You Won't Find the "Banaue Rice Terraces" Where You Think
A common misconception is that all the rice terraces in Banaue, which tourists often see right off the highway in the town center, are protected by UNESCO. In reality, what we understand as the iconic “Banaue Rice Terraces”—even as it is portrayed on the 20-peso bill—is only a part of the actual entire site.
There are five protected sites, all of which are located in Ifugao; only two are found in Banaue. These are:
Batad Rice Terraces (Banaue)
Bangaan Rice Terraces (Banaue)
Mayoyao Rice Terraces (Mayoyao)
Hungduan Rice Terraces (Hungduan)
Nagacadan Rice Terraces (Kiangan)
These are the particular sites wherein the local communities, living in and around these sites, are held accountable for the preservation of both the environment itself and the knowledge passed along to protect them. They are not permitted by UNESCO to engage in activities and practices that damage the ecosystem that the Ifugao ancestors have cultivated.
How do I get there?
There is a Tuwali-owned busline (Ohayami Trans) from Sampaloc that has regular trips to Banaue Poblacion. From here, the tourist information can help you locate Bangaan and Batad.
The same busline offers regular trips to Lagawe. From Lagawe, you can take a jeep or a trike to the Poblacion of Kiangan, where you will need to pay a small environmental fee to see the Nagacadan terraces. These terraces are also a key feature of the Kiangan Open Air Museum.
Hungduan and central Mayoyao are a little more difficult to access, but there are jeeps that go to the town centers (usually passing through Lagawe), and all it takes is a little asking around.
With Contributions from Ace Amor
Don't listen to Waze on this one. If you want to be geographically accurate, it's the “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras."
Often called the 8th wonder of the world, the man-made landscapes stand up to 1,500 meters tall, a reworking of an entire expanse of mountains, formed to accommodate intensive agricultural practices. They are said to be the oldest in the Philippines, although the age of these terraces has been debated—studies have been made that make arguments either for 2000 years or 300 years. The site was first made by the ancestors of the indigenous people of Ifugao. The act of terracing the rice fields is a practice that prevents the soil from eroding and allowing for passive irrigation. Today, some locals still farm on the terraces.
Are the rice terraces protected by UNESCO?
There are currently six World Heritage sites protected by UNESCO in the Philippines. According to Historic Environment Scotland, “World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural sites of ‘Outstanding Universal Value,’ which are important across countries and generations.” A World Heritage site enjoys protection in the form of funding for conservation, access to global management resources, and increased tourism from recognition. There are also mechanisms in place for their protection during wartime.
Banaue is just one municipality in the province of Ifugao that houses a part of the site. The protected terraces are spread throughout Ifugao. Though we often refer to them as the “Banaue Rice Terraces,” the more accurate term, listed under UNESCO, is the “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.”
These sites are not permitted by UNESCO to engage in activities that damage the ecosystem that the Ifugao ancestors have cultivated.