Our last inscribed World Heritage Site visit on this swing through the Philippines is one that’s generally combined with a visit to Vigan on the tourist trail through northern Luzon — although the typical tourist visits are not actually part of the inscribed area:
The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras is an outstanding example of an evolved, living cultural landscape that can be traced as far back as two millennia ago in the pre-colonial Philippines. The terraces are located in the remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range on the northern island of Luzon, Philippine archipelago. While the historic terraces cover an extensive area, the inscribed property consists of five clusters of the most intact and impressive terraces, located in four municipalities. They are all the product of the Ifugao ethnic group, a minority community that has occupied these mountains for thousands of years.
The five inscribed clusters are; (i) the Nagacadan terrace cluster in the municipality of Kiangan, a rice terrace cluster manifested in two distinct ascending rows of terraces bisected by a river; (ii) the Hungduan terrace cluster that uniquely emerges into a spider web; (iii) the central Mayoyao terrace cluster which is characterized by terraces interspersed with traditional farmers’ bale (houses) and alang (granaries); (iv) the Bangaan terrace cluster in the municipality of Banaue that backdrops a typical Ifugao traditional village; and (v) the Batad terrace cluster of the municipality of Banaue that is nestled in amphitheatre-like semi-circular terraces with a village at its base.
The Ifugao Rice Terraces epitomize the absolute blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment. Indeed, it is a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.
The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity. Built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation, the Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that surpassed various challenges and setbacks posed by modernization…
Here’s how you know you’re at the wrong place. This admittedly quite senic walk out on the promontory, that’s packed with tour buses and tourists?
… that’s not actually one of the five inscribed properties. Although it is arguably the most photogenic, and by far the easiest to get to!
The inscribed properties are a bit more of a job to get to, involving good bits of both driving on very small and twisty mountain roads plus hiking once you get to the end of the roads. We decided that “amphitheatre-like semi-circular terraces” sounded pretty nifty, so we settled on Batad as the one we’d spend one of our rapidly dwindling days getting to:
Most of the working terraces are more along the lines of fine detail work than those grand swathes of hillside, though:
And some of that detail work is remarkably fine indeed, you really, seriously wouldn’t expect that anyone would look at these near-cliffs and think “WHAT A GREAT PLACE FOR A RICE FARM!”
So yep, if you’re going to be visiting Vigan or Sagada — and probably both, if you’re following the typical tourist itinerary — you should definitely fit a day in there for visiting Banaue the hub for visiting these rice terraces!