Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Filipino: Mga Hagdan-Hagdang Palayan ng Kordilyera ng Pilipinas; Ifugao: Payyo) are a World Heritage Site consisting of a complex of rice terraces on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. They were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995, the first-ever property to be included in the cultural landscape category of the World Heritage List.[2] This inscription has five sites: the Batad Rice Terraces, Bangaan Rice Terraces (both in Banaue), Mayoyao Rice Terraces (in Mayoyao), Hungduan Rice Terraces (in Hungduan) and Nagacadan Rice Terraces (in Kiangan), all in Ifugao Province, Philippines. The Ifugao Rice Terraces reach a higher altitude and were built on steeper slopes than many other terraces. The Ifugao complex of stone or mud walls and the careful carving of the natural contours of hills and mountains to make terraced pond fields, coupled with the development of intricate irrigation systems, harvesting water from the forests of the mountain tops, and an elaborate farming system.

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Batad Rice Terraces, Ifugao Province, Philippines.jpg
Batad Rice Terraces, Ifugao Province, Philippines
LocationIfugao, Cordillera Administrative Region, Luzon, Philippines
CriteriaCultural: (iii)(iv)(v)
Inscription1995 (19th session)
Coordinates16°56′2″N 121°8′12″E / 16.93389°N 121.13667°E / 16.93389; 121.13667Coordinates: 16°56′2″N 121°8′12″E / 16.93389°N 121.13667°E / 16.93389; 121.13667
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras is located in Luzon
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Location of Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in Luzon
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras is located in Philippines
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)
Nagacadan Rice Terraces
Batad Rice Terraces close-up view
View of the rice terraces
A village in the Batad rice terraces
Rice Terraces of Batad
Bayyo Village with their rice terraces
Scenery of Fidelisan while trekking

The Ifugao Rice Terraces illustrate the remarkable ability of human culture to adapt to new social and climate pressures as well as to implement and develop new ideas and technologies. Although listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site believed to be older than 2,000 years, recent studies from Ifugao Archaeological Project[3] report that they were actually constructed upon Spanish contact about 400 years ago.[4][5][6][7][8]

Maintenance of the living rice terraces reflects a primarily cooperative approach of the whole community which is based on detailed knowledge of the rich diversity of biological resources existing in the Ifugao agro-ecosystem, a finely tuned annual system respecting lunar cycles, zoning and planning, extensive soil conservation, and mastery of a complex pest control regime based on the processing of a variety of herbs, accompanied by religious rituals.

Historical descriptionEdit

The rice terraces of the Cordilleras are one of the few monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by colonial cultures. Owing to the difficult terrain, the Cordillera tribes are among the few peoples of the Philippines who have successfully resisted any foreign domination and have preserved their authentic tribal culture. The history of the terraces is intertwined with that of its people, their culture, and their traditional practices.[9]

Apart from the idjang stone-fortresses of the Ivatan of the Batanes, the terraces, which spread over five present-day provinces, are the only other form of surviving stone construction from the pre-colonial period.[citation needed] The Philippines alone among south-east Asian cultures is a largely wood-based one: unlike Cambodia, Indonesia, or Thailand, for example, in the Philippines both domestic buildings and ritual structures such as temples and shrines were all built in wood, a tradition that has survived in the terrace hamlets.[citation needed]

It is believed that terracing began in the Cordilleras less than one thousand years ago as taro cultivation. It is evidence of a high level of knowledge of structural and hydraulic engineering on the part of the Ifugao builders. The knowledge and practices, supported by rituals, involved in maintaining the terraces are transferred orally from generation to generation, without written records. Taro was later replaced by rice around 1600 A.D. which is the predominant crop today.[citation needed]

National Cultural TreasuresEdit

The five clusters inscribed as part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao Central and Nagacadan.[10] Batad and Bangaan are under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Banaue but are not referred to as the Banaue Rice Terraces.

The Banaue Rice Terraces refer to the cluster close to the Banaue poblacion as seen from the viewpoint. Contrary to popular belief, these terraces are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were not included in the UNESCO inscription due to the presence of numerous modern structures, making it score low in the integrity criterion of UNESCO. The Banaue Rice Terraces are however a National Cultural Treasure under Ifugao Rice Terraces, together with the other rice terraces clusters.

Cordillera Rice Terraces Officially On the World Heritage ListEdit

A designated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage SiteEdit

All located in the Ifugao region, the Rice Terraces also feature as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Sites or GIAHS. They are supported by indigenous knowledge management of muyong, a private forest that caps each terrace cluster. The muyong is managed through a collective effort and under traditional tribal practices. The communally managed forestry area on top of the terraces contains about 264 indigenous plant species, mostly endemic to the region. The terraces form unique clusters of microwatersheds and are part of the whole mountain ecology. They serve as a rainwater filtration system and are saturated with irrigation water all year round. A biorhythm technology, in which cultural activities are harmonized with the rhythm of climate and hydrology management, has enabled farmers to grow rice at over 1 000 meters.

