Banaue Rice Terraces

In the Philippines, some 200 miles north of Manila, the ancestors of the Ifugao people created a complex system of rice terraces.  It all started around 2,000 years ago and the terraces are still in use today.    They cover an extensive area of the Cordilleras Mountains.  What makes these terraces so unique and amazing is that they were built by hand at such a high altitude on mountains with such a steep grade.  These terraces truly define the economic and social development of the Ifugao people.

Photo by: jonrawlinson, Creative Commons

Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: jonrawlinson, Creative Commons

Intricacies of the Design

The complexity and detail in the rice terraces is astounding.  They were the only structure from the civilization at the time to include stone, as most everything else was made from wood.  The stone and mud walls were used to support all the weight that came from the water needed to flood the terraces.  Each terrace had to be level in order to make sure the rice was watered properly and evenly.  There was an underground conduit designed for drainage, and it was just one of the many devices put into place to regulate the water flow.  They gathered the water from the mountain rainforests and carefully guided it through the terraces.  There are different dams, pipes, and channels to distribute the water equally.

Cultural Impact

Normally I believe the surrounding culture really influences the design of engineering feats, but in this case the terraces heavily affected the culture.  With the rice and vegetables grown being their main source of food the society’s schedule revolved around what needed to be done for the terraces.  The culture had a very cyclical nature to it and followed farming seasons.  Religious rituals accompanied different events and the rice gods became increasingly more important to the people.  While the design of these terraces is impressive it is also amazing how well the knowledge has been past down these last couple thousand years.


The terraces would not be around today if they were not continuously maintained, and there have been different threats over the years.  Changes in climate have affected the way they have been able to use the water.  Some terraces had to be abandoned due to drought.  Another threat was the spread of Christianity during the 1950s.  Since the maintenance relies on the religious rituals promoting the connection between man and nature, Christianity could’ve been a poison.  Fortunately, the people were able to find a way to implement the tribal rituals with the new religion.  Today the landscape is facing another challenge caused by modernization.  Since a large portion of the younger population is making the decision to move into more urban areas, the terraces aren’t receiving the attention they need and erosion is beginning.  The hope relies on the protection tourism can create.


Tourism has increased over the past few years and it is rather easy to visit.  From Manila there are many buses that make the eight to nine hour drive daily.  Once in Banaue, it is recommended to use a guide to prevent getting lost and to get the most out of the experience.  There are different inns and places to stay in the villages at the base of the rice terraces.  You can go purely to see the terraces from the viewpoint, but many go for the exquisite hiking the area offers.  The views are impressive, but the hiking is rigorous due to the altitude and climb.  Many recommend training before going to make sure you are in well enough shape to enjoy the trip.   I know the Banaue rice terraces have made it onto my “must see” list.


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4 Responses to Banaue Rice Terraces

  1. sangmin402 says:

    I find this particularly interesting because you mentioned that those rice terraces are still used today. However, in the present day, I assume that countries are using the most efficient methods to grow rice. Comparing current methods with the one you talked about, do you know why they still use it?

    • jaclynckrogh says:

      I believe that the Ifugao people have updated their farming practices. So, while they do still use the terraces and keep a lot of their methods the same, they use modern tools to be more efficient.

  2. joekuhn93 says:

    I like how you employed the idea of the intricate design of engineering that went into constructing or perhaps maintaining the rice terraces. You made it clear about the possible threats to the Banaue Rice Terraces. Are there any alternatives other than the possibility of tourism to restore and maintain the rice terraces? If not, how did tourism help accomplish this? Personally, I think that tourism would bring money to the area. Also, you mentioned how the spread of Christianity threatened the rice terraces. In what ways was Christianity a “poison?”


    • jaclynckrogh says:

      The Banaue Rice Terraces either need more people or more money to maintain their current status. Tourism brings in money that they are able to use to upkeep the terraces.

      Christianity was viewed as a threat simply because it had the potential to rid the Ifugao people of their religious rituals which they used to connect themselves to the cultivation of their rice. They overcame the threat by keeping the important parts of the rituals while the larger religion changed.

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