The Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO Heritage site in the mountains of Northern Luzon, were built around 2000 years ago. Rupert Parker sets out to explore them.
The Ifugao, the indigenous people who live in this region, believe their ancestors constructed the terraces. They’re frequently called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and were built by hand, using mud and stones. They’re irrigated from above, and if laid end to end, would encircle half the globe. As well as planting and harvesting the rice, maintenance is a year round occupation for the Ifugao.
It’s a ten hour drive from the Philippine capital of Manila, mainly flat, though open countryside, but finally the road begins to climb as it reaches the Cordillera, a series of spiny mountains that reach around 2900m. It narrows and negotiates the gradients in a series of long curves.