Banaue Rice Terraces Philippines

Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by the way that humankind has managed to conquer nature and transform Mother Earth in order to suit human needs.

It is relatively easy to understand how, with modern techniques and technology, we have been able to undertake massive engineering feats such as the building of dams, but one thing that I find very impressive is how our ancient forebears were able to use primitive tolls and sheer hard work in order to carve out an good existence in an otherwise difficult landscape.

One such example of humankind’s ingenuity is the Banaue Rice terraces on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Humans have been toiling for about two thousand years o the steep slopes of the Ilfugao Mountains of northern Luzon in order to grow rice, one of their most important staple foods. Rice needs a flat, moist area on which to grow, and their solution was to carve terraces into the sides of the mountains and to create an elaborate system of water channels in order to irrigate their crops.

What is most impressive about the Banaue rice terraces is the sheer size of the endeavour, as the terraces clamber up the sides of the mountains on a massive scale.

These terraces are built on steeper slopes and reach a higher altitude than most other terraces in the world. The terraces reach a height of approximately 1500 metres (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometres (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. They are the culmination of two millennia of toil, and they have been worked by many generations of the same families.

Because of the altitude the climate is much cooler than elsewhere in the Philippines, so tourists have been attracted to the area for many years. The mountains have been a magnet for others who wish to enjoy the cooler climes and also to experience the majesty of such an amazing network of terraces.

The distance to the capital, Manila is over 330 kilometres and there are regular bus services connecting the two places. Sometimes these services are not always direct, and may deviate to the towns of Baguio and Bontoc on the way. There are also buses from Manila to the town of Solano, where it is possible to hire a jeepney to complete the journey. Jeepneys are garish overly-decorated remnants of elongated jeeps that have been turned into local buses, which are now common on the local roads, and which should be tried out at least once by anyone with a death wish who visits the Philippines.

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