October 29, 2011
The famed Ifugao rice terraces in the steep mountains of the Cordillera Mountain Range, long a source of livelihood for the Ifugaos and of pride for the Filipino people, is in danger of destruction. According to a report prepared by the office of Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, a total of 102,663 cubic meters worth of terrace area has been damaged through the decades, and most recently by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel. The damage covers 13 barangays, affects almost 2,000 farmers, and is estimated at over P122.65 million.
Of the four municipalities severely affected by the destruction of the rice terraces, Banaue records the highest value of damage, estimated at almost P35 million. Other rice terraces are located in Mayoyao, Hungduan, and Kiangan.
Five of these terrace clusters—the Nagacadan terrace cluster in Kiangan, the entire Hungduan terrace cluster, the central Mayoyao terrace cluster, and the Bangaan and Batad terrace clusters in Banaue—were inscribed in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1995 for their “Outstanding Universal Value.” However, due to their continuous deterioration, the rice terraces were also inscribed in the World Heritage List in Danger, in December 2001.
“The rice terraces are a global icon that represents the greatness of the Filipino IP (indigenous peoples),” Rep. Baguilat says. “It is a testament to our resiliency, deep respect for nature, and industry. It was built by bare hands using crude tools and community labor.”
“The rice terraces are a source of food, a prime tourist destination as an engineering structure, and they lessen the erosion that minimizes the siltation of our hydro-electric dams like Magat Dam. For these reasons alone, saving the Ifugao rice terraces should be a national concern,” Baguilat points out.
To gain broader support for the protection of the Ifugao rice terraces, the youthful Baguilat is teaming up with Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, another young legislator who also chairs the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Social Justice and Rural Development.
Pangilinan says, “For 2,000 years, the Ifugao rice terraces have helped to shape the culture, identity, and livelihood not only of our brothers and sisters in the Cordilleras, but also of the Filipino people. They have become symbols of our ingenuity and vision, our rootedness in nature, and the value of community, among others. We cannot allow the rice terraces, as well as these values, to be eroded over time. These help define our being Filipino.”
Aside from these, Pangilinan points out, it is important to preserve the Ifugaos’ traditional methods of upland rice farming and sustainable communal agriculture, and, more importantly, pass on this knowledge to future generations of Ifugaos, as these are sources of huge tourism and economic impact that will also improve the incomes of the Ifugao folk.
“We cannot kill the Ifugao farmers’ source of life, culture, and pride,” Pangilinan exhorts. “We must do whatever we can to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the rice terraces and make a sustainable living out of them. We owe it not only to them or to ourselves, but to our ancestors who have entrusted the rice terraces to us over the last 2,000 years.”
The two legislators are embarking on a multi-sectoral fund-raising effort to undertake major repairs on the rice terraces, as well as to support community programs that encourage young Ifugaos to continue stewarding the rice terraces for future generations. For more updates on these efforts, interested parties may like the “Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces campaign” page on Facebook or follow @saveIRT on Twitter. Those who wish to help may also email [email protected].