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Place to visit...Banaue Rice Terraces, ancient wonder

The Malayan range starts from the highest peak in the world, Mt Everest. Nowhere else on the planet can you find a drop of angle sharper than here. The Himalayan top is about six miles above the sea level. By going east of the Philippines you will find the Pacific Grand Canyon. The Philippines and Marianas deep trenches are capable of submerging Mt Everest completely underwater. We are therefore looking at just a couple of thousand miles, a 12 mile swing in altitude. This is a natural slalom platform that starts the eastward travel.  In the middle of the plain lays a small tetonic plate. The Philippines is the only country that occupies this shell

Somewhere in the series of migrations, there was an indigenous group of people who changed direction. They again were seeking the high ground. They went up in the interior mountain of the Philippines. They probably came by the land bridge or crossed the sea  by boat and the Sinbad dream in their blood  changed  by the upland. They had engineering skills superior to those of the fabled builders of Easter Island. Filipinos as a nation should be very proud of.

A few hundred years BC, the Banaue Rice terraces were built: an engineering marvel, one of the ancient wonders of the world. The greatest human invention is considered the plow. The greatest building therefore is for me the terraces rising about a mile above the sea in the heart of the Mountain Provinces, perhaps the living hanging garden of Babylon. This was the height of the agricultural revolution and the society in which we live today. The human specie started to settle permanently in homestead environment. They did not have to constantly travel to search for food and depend on hunting. They took what nature could give them, created a paradise in the sky and never return to the lowland coast away from the constant treat of marauding ancient pirates and foreigners. They carved the winding sides of the mountain and tamed the water spring, an art of agriculture. The terraces are strategically angled so that the recipients will get maximum exposure to the sun They live in harmony with nature, never taking more than what was needed. They discovered that these golden fruits are gold that can be replanted. I may be partial because I grew up in the foothills of these mountains but let me explain: All of the seven wonders of the world are gone now except for the Pyramid of Egypt. The Pyramid builders are wonderful, but what was their purpose? Its just man's quest for immortality as this is true with other ancient buildings. The Maya monuments were sacrifices of futility and superstition. The Banaue might be called stairways to heaven but its greatness lay in the fact it has provided human needs continuously since the first level of foundation was stonewalled. It is a living agriculture for all time. The hydraulic system has never failed, even until today. The highlanders harvested its rice crops continuously for over 2000 years. This is a panoramic sight to see and our "mana" to be boasted to the world.

Going home to the homeland is not complete until you have witnessed the heritage our ancestors left us. We should show and point these monuments to our children and grandchildren for no where in the world is its equal.

Dry and wet systems are the two types of Rice Farming.  The nomads started planting rice in Asia with the dry system (Kaingin) where they burn the land and plant the seeds.  The remain long enough to harvest  then move to the next clearing.  This method is very cruel to the environment that "Kaingin" was outlawed.  The wet system is water intensive farming.  The irrigation and rice paddy (from the Malay word pagay or palay) the basic foundation of the terrace.  It is the ultimate recycling process but the thing that amazed me is how the terrace kept their topsoil in  spite of the continuous downward flow of irrigation for centuries.  I can only attribute this to the meticulous manual labor that has been  employed.

October month is the harvest time.  The musical beat of the drumming sound will invite you to the native woman milling the whole rice.  You would see a couple of women face to face across  the huge dugout wood bowl separating the kernel from whole grain by pounding (bayo) with a heavy pole as it was done thousand of years ago.  Without losing beat the women  shift arms and alternately pound to the the unison designs of the skirt's colorful tapestry.  The drumming sound changes to the various stages of milling.

Having said all of that, I would like to warn you now that because of ecological problems, and unless we do something about it now, this wonder of the world might not be the site that we see. The terrace can live for only 10 more years, as claimed by the high priest of the Ifugaos. The native farmers are now abandoning these mammoth gardens to more lucrative businesses like gold mines and woodcarving, industries that are not friendly to the environment. This also compounds the vanishing water needed to sustain the terraces. The rapid destruction of the forest is like an embolism of the heart of its irrigation system. They will not able to sustain itself once it dries up and erosion takes place. We do not want to see a shrine; we want to see a functioning machine, hear the water cascading and flowing life, and smell the rice flowers (amihan) when the wind blows (ghost of our ancestors) in our faces.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez
Nueva Vizcayano who grew in harmony with the children of the magnificient builders. Nestor Palugod Enriquez

 Crossing from the Mainland by Sea -By Arthur Butic
 Banaue Tourist News & Master Plan

Marvel of marvels, This wonderful work of man-
The Ifugao terraces,
Which speak of the genius of those
Who lived in the cloudlands
Centuries ago.
What are the pryamids of Egypt,
Or the great temples of Rome,
Or the massive walls of China
Compared to these Ifugao terraces
Eight wonder of the world.

Plan for the Terraces....

