The rugged mountain terrain of Luzon, Philippines holds what is known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Over the centuries, indigenous farmers carved an engineering masterpiece of integrated irrigated rice terraces into the steep mountainsides. These terraces stand in quiet testament to cultures that have resolved around rice, ecology and the relationship to the environment.

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The Banaue Rice Terraces as seen from Viewpoint on the Banaue-Bontoc National Road. Although this cluster is not one of the five UNESCO designated World Heritage sites, the terraces and the view are magnificent. In this area, the terrace walls are between 12 and 18 feet in height. Note the stairway path up the side of the mountain.

Lush riverside terraces along the “Snake” River that flows between the municipalities of Banaue and Mayoyao, Ifugao.

The terraced valley of Hapao stretches for as far as the eye can see. It is broader and flatter than the terrace areas of Banaue and Batad, but no less magnificent. The heirloom red rice, miniangan, is still grown throughout this spectacular valley.

The barangay of Lower Lubo, in the municipality of Tanudan, Kalinga, is nestled among its sprawling terraces. The farmers’ rice granaries dot the landscape and attest to the productivity of their fields. Lower Lubo can only be reached on foot after crossing the Tanudan River.

Each terrace cluster has its own unique look. The UNESCO designated cluster of Mayoyao is characterized by terraces interspersed with traditional farmers’ houses (bale) and granaries (alang).

This iconic view of the Banuae Rice Terraces has been enshrined on the Philippine’s 1000 peso bill.

The Batad Rice Terraces are among the most popular tourist destinations in Ifugao. The mountain-side has been terraced like a giant amphitheater. In 1995, the Batad Rice Terraces were among the five terrace clusters in Ifugao to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage, a living cultural landscape. The terraces are only accessible by hiking.

The “spider-web” terraces of Hapao, Hungduan area are one of the five clusters designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The walls of these terraces, as seen from the Banaue-Hungduan Road, are made of mud instead of stone.

The morning mist lifts over the terraced landscape of Lower Lubo to reveal many rice granaries, some with the traditional cogan grass roofs, but more with corrugated iron. Hanging bundles of newly harvested rice on a vertical rack are common in this part of Kalinga.

Traditionally, Kalinga villages are very compact town sites surrounded by terraces. This Tinglayan village, above the Chico River, and in the shadow of the “Sleeping Beauty” is seen from the Bontoc-Tabuk road.

The terraces are flooded year-round so that the walls do not dry out and crack. Here in Mompolia, Banaue the terrace walls are constructed of mud. The terraces paddies are cleaned and prepared prior to planting.

Spectacular stone-walled terraces are built on one side of a narrow valley, as seen along the trail leading down to the village of Batad. Tropical forests on the mountain tops hold the rain water in the soil. Eventually, the water finds its way to the surface to form small streams. These streams are diverted to flow down through the terraces, in what is still considered an engineering masterpiece.

Even the smallest area can be terraced and planted with rice. Terraces throughout the Hapao valley are marked with the red “spirit flower”, which stand watch for a plentiful harvest.

Symmetry. The terraces must be completely level in order for the water to flow down and through the the terrace cluster. In large commercial rice growing areas, this is accomplished with laser-controlled levels. Here in the Cordillera, it was done by hand, with a shovel, and a deep understanding of hydro-logical engineering. These terraces are near Lubuagan. Kalinga along the Bontoc-Tabuk road.

It’s hard to imagine the enormity of the terraces in terms of the manpower required to continuously maintain the terrace walls, and prepare, plant and harvest an annual crop of rice. Note the now cemented stairway that snakes up and through the Banuae Viewpoint terraces.

The picturesque village of Ducligan, Banaue as seen from the Banaue-Mayoyao National Road.

View of the UNESCO designated World Heritage Site Hapao Rice Terraces,  Hungduan, Ifugao from the viewing platform on the Banaue-Hungduan road. Visitors can easily walk access the terraces from the viewing platform for a walk through the terraces. A local guide is recommended.

On a calm, clear morning, the mountains surrounding Kibungan, Benguet are reflected in the flooded terraces. Many of the terraces in the Province of Benguet have been converted to vegetable farming. With a market in Baguio, several barangays in Benguet still grow their traditional heirloom rice varieties. Photo (c) H Morris.

Mayoyao rice terraces provide a breathtaking panoramic view of the villages and hamlets of Mayoyao.

The setting sun reflects off the newly planted rice terraces. The Nagacadan Rice Terraces are located at Barangay Nagacadan, Kiangan, Ifugao. The Nagacadan cluster was declared a Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1995 in recognition of its outstanding universal value. The rice terraces cover an expanse of about 150 hectares. Bisected by a river, the rice terraces appears as two distinct ascending rows.