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UNESCO – Ifugao Rice Terraces

Posted by on Apr 21st, 2009
Filed Under: Featured, Luzon, Photos, UNESCO

The Ifugao Rice Terraces which has been described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” against the widely-known list of seven remarkable constructions of classical antiquity, are rice terraces craved into the Ifulgao mountains by ancestors of the Batad indigenous people (the oldest mountain tribe in this area) using primitive tools more than 2,000 years ago.

Location: Cordilleras Region (Ifugao Province and Mountain Province)

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Banga-an, Ifugao Province, Philippines
Photo by Webzer

The source of irrigation water for the rice terraces is a reservoir at the top of the mountain which originates from springs. The rice terraces is irrigated from this source using a complex system of dams, and bamboo pipes. Excess water is drained to the terrace below by a small opening.

The terraces (‘paddies’) curve along the contour, and are narrow, varies from place to place, but averages between around 3 and 5 meters. Each paddy field is supported by a wall several meters high, made of mud or stones. From far, these terraces look like huge steps and will cover half the globe if laid side by side.

Because of the cool climate caused by the high elevation, crop maturity takes longer than in the lowlands. In some cases, vegetables such as cabbages and sweet potatoes are grown after the rice is harvested. The farmers, indigenous to the area, have a distinct culture that is different to lowland rice farmers, they generally own one hectare or less of terraced land, and cultivation is intensive.

Till this day, land preparation is mainly manual – the farmers puddle the soil with their bare feet.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces is a symbol of how the Philippines is a center of origin and biodiversity of rice, and exemplifies how rice, our most important food crop, is a unique and inherent part of our culture.

UNESCO World Heritage List

IN 1995, The Ifulgao Rice Terraces was was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in recognition of the living organically-evolved cultural landscape shaped by sacred traditions and the ingenuity of the Ifugao people – an outstanding model of sustainable use of limited land resources, using traditional knowledge-based technology that has evolved over the last two millennia.

Cultural Landscapes have been defined by the World Heritage Committee as distinct geographical areas or properties uniquely “..represent[ing] the combined work of nature and of man..” . This concept has been adapted and developed within international heritage arenas (UNESCO) as part of an international effort to reconcile “ of the most pervasive dualism in Western thought – that of nature and culture”

Four municipalities and 18 barangays are covered under the World Heritage site:

Rice Terrace Clusters of Banaue: Battad
Rice Terrace Clusters of Banaue: Bangaan
Rice Terrace Clusters of Mayoyao: Mayoyao Central
Rice Terrace Clusters of Kiangan: Nagacadan
Rice Terrace Clusters of Hungduan

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Rice terrace in Banaue, Luzon.
Photo by Ecogarden

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Batad is such a heavenly place in the Philippines. Indeed a wonder of the world, for the people have carved their lives teeming with beauty from the landscapes of the earth. The sun smiles gleefully on harvest season.
Photo by Buccinos

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terrace
Photo by Proust

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Stairways to Heaven: Batad Village is one of the best-preserved rice terrace in Cordilleras Philippine. It takes 3hours by tricycle and walks from central Banaue.
Photo by Eesti

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Photo taken near the western border of Ifugao, a few kilometers from Benguet province. I thought it was spectacular enough when I last saw these terraces from the ground. It is far overwhelming when you see the whole mountainside directly from above. To all fellow Philippine citizens out there, how many of you have seen the rice terraces of Ifugao from this view? You should try it sometimes. It is spectacular.
Photo by Storm-crypt

World Heritage Sites in Danger

However, The Ifulgao Rice Terraces was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 2001 as uncontrolled tourism and the introduction of open-market economy threatened both the natural heritage of the province and the traditional practices of its inhabitants.

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in the Philippines is a delicate, evolving cultural landscape. In the absence of a systematic monitoring programme or a comprehensive management plan, it is, at present, impossible to guarantee the preservation and sustainable development of these rice terraces.

On 17 March 2009, the Ifugao Rice Terraces was declared a genetically modified organism (GMO)-Free zone.

The Ifugao people, guardians of this living cultural heritage of humanity, shall keep the Ifugao Rice Terraces a GMO-Free Zone as it has always been for generations. The Ifugaos shall protect the Ifugao Rice Terraces from GMO contamination and other forms of interventions that would diminish the integrity and universal value of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, so that it will continue to be a living testimony of the harmonious relationship of man and nature.

Getting There

Article Sources

1. UNESCO World Heritage Center – Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
2. WIKIPEDIA – Banaue Ifugao Rice Terraces
3. GREENPEACE SEASIA – Ifugao Rice Terraces declared GMO-Free Zone

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Grace is loving every minute she spend traveling around Philippines, meeting people and making new friends. Her travel mantra - “Live, breathe. It is never too late to feel alive.”

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13 Responses to “UNESCO – Ifugao Rice Terraces”

  1. Proud Pinoy says:

    Definitely one of the treasures of our nation, too bad the people are taking this for granted! Everyone of us need to do our part to preserve this great creation of our ancestors.

    Wonderful photoessay Grace – great selections of photos, truly show the magnificent Ifugao Rice Terraces.

  2. Proud Pinoy says:

    Hey I went around reading on the Ifugao rice terraces after this post, saw this quite interesting news article.

    BANAUE, Ifugao: Aside from so-called heirloom rice, tourists will now also find dojo or weather loach in the paddies of the world-famous rice terraces of Ifugao province.

    Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Gov. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao on Saturday released a total of 20,000 dojo fingerlings into the rice terraces in Banaue town.

    Baguilat said dojo is a delicacy in China, Japan and South Korea. He added that the provincial government is helping farmers obtain the Haggiyo label for the weather loach.

    The Haggiyo label is the quality seal of the province. At present, four products bear the label: natural taro products such as cookies, biscuits and polvoron; smoked tilapia; tinawon rice; and Terraces Brew, a mixture of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans produced locally.

    With the introduction of dojo, Baguilat said, local farmers will tend and protect the Ifugao terraces more.

    Anyone has any pictures of what they are refering to here?

  3. Flugo says:

    Wow! Speechless. Another 1 place that I’ll want to go to. Amazing!!

  4. AIRA says:



  5. Smitha says:

    Wow! I am planning a trip to the Philippines in January – these places just seem out of the world. Such pristine beauty!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Smitha, I hope you will enjoy your trip here in these islands, there are a lot of places to see and explore, food to try, and a pretty wide range of cultures to experience. In advance, I’d like to welcome you to the Philippines,


  6. Jai-jai says:

    This is my Province and Im proud of it but my generation now prefers to work at the lowland. Most of us from the highland are getting down because of the fastfaced run of things. But i think some of us will go back up because we are needed and also the lowlands is getting under water.

  7. Vic Auxtero says:

    I wish we could still see these photos as beautiful as they are in the future

  8. melody says:

    The Ifugao rice terraces is really a cultural monument. Moreover, that aerial photograph really amazed me. The way I view now the Ifugao rice terraces is really indescribable… The Ifugao people are genius in arts and culture and together combined them with engineering and environmental conservation. really awesome!

  9. beth palmer says:

    Wow! im really proud to be a filipino, let us all try to help and protect our natural resources by doing our own bit…we can do it and that would really make our economy boom

  10. shirley says:

    Wow! So beautiful there! Ifugao rice terrance is really a micacle, amazing, nature beauty! we all love to eat rice, so this is great!thank you very much, Lupang Hinirang.

  11. jun says:

    i was there last week.
    for the first time I saw the terraces- it was a worthwhile trip and trekking.
    The view and the sound of spring water gushing through is soothing.

    I hope we’ll be able to preserve this magnificent terraces

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