The 8th Wonder of the World

Banaue Travel Blog

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The Rice Terraces of Banaue

I am not making it up. That’s how it is advertised. The 8th wonder of the world, the Ifugao rice terraces. I am off on a short holiday to see if this claim can be justified!

 

Banaue

 

On arrival at Banaue, the portal to the mountainprovince Ifugao and its terraces, I feared for my trip, for the weather was cold and rainy and clouds covered the mountains. I couldn’t see any rice fields! But later that day the sun broke through and an evening glow descended on the valley of Banaue. It was beautiful.

 

The Ifugao-terraces cover whole mountains, as if a giant passed through and made wedding cakes out of them.

The Rice Terraces of Banaue
It’s colossal; and they are of Roman antiquity. Over 2,000 years! And still in use. At this time of year, in April, they have just been sown and are very green. While I am writing this, my head keeps turning to the magnificent view every 5 minutes. The houses of Banaue are sprinkled on the cakes like decoration, connected by stairs and bridges over rivers.

 

These mountain provinces are an autonomous region. Not far from here, genuine headhunters are still alive. In isolated places, people still walk in traditional red g-strings alongside tattooed women with snakebones in their hair. (And I’ve been told they smoke their cigars the other way around. My supervisor once made the mistake of offering a light to an old woman, and she removed her cigar and a smoke curtain enveloped her head.) Inside those isolated lands, the rice terraces continue no less spectacular, and there is a mountain resembling a sleeping woman, but it is near impossible to get there. Philippine law is far away and sometimes there is tribal violence.

 

Banaue offers five spectacular viewpoints to look at the terraces in all their glory.

The Rice Terraces of Banaue
Try to visit them at sunrise, or, if there are no clouds, sunset. There are also old people posing in the traditional clothing they wore in the old days. The Banaue museum shows how these tiny people used to re-enact the killing of their enemies, dressed up as fighting cocks, and the new tattoos they recieved after every enemy vanquished.

 

..........................

Batad

 

The next day I booked a trip to Batad, a place where the rice terraces are perhaps even more striking. I had to hire a guide for a day to get there and to prevent me losing my way in the terraces. In Batad the terrace walls are made of stone, as opposed to mud, which makes them very suitable to walk on.

I wish I could bring them home with me
But if you don’t mind your feet, there is no knowing where you might end up.

 

My guide, Charlie, gave me a broad grin at our meeting and I noticed how his teeth and lips were bloody red. The Ifugao people seem hopelessly addicted to chewing betel nuts. They say it is part of their culture and it keeps their teeth clean (I wonder). Now and then he spat red pools, which explained all the red spots on the road.

 

Only during our trip to Batad I began to realize the extent of these Ifugao ricefields. The scale is immense. Valley after valley they continue, creeping up hidden corners. Sometimes they are degraded and overgrown, like plates of jungle stacked up. It is a surrealistic landscape.

 

And then there is Batad.

Batad
A small village of houses on poles, dead center in a valley-filling amphitheatre of terraces. To get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to walk half an hour through the jungle, which is a nice change of scenery after so many terraces, and then another two hours to walk along the terrace walls to the village. There are also the 30m high Tappia Falls to be seen, but only experienced hikers will have the energy for it.

 

The Ifugao houses are something special too. They are tiny houses on four poles, with a heavy pyramid straw roof, blackened by smoke and hung with pig skulls for good fortune. The rice is stacked in the topmost part. Nowadays many Ifugao switch the straw roof for a metal one, so they don’t have to make a new roof every four years, but it gets incredibly hot in summer.

 

Thank goodness nobody wanted to hunt for my head. The Ifugao were very friendly people, smiling their big bloody betel grin. Charlie called them FBI: Full-Blooded Ifugao.

 

Banaue and Batad were just two of a number of impressive terrace sites.

Stairway to heaven
If I would like to compare them to other wonders of the world in scale and impressiveness, only the usual suspects come up. The Pyramids, the Great Wall. And these terraces were not made by slaves. So, the 8th Wonder of the World? I can’t see why not. Happy birthday!

 

wanderlust_rxist0324 says:
had goosebumps reading youre wrute up and made me feel proud that you did fnd our rice terraces here in the philippines amazing! Cheers!
Posted on: Sep 10, 2012
jeromeangelo says:
i have visited banaue 10 years ago..i hope it has maintained its old charm...
Posted on: Aug 25, 2009
jennethm says:
nice writeup, and I am happy how you described the terraces in this blog. :)
Posted on: Jul 15, 2009
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The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
I wish I could bring them home wit…
I wish I could bring them home wi…
Batad
Batad
Stairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven
Banaue village
Banaue village
Terraces in the distance
Terraces in the distance
Terraces in the distance
Terraces in the distance
reflection
reflection
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
A nice jumble of terraces
A nice jumble of terraces
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
A terraced valley
A terraced valley
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
A wedding cake
A wedding cake
An old Ifugao woman
An old Ifugao woman
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
The Rice Terraces of Banaue
the jungle trail to Batad
the jungle trail to Batad
Batad
Batad
Amphitheatre
Amphitheatre
My guide Charlie
My guide Charlie
Batad
Batad
Ifugao houses
Ifugao houses
Downtown Batad
Downtown Batad
Ifugao house
Ifugao house
rice terraces of Batad
rice terraces of Batad
Batad
Batad
terraces... yea whatever
"terraces... yea whatever"
Banaue
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal