Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Ifugao Province, Cordillera Region, Luzon Island
N16 56 2.004 E121 8 12.012
Date of Inscription: 1995
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Ref: 722
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For 2,000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountains. The fruit of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, and the expression of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance, they have helped to create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment.

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras is an outstanding example of an evolved, living cultural landscape that can be traced as far back as two millennia ago in the pre-colonial Philippines. The terraces are located in the remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range on the northern island of Luzon, Philippine archipelago. While the historic terraces cover an extensive area, the inscribed property consists of five clusters of the most intact and impressive terraces, located in four municipalities.  They are all the product of the Ifugao ethnic group, a minority community that has occupied these mountains for thousands of years.

The five inscribed clusters are; (i) the Nagacadan terrace cluster in the municipality of Kiangan, a rice terrace cluster manifested in two distinct ascending rows of terraces bisected by a river; (ii) the Hungduan terrace cluster that uniquely emerges into a spider web; (iii) the central Mayoyao terrace cluster which is characterized by terraces interspersed with traditional farmers’ bale (houses) and alang (granaries); (iv) the Bangaan terrace cluster in the municipality of Banaue that backdrops a typical Ifugao traditional village; and (v) the Batad terrace cluster of the municipality of Banaue that is nestled in amphitheatre-like semi-circular terraces with a village at its base.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces epitomize the absolute blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment.  Indeed, it is a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity.  Built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation, the Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that surpassed various challenges and setbacks posed by modernization.

Reaching a higher altitude and being built on steeper slopes than many other terraces, the Ifugao complex of stone or mud walls and the careful carving of the natural contours of hills and mountains to make terraced pond fields, coupled with the development of intricate irrigation systems, harvesting water from the forests of the mountain tops, and an elaborate farming system, reflect a mastery of engineering that is appreciated to the present.

The terraces illustrate a persistence of cultural traditions and remarkable continuity and endurance, since archaeological evidence reveals that this technique has been in use in the region for 2000 years virtually unchanged. They offer many lessons for application in similar environments elsewhere.

The maintenance of the living rice terraces reflects a primarily cooperative approach of the whole community which is based on detailed knowledge of the rich diversity of biological resources existing in the Ifugao agro-ecosystem, a finely tuned annual system respecting lunar cycles, zoning and planning, extensive soil conservation, mastery of a most complex pest control regime based on the processing of a variety of herbs, accompanied by religious rituals.

Criterion (iii): The rice terraces are a dramatic testimony to a community’s sustainable and primarily communal  system of rice production, based on harvesting water from the forest clad mountain tops and creating stone terraces and ponds, a system that has survived for two millennia.

Criterion (iv): The rice terraces are a memorial to the history and labour of more than a thousand generations of small-scale farmers who, working together as a community, have created a landscape based on a delicate and sustainable use of natural resources.

Criterion (v): The rice terraces are an outstanding example of land-use that resulted from a harmonious interaction between people and its environment which has produced a steep terraced landscape of great aesthetic beauty, now vulnerable to social and economic changes.

Suggested Bases:

Santiago City is a landlocked city in Isabela, Philippines. There is frequent bus service along the Cagayan Valley Road, between Manila and Tuguegarao and vice versa. The jeepney fare from Solano to Santiago is ₱60. The a/c bus fare from Santiango to Tuguegarao is ₱190. See Calvary Hills and The Chapel of Transfiguration, Dariuk Hills, Balintocatoc. The place offers a pilgrimage venue for the Holy Week where life-size Stations of the Cross are presented from the foot of the hill going all the way up to the top where a Chapel was so designed to face the rising sun. The Chapel of Transfiguration offers pilgrims a commanding silence befitting a place of worship and can also be utilized for masses and retreat venues. Also the life-size image of Our Lady of La Salette is erected here and facing the City. Balay na Santiago. This used to be a barangay hall called Palacio del Barrio located at Calao West [read more].

Baguio is a highland city of 345,000 people (2015) in the province of Benguet. Due to its cool mountain weather, it is considered the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” The city is abundant with pine tree, so it is nicknamed the City of Pines. Baguio, to many, is best known as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”, with its cool climate making this a spot to escape the chaotic scenes in Manila. The city is also home to tropical pine forests, lending the city the nickname “City of Pines”. It serves as a tourist hub in the Cordilleras, serving as a jumping point to other tourist spots like Mount Pulag, Sagada and Banaue. Baguio is considered a city separate from the province of Benguet, but it is considered part of Benguet practically, and it is the economic center for both the province and the Cordillera region. Some of the city’s tourism promotions also point to nearby La Trinidad, which is both administratively and geographically in Benguet, and is the provincial capital [read more].

Cagayan is a province in the Cagayan Valley region of Luzon. Cagayan has been inhabited since prehistoric times, through anthropological and archaeological finds such as the Callao Man, and the Lal-lo and Gattaran Shell Middens. The first inhabitants are hunter-gatherers specialized in hunting mollusks; they were believed to be Negritos (Atta) based on anthropological evidence. Migrations of Austronesians (or Malays), the ancestors of most of the native groups such as the Ibanag, Gaddang, Itawes and some Igorot tribes, have driven the Negritos into the mountains at the eastern coast. Civilizations have thrived long in the province before Spanish colonization. Locals have traded with the Chinese and Japanese, and there are also records of a Japanese pirate kingdom in Cagayan, which lasted until 1582. The Spaniards first came in 1581, on an expedition to explore the areas north of the Caraballo mountain range and east of the Cordillera Central, and convert the locals to Catholicism [read more].

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