Saving the Ifugao Rice Terraces

Democratized profit

Amidst these, “stakeholders” of the rice terraces want profits democratized for their benefit, Baguilat said.

Ifugao tourism “must be democratized” so that profit from it should trickle down to the villages, apparently taunting the past when the rice terraces re regarded as “aesthetic beauty without the people,” the governor said.

He said that extreme economic difficulties (in the province) are forcing rice farmers and the next generation of “caretakers” of the terraces to “migrate” for greener pastures. Thus, many of the terraces are left unattended.

Government should look into the facet, Baguilat said, of the sustainability question and not merely structural like irrigation and stonewalls repair.

Earlier, UNESCO Commissioner Carmen Padilla “threatened” that the famous man-made rice terraces carved majestically over Ifugao mountains might no longer be a world heritage site if efforts fail to restore its natural grandeur in two years.

“The problem is whose generation will be maintaining the terraces,” the governor said. “Who would be the next rice terraces’ farmers?”

“Cultural revolution”

Baguilat said a re-education of the next generation towards culture and identity embedded within the rice terraces. He said there is a need to inculcate in them a sense of belonging to the tribe and of being “caretakers of the “ancestral heritage.” He called this process a “cultural revolution.”

The Ifugao people, who are actually the stakeholders of the Heritage Site, must unify in maintaining the terraces as an agricultural land for food sustenance and as a source of identity and pride as a people, he said.

The national government, he said, must also learn along these lines and not look at the Ifugao Rice Terraces solely in terms of its tourism value.

The governor reiterated that ultimately, it is the Ifugao people who must decide on the future of the rice terraces.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces are in the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, together 32 other endangered World Heritage Sites.

Halip said that interested participants of the “once in a lifetime experience of planting rice in the world famous rice terraces, can log on to SITMo’s website //www.sitmo.ueuo.com. Contributed to (Bulatlat.com)

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