In his extemporaneous speech, Banaue Rice Terraces in danger of erosion

(PNA) - The Banaue Rice Terraces, which have been
considered as the 7th wonders of the world, now face
the danger of erosion if not given the massive restoration
and preservation work. It was a year ago when it was
learned that the Terraces will be restored and that a masterplan
have been formulated for this project.

However, it was learned that because of lack of funds, the plan is
likely far from taking off. Earlier, Tourism Undersecretary Evelyn
Pantig told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) that a masterplan
have been formulated for the restoration and preservation of the terraces.

Pantig said the Plan will be implemented over a six-year period
with the initial year critical in terms of setting up the organizational
and management systems that will direct the operation of the Project
including the studies/operational planning activities to firm up the
bases of area-specific interventions.

The total investment requirement to implement the Plan over a
six-year period is estimated at P1.31 billion broken down as follows:
Year 1, P248.86 million; Year 2, P349.61 million; Year 3, P240.75
million; Year 4, P94.50 million; Year 5, P151.65 million; Year 6 P128.40

Funding will come from other government agencies such as DPWH, NIA,
DENR, Philvocs, DOT/PTA/Duty Free, PAL, and foreign agencies like OECP,

A commission has already been created out of an Executive Order
signed by President Fidel V. Ramos to oversee the implementation of the

The terraces, long been considered as the top tourist attraction in
the country have been carved out of the mountains of the Ifugao region
in Northern Philippines many centuries ago by tribesfolk.
The terraces are vast ricefields constructed on the slope of the
mountain manually.

The terraces have been nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World
Heritage List. The inclusion and the recognition of the terraces as a
heritage of the Filipino people is expected to bring attention to the
national government's efforts to promote culture and arts.
The terraces now face the danger of erosion, partly due to the lack
of knowledge of tribesmen on water and irrigation management programs
and partly due to the massive influx of tourists into the area.

The Commission was created under former Tourism Secretary Vicente
J. Carlos, but the program of now DOT Secretary Mina T. Gabor fits into
it considering that Gabor's program goes for the enhancement of culture
and arts.

Pantig said the six-year Master Plan defines the overall framework
and integrated intervention scheme for restoring and preserving the
Ifugao Rice Terraces.

She said the Plan identifies nine major components which are
presented as areas for integrated investment, programming in six-years

These are as follows: natural hazard management program,
agricultural management program, watershed management program, water
management and irrigation, transport development program, spatial
restructuring and tourism development, socio-cultural enahncement
program, livelihood development program and institutional strengthening.
Pantig said that by major program, the Spatial restructuring and
tourism development program has the largest budget followed by transport
and institutional development.

She disclosed that the rice terraces is a complex farming system
consisting not only of the terraces ponds but alos the swidden farms and
the muyongs.

"All these components of the terrace system must be taken together
if the rice terraces is to be restored and preserved," Pantig said.

The restoration and preservation of the rice terraces is timely
considering that DOT officials hope to establish a stable tourist center
in the northern region founded on "cultural identity."
The terraces masterplan would rationalize the tourist activity in
the area. The transport component of the masterplan will in effect,
open up the region to more tourists.

By making the region more accessible to tourists, the government
hopes to start tourism promotion again in the north which was abandoned
in the 80s, in favor of the beach destinations of the south.

Noel DeAsis-------------------------------------
1998 Visit to the Banaue Rice Terraces

In Jan.98, we rented a car and drove north to the Banaue rice terraces in the Cordillera mountains, 250-km north of Manila. Ifugao tribespeople have carved a livelihood from bare rock. Since 2000 years ago, generations of Ifugao have laid stone after stone constructing dikes to hold back what little soil washed off the mountainsides creating vertical gardens that rise as stairways to the heavens". Rice terraces are common throughout Asia but nowhere are they as spectacular as in the rugged mountains of northern Luzon. The Ifugaos have resisted integration into mainstream society and still practice theirtraditional farming and religion although headhunting is on the wane. The
Spanish and catholic colonists never conquered these mountain people much like other areas in Asia like Nepal for example.We stayed at one of the many guesthouses recommended in the Lonely Planet guide for the 1st 2 nights($14 for 2 small,clean rooms with a FANTASTIC view).We moved over to the Banaue youth hostel ($4 each for a huge room with 20 beds but NOBODY there!)when we found out about a cultural dancing show on Saturdays and that we could use the Banaue Hotel's swimming pool with this AMAZING panoramic view. Model villages and vista points are within easy "loafer" distance but you can take off trekking towards other villages in the area. You can shop for the famous woodcarvings and hand loom weavings.For the more adventurous there are a
number of other viewpoints and villages near Banaue. BATAD is one such
village and is famous for its ampitheater-like terraces rising to the
mountaintops. It's about 16-km from the hotel but the distance can be
shortened 12-km by taking a jeepney part way. Still, getting to Batad
requires hiking over a steep ridge into the bowl-shaped valley. Pictures and words CAN'T CAPTURE the beauty and adventure of the area. GO FOR IT-
safe,clean,.friendly "homebase" near the Manila airports or visit us at