18 December, 2007

Banaue Rice Terraces Postcards

The Banaue Rice Terraces (Tagalog: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banaue) are 2000-year old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines. Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1995, the Rice Terraces are commonly referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

Banaue Rice Terraces Postcard 1

The terraces were carved out of the mountain range over 3000 years ago by the Ifugaos, the oldest mountain tribe in the area, using only the most primitive tools to provide level steps where the natives plant rice. It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand.

Banaue Rice Terraces with the Ifugaos Postcard 1

The terraces are located approximately 1500 meters (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometers (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. Measured from end to end, the terraces would stretch a total length of 22,400km (13,919 miles), enough to encircle half the globe. The Banaue Rice Terraces is composed of the Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao and Hapao terraces.

Banaue Rice Terraces Postcard 2

The terraces are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. The irrigation system uses gravity to harness water from the forests 1800m (2185ft) above thus ensuring a continuous supply of crops.

Banaue Rice Terraces Postcard 3

Located at Barangay Batad in Banaue, these rice terraces are shaped like an amphitheater. The Batad rice terraces cluster is considered an engineering marvel and a rare man-made landscape because of its ampitheater-like form and almost vertical terrace ponds. The Batad rice terraces have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a Living Cultural Landscape.

Batad Rice Terraces Postcard 1

"All studies by anthropologists and researchers point to the conclusion that the building of the rice terraces was immediately started by the first occupants of Ifugao land. For lack of arable land, those first people were forced to eke out a living from the mountains by terracing rice paddies on the slopes. It is indeed a wonder how the early Ifugaos, with only the simplest and crudest hand tools, were able to build the rice terraces. They not only carved out the terraced paddies but also worked a unique irrigation system and way of maintaining them through constant repair, extention and reconstruction."

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I was able to find an interesting article on the web entitled "The Secret of the Banaue Rice Terraces." It tells a story of who might have taught the Ifugaos how to do it.

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The secret of the Banaue Rice Terraces is that it actually tells the story of Chinese interaction with the ethnic cultures of the Cordilleras way before the arrival of the Spanish. It is also a great example of acculturation, the seamless mix of two cultures taking on a new identity in a different environment.

Banaue Rice Terraces Postcard 6

From 2205 to 2106BCE, Emperor Yu the Great launched a campaign to annihilate the Miao tribe who rebelled against him. They fled southwards, until some were driven beyond the sea, and it is perhaps then that a few survivors made it to the Cordilleras. The Miao are also known for cultivating terraced paddy fields and thus it is this technology, along with several others, which they brought to the Cordilleras. But the influence of the Chinese does not end here. Trade during the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties brought introduced the carabao, cabbage, porcelain jars and plates, and even the Kalinga oranges or ponkan. Chinese features are also clearly seen in the natives of Northern Luzon, and the rituals and traditions of the Igorots, Ifugaos and Kalingas echo those of the Miao ethnic tribe.

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