This third in a series of essays on the proclaimed World Heritage Sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations Center will concentrate of the renowned Rice Terraces located in the Ifugao Province of Northern Luzon. Filipinos often refer to these terraces as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.
RICE TERRACES OF THE PHILIPPINE CORDILLERAS
Carved out of the mountains of the Ifugao region in Northern Luzon by the ancestors of the indigenous tribe called the Batads, these 2000-years old terraces were declared a World Heritage Site because it exemplifies an “evolved, living cultural landscape that is traced to as far back as two millennia in pre-colonial Philippines.” Carved out of the remote areas of the Cordillera Mountain Range, the inscribed area covers only five clusters of the most impressive and best-preserved terraces located in four municipalities. Not the entirety of the terraces is covered by the inscription.
Included in the five clusters are: the Nagacadan terrace cluster in the municipality of Kiangan; the Hungduan terrace; the central Mayoyao terrace cluster; the Bangaan terrace cluster in the municipality of Banaue; and the Batad terrace cluster. The Kiangan cluster is composed of two distinct ascending rows of terraces that are separated by a river. The Hungduan terrace cluster is unique in that it seems to emerge into a spider web-like formation of terraces. The Mayoyao terrace cluster is interspersed with traditional farmers’ houses called “Bale” and granaries called “alang.” The Bangaan cluster serves as a backdrop for a typical Ifugao traditional village. The Batad terrace cluster is a cluster of semi-circular terraces with a village located at its feet.
Each of the clusters provide a view that is uniquely its own and each epitomizes the perfect blend of physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious and political aspects of an indigenous tribe that has its roots two millenniums ago and continues to hold on to its traditions in the present times. It represents an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that continues to thrive in the present without succumbing to the challenges presented by modernization. The unparalleled beauty provided by this living cultural landscape should be preserved for the benefit of humanity. The remarkable continuity and endurance of the traditions of this indigenous tribe is represented by these remarkable terraces which began to be carved out of these mountains 2000 years ago and have been preserved by their descendants to this day. More than a thousand generations of farmers created this amazing landscape based on their remarkable use of the natural resources of their region and is a testament to the community’s sustained system of rice production and a fitting memorial to the history of labor of this ancient tribe. Most importantly, the rice terraces of the Cordilleras are the only monuments in the Philippines that show absolutely no cultural influences from the colonizers of the country.
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