Banaue Rice Terraces

Often called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, although there seem to be a lot of those, these spectacular mud-walled rice terraces were constructed more than 1,000 years ago and rise to heights of more than 1,000 meters. They are located in northern Luzon in the Philippines and were built by the Ifugao people, who were once feared head-hunters in addition to being skilled engineers.

I was working as a visiting professor at Kangweon University in Chuncheon, Korea, and had 2 ½ months of paid winter break. Korea’s winters are extremely cold, and I had nothing much to do during the break, so we flew to the Philippines for an extended vacation. After six weeks on the island of Boracay, which was still a paradise at that time, beautiful sunsets every evening and a fantastic beach, we were up for a bit of adventure and seeing something else of the country.

We first went to Sagada, a long 12-hour bus ride with a change of buses from Manila. Locals put on a song and dance show for the few tourists, and we were glad to pay a paltry sum to watch it and help them preserve their culture.

However, we went there was for some hiking and to visit the Lumiang Burial Cave, where approx. 100 coffins are stacked, the oldest of which is perhaps 500 years old.

Some were strangely open and empty

There are also the handing coffins of Sagada nearby in Echo Valley. It was believed that the higher one was buried, i.e., had his coffin hung, the better the chances of reaching some kind of higher state.  

Another long bus ride to Banaue due to the poor roads at the time. The weather there was cool and rainy, quite a contrast to the warm, sunny days on Boracay, but the trip was more than worth it.

The area is also famous for its wood carvings, statues designed to guard the rice fields, as well as their cloth and basket weaving.

We stayed a couple of days there and then headed to the nearby Batad, a lot more isolated and with amphitheater-structured rice terraces.

Okay, these people were dressed in traditional Ifugao gear simply to make a few pesos, but we felt they deserved it given the flimsy clothing in such weather.

A tourist with a couple of her purchases

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