The Ifugao epic HudhudEdit

Aside from the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, UNESCO inscribed the Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao,[11] another National Cultural Treasure, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008 (originally proclaimed in 2001). The Hudhud consists of narrative chants performed mainly by elder Ifugao women usually during the rice sowing season, at harvest time and at funeral wakes and rituals.


The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were named as a World Heritage Site[12][13][14] by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1995. It has passed by UNESCO's standards[15] due to the blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment as a living cultural landscape. In 2000, the site was inscribed as one of the most endangered cultural sites in the world by World Monuments Fund but was taken off in 2001.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces[16] have also been inscribed in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2001 as the dangers of deforestation and climate change threatens to destroy the terraces. Another contributing factor is globalization where the younger generations of the Ifugaos have recently had the opportunity to gain access to media and education, most of the younger Ifugaos[17] have opted to come to the capital for work instead of the traditional farming tradition. The Philippines sought danger listing as a way to raise national and international support and cooperation in the preservation of the heritage site.[18] Critic W.S. Logan described the flight of locals from the land as an example of heritage designations created by bureaucrats and policy makers rather than local communities.[19]

The rice terraces were listed as one of the most endangered monuments in the world by World Monuments Fund in the 2010 World Monuments Watch, along with the Santa Maria Church and San Sebastian Church. All of the sites were taken off the list in 2011 after the passage of the National Cultural Heritage Act.[20]

In 2012, UNESCO has removed the Rice Terraces from the list of sites in danger in recognition of the success of the Philippines in improving its conservation.[18][21]

UNESCO ExtensionEdit

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras element currently listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List possesses only 5 properties, all of which are in Ifugao province. There are also significant rice terraces in other provinces in the Cordilleras, notably those in Benguet province, Mountain Province, Kalinga province, Abra province, Apayao province, and Nueva Vizcaya province. The provincial governments of each province may cooperate with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Museum of the Philippines, or the UNESCO Commission of the Philippines for the inclusion of their respective rice terraces in the UNESCO List as extension of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.

Cordillera Rice Terraces not included in the World Heritage ListEdit

The Ifugao Rice Terraces is an example of a nationally recognized cultural property.

The following are at least half of the rice terrace clusters in the Cordillera mountain range that have yet to be extended as world heritage sites. Sites can only be extended as world heritage sites if they have retained their outstanding features, including the structures within them (example: traditional houses).

Other rice terraces outside the Cordilleras can also be found.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Better conservation in Pakistan and the Philippines allow Committee to remove two sites from World Heritage List in Danger at UNESCO website
  2. ^ Malig, Jojo (26 June 2012). "Philippine rice terraces no longer in danger". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  3. ^ "Ifugao Archeological Project".
  4. ^ Cabreza, Vincent (July 15, 2013). "For Ifugao rice terraces, age should not matter". Inquirer.net. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Ifugao Rice Terraces may be younger than we think". Rappler. April 29, 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  6. ^ Acabado, Stephen B.; Koller, Jared M.; Liu, Chin-hsin; Lauer, Adam J.; Farahani, Alan; Barretto-Tesoro, Grace; Reyes, Marian C; Martin, Jonathan Albert; Peterson, John A. (2019). "The Short History of the Ifugao Rice Terraces: A Local Response to the Spanish Conquest". Journal of Field Archaeology. 44 (3): 195–214 – via Taylor & Francis Online.
  7. ^ Acabado, Stephen (2018). "Zones of refuge: Resisting conquest in the northern Philippine highlands through environmental practice". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 52: 180–195 – via Elsevier Science Direct.
  8. ^ Acabado, Stephen B. (2015). Antiquity, archaeological processes, and highland adaptation: The Ifugao rice terraces. Loyola Heights, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
  9. ^ Advisory Body Evaluation, World Heritage. "Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras". © UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  10. ^ "UNESCO World Heritage Centre". UNESCO. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  11. ^ "The Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao". UNESCO. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  12. ^ "World Heritage List". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  13. ^ "Earth Day, Part 3: Banaue Rice Terraces". World Press. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  14. ^ "Preserving the Ifugao Heritage". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-07-17.
  15. ^ "Criterion - Passed". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  16. ^ "Heritage sites in danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  17. ^ "The Probe Team", ABS CBN
  18. ^ a b "Better conservation in Pakistan and the Philippines allow Committee to remove two sites from World Heritage List in Danger". UNESCO. 2012-06-27. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  19. ^ Logan, William S. (2007). "Closing Pandora's Box: Human Rights Conundrums in Cultural Heritage". In Silverman, Helaine; Ruggles, D. Fairchild (eds.). Cultural heritage and human rights. New York, NY: Springer. ISBN 9780387713137. OCLC 187048155.
  20. ^ https://www.pressreader.com/philippines/philippine-daily-inquirer/20091109/284082022674268
  21. ^ "Philippines rice terraces off endangered list–UN". Inquirer.net. June 28, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  22. ^ https://www.lakwatsero.com/spots/candijay-bohol-cadapdapan-rice-terraces-and-can-umantad-falls/#sthash.H6HoCdgn.dpbs
  23. ^ http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/452821/your-gps-is-not-wrong-mindanao-has-rice-terraces

External linksEdit