To go with AFP story: Philippines-culture-heritage-agriculture, FEATURE by Karl Malakunas In this photo taken on April 28, 2015 shows houses sitting amid rice terraces on a mountainside in Mayoyao, Ifugao province, part of the spectacular region in the northern Philippines that is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The region is famed for its beauty, a vibrant tribal culture and ingenious farming techniques invented 2,000 years ago. But it is all under threat as the powerful forces of modernity start to penetrate. AFP PHOTO / KARL MALAKUNAS


One of the most precious heritage sites of the Philippines is the famous Rice Terraces of Cordillera. The paddy field stairs were built over 2,000 years ago and it is the highest rice field in Asia.

The Ifugaos have been keeping this cultural landscape safe for many years, using only natural means to grow their rice and other crops, without pesticides. Despite this amazing care for nature and harmony, the Ifugaos are sad to say that the rice steps are now facing a serious threat, and the threat is modernization.

Photo Source: Wikki Commons

While modern development should be beneficial for farmers everywhere, there are some unmanaged developments happening in Cordillera. The rapid pace of these developments is affecting the rice steppes, even the traditional lifestyle of the Ifugaos.

Two generations ago, the Ifugao village looked the same way as centuries past but now you will find that some now have houses made of tin and shambles, like those you would find in squatters’ area. They also now use diesel vehicles that belch black smoke making pollution imminent. Even the young ones are being “destructive” in a way, according to adults, since they have grown lazier since the introduction of the internet and the TV.

Photo Source: AFP News

More farmers are starting to encounter a growing number of pests. This includes the giant earthworm known as the Indonesian earthworm. Its burrowing activity is damaging the rice terraces’ structure and have already cause some steps to collapse.

If these issues persist, the rice terraces could very well end up being just steps of grass. Still, the locals are doing their best to prevent modernization from overrunning their lifestyle and destroying one of the most beautiful heritage sites of the country. In the end, the fate of the famous rice terraces is ultimately in the hands of the Ifugaos.

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