Philippines – Banaue: stairways to heaven 

This is the eighth wonder of the world…Men-Made-Terraces!

Amazing! This is the word what is mostly used for. Or Breathtaking. Or Happiness. Or just being thankful.

Ok it’s considered to be the 8th wonder but it’s not. But who cares.

Ancient Ifugaos – the natives of the Ifugao province where this magnificent structure is located built this layered rice paddies for rice production.

They were carved from the hillside by the tribes people of Ifugao about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The terraces are considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of mankind.

(The spanish conquerer didn’t even believe in the first place that these small little natives can build something magnificant like this.)

Its walls were built of stone and mud, materials abundant in the area.

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. It was not until 1995 that the Banaue Rice Terraces were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

From Manila my journey started. I was not really sure what I should expect. Yes stairs what can reach the sky. Well, what does that mean to me?!?

Honestly, I had a very cold start. The air-condition of the Bus was suuuuper cold. Good thing I had a sweater and rubber shoes with me. I thought I was in a refrigerator.

After 9 hours straight driving up to the hills with really wonderful views in between (when I was awake) – it was raining and it was cold, in the Philippines, wow. Welcome to Banaue!

Never thought I would experience freezing in the Philippines. Hahaha.

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The rice fields are located at 1500 meters altitude and cover 10,360 square kilometers of mountainside. The ancestors of Ifugao people used an unique and efficient irrigation system which brings water from the rain forests above the terraces to feed the “suspended lands”.

It fascinates me that the locals still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces. The old man don’t even use shoes. They walk up to their space barefoot.

One good advice from my side: Get a guide! You will get lost up there! The local farmers will just smile at you and would not understand you well.

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The view is still breathtaking. A vally surrounded by high green mountains, with only steep rice terraces on their lower slopes, and a tiny hamlet in the middle.

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Only when you walk on the terraces itself you can realise the great expanse of the place. My hats off to the Ifguao people who built this cultural landscape!

Did you know that a “Stair” is around 2-4meters high? I didn’t know that. From far away or even from the postcards it looks so beautiful and small.

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It’s ampitheatre-like landscape is stunning.

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In early 2010 the terraces dried up completely. Many younger Ifugaos do not find farming attractive and prefer to work in tourism and the result in places has been the gradual erosion of the characteristic steps which need constant care and maintenance.

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Some areas are abandoned as people leave the place in search for more economically viable livelihood activities. The rice terraces is taken cared of by the older people with the younger generation getting aversed to terrace work as they get more educated. When nobody is willing to work in the rice terraces, that means the end of this heritage.

Yet the national government is not concerned as shown by its abolition of the Banaue Rice Terraces Task Force and passed on the responsibility to the Provincial Government. The Provincial Government is so cash strapped that it depends on funding allocation from the national government with no other fund sources.

 

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The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are absoulutly amazing, i was simply overcome by their beauty as well as there cultural importance.

I strongly belive we should protect these magnificent landscape.

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