Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ifugao Province, Philippines

Tourist Attractions
Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice Terraces are 2,000-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." It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. The terraces are located approximately 1500 metres (5000 ft) above sea level. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps were put end to end, it would encircle half the globe.

Banaue Rice Terraces
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 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.

Ifugao is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon. The province covers a total land area of 262, 820 hectares which is subdivided into 11 municipalities. Ifugao is located in a mountainous region characterized by rugged terrain, river valleys and massive forests. Its capital is Lagawe and borders Benguet to the west, Mountain Province to the north, Isabela to the east, and Nueva Vizcaya to the south.

Ifugao was formerly a part of the old Mountain Province. It was created as an independent province on June 18, 1966 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4695. The name of the province was derived from the word “i-pugo”. Pugo means “hill” while the prefix “i” means “from”. The Spaniards changed “Ipugo” to “Ipugaw”, and it was finally changed by the Americans to “Ifugao.”

Ifugao are the majority of the population of the province comprising about 67.9%. Other ethnic groups living in the province are the Ilocanos with 13.7%, Ikalahan with 8.6%, Ayungon with 6.2% and Kankana-ey with 0.6%. 

For the Ifugaos, custom is the basis of all laws and these customs are often supported by ancestry knowledge. One of the most basic principles of Ifugao culture is: “We cannot but do what our ancestors told us.” They have some customs and rituals that seem rather strange to the Western observers. In some areas, for instance they do not bury the dead. Instead they wrap them in cloth and hang them in trees where they drip during decomposition. Once the body has been reduced to a skeleton it is wrapped in what is called a death blanket and kept under the eaves of the hut. 

Ifugao culture revolves around rice, which is considered a prestige crop. There is an elaborate and complex array of rice culture feasts linked with taboos and agricultural rites from rice cultivation to rice consumption. Harvest season calls for extravagant thanksgiving feasts, while the concluding harvest rites “tungo” or “tungul” (the day of rest) entail a strict prohibition of any agricultural work. Partaking of the rice beer (bayah), rice cakes, and betel nut is an indelible practice during the festivities and ritual activities. 

The Banaue Rice Terraces are the main tourist attraction in the province. These 2000-year-old terraces were carved into the mountains, without the aid of machinery, to provide level steps where the natives can plant rice. In 1995, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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