old farming methods.

Ifugao people have been settling in those high altitude mountains for over two thousand years now. Historians and archaeologists approximated that this man-made wonder was first built about 2000 years ago. 

Banaue terraces are carved and located about 1500 meters (5000 feet) above sea level covering approximately 4000 square miles of hills and mountainsides (Wikipedia.com).

The irrigation system always amazes me. Does water come up in this area? Of course not! The rainforest right above the terraces and catching rain water are the main sources of water feeding each rice paddy all year round. Ifugao people must have such wisdom for environmental conservation, I wonder!

Traditional Harvest Festivals

In every culture, there is always some sort of celebrations – you know, dancing, singing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and such.

During cultivation period until harvest period, Ifugao people do perform interesting rituals and festivities that revolve around rice cultivation and even rice consumption.

Local and foreign visitors alike, are interested outsiders who want to witness such lively and communitarian practices. During the festivities and rituals people partake in drinking bayah (rice beer), eating all sorts of rice cakes, chewing betel nuts, and more.

Aside from rice cultivation

Apart from planting and harvesting rice on their terraced paddies, indigenous Ifugaos are also expert in cultivating fruit trees, vegetables, root crops, and even culturing fresh-waters shells. Such products sustain all the nutrients they need.

Fortunately, with the efforts of the officials, civil society groups, and other environmental activists, Banaue rice terraces are declared from any genetically modified organism (GMO).

In addition, only traditional methods of cultivation are allowed to preserve and protect the terraces from any foreign elements that could destroy them in the process.

Since the terraces are drawing many visitors all year round, tourism is thriving in the area. Among other activities, a mumbaki (a traditional medicine man or healer) performs his ritualistic spiritual healing sessions for visitors to see and learn their culture.

Differentiating Banaue from Cordilleras Rice Terraces

The two famous sites are closely related and are in close proximity making confused not only foreign visitors but also Filipinos themselves.

To make the difference it should be mentioned the Cordilleras Rice Terraces, not Banaue terraces, has the following clusters of terraces:

  • Batad Rice Terraces – carved like an amphitheater in Barangay Batad in Banaue
  • Mayoyao Rice Terraces – being planted with a rice variety called ‘tinawon’, a rare organic rice of varities – red & white
  • Hapao Rice Terraces – carved in Hungduan and are stone-walled terraces
  • Kiangan Rice Terraces – located in Banaue and grow two varieties called ‘nagacadan’ and ‘julungan’

The Banaue rice paddies are, however, considered National Cultural Treasure under Ifugao Rice Terraces.

Cordilleras Rices Terraces in the Mountain Province, Luzon Island, Philippines.

Recognition as a world treasure

The Philippine government inscribed Banaue terraces as a National Cultural Treasure under Ifugao Rice Terraces. It is not considered a UNESCO recognized world treasure.

For some reasons, others say because in proximity to this site are the modern structures, including buildings and other infrastructures.

The one that was enlisted at UNESCO is the Cordilleras Rice Terraces. Anyhow, you can judge for yourself when you visit the place and say which ones worth the title or any recognition attached to it.

Now, get ready your boots to hike and explore those majestic rice terraces.

Have fun with rice terraces climbing!

Return to Luzon Travel Sites from Banaue Rice Terraces
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