Rice Terraces

Terraced pond fields were built primarily to sustain rice as food supply. Rice was preferred because it can be stored for a longer period of time compared to rootcrops.
Rice cultivation paved way for food sustainability and it marked a period in their history when they permanently settled in mountain habitations and villages.
Rice, with more than 100 varieties, was grown ritually in the Cordilleras and each group had developed their distinct rice culture.
This is manifested in the objects they produced, using raw materials from the forests. While rice terracing is a shared practice amongst groups in the Cordillera region, it was the terraces of the Ifugaos that caught the attention of foreign observers and scholars beginning the 19th century.

Memoirs, accounts, photographs and publications have often highlighted a magnificent description of the Ifugao terraces. The “Ifugao rice terraces” was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. These rice terraces were built by their ancestors for several generations and such history is recorded in their rice rituals and ancestor worship. Rice terraces are primary properties because these are the most productive of all properties. In the past, rice production was linked to ritualized headtaking practiced in the Cordilleras. Headtaking was practiced to confer with the mystical worlds of ancestral spirits and gain benefits of high rice yield. As the succeeding generations of Igorots stopped practicing this, some of the stories of successful headtaking activities remained invoked in present day rituals.

Text: Prof. Dr. Leah Abayao