Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Banaue Rice Terraces (Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe)

Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice Terraces (Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe) in Banaue, Ifugao are considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. The terraces are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Approximately during the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth (over 2000 years ago), the native people of Ifugao began carving the terraces of the mountains using merely their bare hands and sticks from the trees in the forests.

The terraces were carved mainly to provide an area of land suitable for planting rice which is the staple food of most Filipinos whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, rice is always served and eaten with the main dish. The rainforests above the mountains act as a natural irrigation system used to water the rice plants.

This is considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of mankind, because if each one were connected end to end, then they would reach halfway across the globe or be 10 times as long as the Great Wall of China.

The rice terraces are like stepping stones stretching towards the sky, where some of them reach almost 5,000 feet in altitude and cover about 4,000 square miles of land. They are now beginning to show signs that they are eroding, and some of them need maintenance, while the Ifugaos’ new generation is migrating to nearby cities in search of better opportunities.

The terraces are 7 hours of travel by car (50 miles) from Baguio city, the summer capital of the Philippines. Travelling from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, it would take a total of 12 hours to reach the terraces, a distance of about 205 miles.

Ifugao Rice Culture
The terraces are vastly found in the province of Ifugao and the Ifugao people have been its caretakers. Ifugao culture revolves around rice and the culture displays an elaborate array of rice culture feasts linked with agricultural rites from rice cultivation to rice consumption. Harvest season generally calls for thanksgiving feasts while the concluding harvest rites tungo or tungul (the day of rest) entail a strict taboo of any agricultural work. Partaking of the bayah (rice beer), rice cakes, and betel nut constitutes an indelible practice during the festivities and ritual activities.

The Ifugao people practice traditional farming spending most of their labor at their terraces and forest lands while occasionally tending to root crop cultivation. The Ifugaos have also been known to culture edible shells, fruit trees, and other vegetables which has been exhibited among Ifugaos for generations. The building of the rice terraces, work of blanketing walls with stones and earth which is designed to draw water from a main irrigation canal above the terrace clusters. Indigenous rice terracing technologies have been identified with the Ifugao’s rice terraces such as their knowledge of water irrigation, stonework, earthwork and terrace maintenance. As their source of life and art, the rice terraces have sustained and shaped the lives of the community members. Ifugao previously belong to the Mountain Province as a municipality but on June 18, 1966 in effect of Republic Act No. 4695, Ifugao became an independent province.

Organic Farming
In March 2009 the Ifugao rice terraces were declared free from Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). An event was organized in Dianara Viewpoint for this announcement where it was graced by Gov. Teodoro Baguilat, Mayor Lino Madchiw, Greenpeace campaigner for Southeast Asia Daniel Ocampo, and Cathy Untalan who was executive director of the Miss Earth Foundation. Before the announcement ceremonies, 3 Mumbakis performed an Alim, a tribal ritual to ask for blessings where an animal is offered to the gods.

Another thriving economy in the Banaue Rice Terraces is tourism.The Tourism industry has developed a number of activities for visitors which may include the traditional sight seeing of the terraces and visits to the tribes at the foot of the terraces. A Mumbaki (traditional Ifugao witch doctor) is also recommended to visitors, these doctors can perform spiritual healing rituals Domestic tourism however has gone down over the past few years. A contributing factor to this is the treatment of domestic tourists by the local guides in the area where it has been reported that local guides are more willing to entertain foreign visitors. The Batad Environmental Tour Guides Association (BETGA) in association with the Batad Baranguay authorities are currently laying a concrete track down from the Batad Saddle to the village proper.


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