The Banaue Rice Terraces (Tagalog: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe) are 2000-year old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by ancestors of the indigenous people. The Rice Terraces are commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.123 It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. The terraces are located approximately 1500 meters (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometers (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps are put end to end it would encircle half the globe.4
The Banaue Terraces are part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, ancient sprawling man-made structures from 2,000 to 6,000 years old. They are found in the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Locals to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces, although more and more younger Ifugaos do not find farming appealing, often opting for the more lucrative hospitality industry generated by the Rice Terraces. The result is the gradual erosion of the characteristic “steps”, which need constant reconstruction and care. In 2010 a further problem was drought, with the terraces drying up completely in March of that year.5
Another thriving economy in the Banaue Rice Terraces is tourism.12 The Tourism industry has developed a number of activities for visitors which may include the traditional sight seeing of the terraces and visits to the tribes at the foot of the terraces. A Mumbaki13 (traditional Ifugao witch doctor) is also recommended14 to visitors, these doctors can perform spiritual healing rituals. Domestic tourism however has gone down15 over the past few years. A contributing factor to this is the treatment of Domestic tourists by the local guides in the area where it has been reported that local guides are more willing to entertain foreign visitors. The Batad Environmental Tour Guides Association (BETGA) in association with the Batad Baranguay authorities are currently laying a concrete track down from the Batad Saddle to the village proper.
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