The Batad terraces is part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, situated in the province of Ifugao in the northern part of Luzon. In 1995, the protected area of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras was added to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (UNESCO, 2014). It is the first agricultural site to be included in the list (Gullino & Larcher, 2013). The site was included in the World Heritage List because it complied with three of the six selection criteria under culture namely
i. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared
ii. to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history
iii. to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change (UNESCO, 2014)
The criteria above indicate the cultural relevance of the terraces. For more than 2000 years, the people of Ifugao have shaped and tilled the land to make an otherwise unsuitable site fit for agriculture. They have instilled laws and established practices on how to plant, manage, and sustain the terraces and its surroundings which have helped it remain unchanged before the influence of colonization in the late 1940’s (Klock, 1995).
The site is composed of five terrace clusters namely the Nagacadan, Hungduan, Mayoyao, Bangaan, and Batad terrace clusters (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2014). Batad is a tourist favourite among the five clusters. Part of its appeal is due to the amphitheatre-like appearance of its terraces that end with a cluster of huts downhill.
This research focuses on the terraces of Batad, the community, and their surroundings; how they interact with each other to produce the landscape that we see today. This research also documents how the community is coping with changes in the environment and shifting social preferences and how these in turn change the Batad landscape.
the landscape at a glance
Although the terraces are the most prominent part of Batad, the research team identified other areas that make up the overall fabric of the land: the fields, the forest, the community, and the water sources. The terraces, or the payao, are fed by a network of irrigation canals. Most of the water comes from springs and rivers in the muyong or uphill forests to which the locals tend. Below the terraces is a community where the farmers live.
The muyong, or the wood lots situated above the payao, are traditionally planted and protected by the community. Species planted in the muyong include those that are used for firewood and construction. Some species are spared from cutting altogether because locals believe that they housed spirits (Klock, 1995). In the past, cutting down these forests were considered a crime. Waterways are carved out from the muyong and diverted into the payao.
The rice fields or payao are owned by different clans. The family that owns the payao is responsible for planting and maintaining their field. This includes repairing the walls when they break. The payao are handed down from generation to generation within the same family through the eldest child. The more payao a family has, the richer it is. A row of payao is called a kasiyong.
The families who own the land live in the clusters of huts near the fields. Traditionally, they are constructed with cogon roofs over a stilted wooden structure. The huts serve as both home and granary for the locals. The lots are considered communal, with no strict boundaries to keep outsiders or neighbours out. Family lots contain the bale and small edible gardens and areas for poultry. Some lots have their own burial sites
The terraces end at the bottom of the valley where a river runs. The interaction of these biotopes gives a general picture of a self-sustaining way of life that the people of Ifugao have fostered for millennia.
a deeper look into the big picture
Many traditional bale or huts are now roofed with galvanized iron sheets. In some extreme cases, whole houses are constructed with G.I. sheets from roof to wall. People complain that such houses are uncomfortable to live in, being too hot during the day and too cold at night. The irony is that locals continue to use G.I. sheets because they are cheap and readily available as opposed to the traditional cogon roofing material. The prized cogon has become scarcer due to unknown circumstances. Even the traditional form of the bale has been replaced with two-story dwellings that can accommodate members of extended families, suitable for when the owner’s children and grandchildren come to visit.
Landslides in 2012 have caused some parts of the terrace to erode and fall off. Still, other walls are showing signs of weakening. Some locals speculate that this is due to the road construction uphill (Bahiw, through an interview). Others still are blaming the weakening to giant earthworms which were introduced to the area (Berger, 2006). Some of them were repaired with mortar and cement, non-traditional materials, through the efforts of the Department of Agriculture. The rest are left in a dilapidated state due to the shortage of people tending to the terraces. According to the locals, some of the younger people are turning their backs on farming and are being lured by the urban lifestyle in Banaue. This has left some of the payao to become abandoned and overgrown with weeds
The present condition of Batad is far from ideal. Through five days of documenting the biotopes and conducting interviews in the communities, the research team has found that problems are present in many areas. Culturally, there was a reported shift of some locals from farming rice to farming other crops or abandoning farming altogether.
The perceived decline of the landscape and the gradual loss of tradition and culture can be easily blamed on modernization. However, through interviews and observations, the researchers have found out that the situation is not as straightforward as it seemed. In the case of the G.I. sheets replacing cogon as the building material, the shift was made not out of choice but out of necessity. Cogon is scarce, and the new roads leading to Batad brings in cheaper and readily available materials. If it were up to the locals, they would still be using traditional materials and building traditional houses, but right now, that was just not feasible for many
This research aims to continue to phase 2 where the research will focus on the landscape and the people during harvest season. The results of this year’s research will be the baseline data for a long-term research on cultural landscapes of the Philippines.
Berger, S. (2006, March 3). Giant worms destroying ancient rice terraces. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/philippines/1512010/Giant-worms-destroying-ancient-rice-terraces.html
Gullino, P., & Larcher, F. (2013). Integrity in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A comparative study for rural lanscapes. Journal of Cultural Heritage , 14 , 389-395. Retrieved April 2014, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1296207412001677
Klock, J. S. (1995). Agricultural and forest policies of the american colonial regime in Ifugao territory, Luzon, Philippines 1901-1945. Philippine Quarterly of Culture & Society , 1 (23), 3-19.
National Geographic. (2014). Philippine Rice Terraces. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from National Geographic: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/philippine-rice-terraces/
UNESCO. (2014). Criteria for Selection. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (2014). Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. Retrieved April 2014, from UNESCO World Heritage Conservation: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/722
outtakes - the research team in action
This page is dedicated to the activities, publications and research done by the College over the years. It is regularly updated by UPCA's Research Program.