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Luzon Island is home to Banaue, which has become synonymous with the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ifugao Rice Terraces. The five clusters that form the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were given World Heritage status in 1995 – the first to be included in UNESCO’s cultural landscape category – include Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao Central, and Nagacadan in Ifugao province.
Constructed over 2000 years ago, what makes Ifugao’s rice terraces special is their location at a higher altitude and on steeper hills than most and their technical perfection – how carefully they appear to have been carved into the natural mountain contours, their complex of stone and mud walls, and their elaborate irrigation systems. But what’s of most value is the continuity and endurance of cultural traditions that have remained virtually unchanged for 2000 years, local communities handing down traditions from generation to generation. Taking a cooperative approach, the communities of farmers work together, following lunar cycles and incorporating spiritual rituals to plant and harvest rice. Banaue’s emerald green terraces are arguably the most beautiful.Read more
Neatly carved out of steep lofty slopes, largely by hand, the rice terraces are located approximately 1500 metres above sea level and cover some 10360 square kilometres. Although they have experienced some erosion – they require constant maintenance – and temporarily dried up in 2010 due to drought, locals here still grow rice and vegetables on the terraces as their ancestors always have, and the terraces continue to flourish thanks to ancient irrigation systems that transport water from high rainforests to the terraces.
Banaue is also the most tourist-friendly of the sites, with good quality, great value accommodation and other activities, such as tours to visit local tribes and the chance to meet a mumbaki (traditional witchdoctor). Trekking is also becoming increasingly popular. What makes these experiences special is the opportunity to witness an authentic way of life– the indigenous communities of the Cordillera resisted foreign domination and weren’t influenced by the cultures of colonisers like the rest of the Philippines. The people of Ifugao are also highly regarded as wood carvers so look out for handsome carvings and wooden crafts in Banaue and other towns.