Ifugao boasts what is dubbed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Banaue Rice Terraces. The terraced farmlands beginning at the base of the mountain range and extending several thousand feet upwards never fail to amuse the visitors who are almost always unbelieving of the surreal beauty right infront of them. The magnificent creation is a source of Filipino pride and a proof of the creativity and resourcefulness of the ancient Igorots.
Two of the terrace clusters in Banaue, the Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Centuries ago, the Igorots have to till the land in the mountains so they can plant rice and vegetables in them. Using primitive tools and early methods, they built stone walls to separate and prevent the land from eroding. The farms were irrigated by means of mountain streams and springs that have been channeled into canals that run downhill through the rice terraces. The stone-walled rice terraces manifest the engineering skill and ingenuity of the Ifugaos.
The Banaue Rice Terraces was acknowledged as a green globe destination in the Philippines by the World Travel and Tour Council. It also received an “International Historic Engineering Landmark Award” from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
[Few years back, the Banaue Rice Terraces showed signs of deterioration caused by natural phenomena such as El Nino and earthquake. Furthermore, some Ifugao families have abandoned their land in the rice terraces because the rice variety most suited to the cool climate is not a high-yielding crop. However, the Philippine government is extending efforts to restore the beauty of the centuries-old creation.]
How to Get There
From Manila, Banaue is 8-9 hours ride via bus. Dangwa Bus and Autobus has daily trips to Banaue. When visiting on holidays or long weekends, make sure to reserve your ticket before the trip.
From Baguio, there are mini buses near the Rizal Park that have trips to Banaue. The trip takes up to 9 hours.
You may also opt to take connecting trips, Baguio to Sagada or Baguio to Bontoc both takes 6 hours. If you opt to take a Sagada trip, most probably you’ll have to get around the place first as Sagada is also a popular spot among tourists and backpackers. From Sagada, you can ride a jeepney going to Bontoc. It takes 30-40 minutes of literally breathtaking (if you’re on topload) ride and from Bontoc, you can take a jeepney or a bus going to Banaue which is 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours away.
When in the highlands, you can do activities such as mountain biking, mountain climbing and hiking. Don’t forget to try native delicacies such as Pinikpikan (chicken) and Etag (processed meat) while sipping Tapey (rice wine).
*Published in the April – May 2012 Issue of Philippine Tourist Destinations