I’d like to think of the Ifugao people of the Philippine Cordillera Region as an extremely stubborn, albeit ingenious, bunch. They, who insisted on planting rice at any cost, decided to carve rice fields into the mountains in the absence of plains. Two thousand years later, the Ifugao’s legacy lives on, immortalized in Bangko Sentral’s New Generation 20-peso banknotes released in 2010. Another recognition is the rice terraces’ inclusion in UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in 1995, responsible for the continuous influx of tourists in the area.
The construction of the rice terraces is no mean feat. Each step represents a paddy surrounded by a wall made of stone and dried mud. Rows and rows of these paddies, each around 10 feet high, cover clusters of mountains from top to bottom. Our local guide tells me that ownership of each paddy is passed on from generation to generation. Affluence is measured by how many paddies, not tourist inns, a family owns.
While there are terraces scattered all over the Ifugao province, only 5 are included in the UNESCO list: Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan, and Nagacadan. My main destination was the amphitheater-like terraces in the remote village of Batad, reachable after a 1 hour jeepney ride from the Banaue town proper followed by a ~1-2 hour trek downhill from the Batad Saddle. Below are pictures from my trip taken last 16-17 February 2013. (14 photos)
The north side of the Batad Rice Terraces. Each paddy is in a different stage of planting: some fields contain rice seedlings in the 3-5 leaf stage, some with plants mid-tillering, some empty.