Historians agree that the rice terraces of Banaue were built by the original inhabitants of the rugged mountain. The geographical terrain of the land made it impossible for the settlers to produce their basic needs and have enough food for everybody. Thus, they had to devise ways and means to meet their needs. With every strength, they manually terraced the mountainside in order to maximize their agricultural land. This engineering and architectural feat has overwhelmed the great minds of our generation. This is compared to the Great Pyramids of Egypt. However, the distinction lies that, the Pyramids were forcibly built by slaves whereas the terraces were built by the motivation and love of ordinary men. No less than the UNESCO declared the Banaue Rice Terraces as a world heritage.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Banaue Rice Terraces is not composed of only one but rather four main terraces in different locations. These are the Batad, Bangaan, View Point and Hapao rice terraces. They are named after the barangays where they can be seen.
The most prominent of these is the Batad rice terraces. For those who haven’t been to Banaue, the rice terraces were featured in the movie “Mumbaki”. The “stairway to heaven” features the ingenuity of the first inhabitants as one can see the literal terrace from the top of the mountain until the floor of the valley. Nestled in the center of the Batad rice terraces lies a village where the main source of living is obviously farming. Aside from tilling the land, the villagers showcase their craftsmanship through wood carvings and weaving which is a major tourist destination. Going to Batad is not for the “weak of knees”. After a bumpy two-hour jitney ride from Poblacion to Batad junction, one has to brace another two hours hiking before reaching the actual view. However, if one wants to see another attraction, one has to hike an extra hour to see the fifty-meter high “Tappiya” waterfalls. The water comes from the same source which irrigates the whole mountainside. One cannot help but be amazed by the scenery.
When it comes to beauty and grandeur, the Bangaan rice terraces are not left behind. Ten more minutes of bumpy ride from the Batad junction, one can already view the actual terrace without having to hike. It’s not an accident that they named the placed as such because the terrace is shaped like a pot. Thus, in our dialect, it is termed “banga”. Much like its neighboring terraces, it also plays a major role in providing the basic needs of its surrounding village.
If one is not prepared for physical burden, then, the ViewPoint rice terraces is the most appropriate destination. This is located after a relaxing twenty-five-minute ride from Poblacion. The actual rice terraces can be seen along the highway which connects Bontoc and Banaue. Due to its accessibility, it is the most frequently visited scenery. Souvenirs such as wood carvings, weaved wall decors, necklaces and T-shirts printed with ethnic designs are found here.
Last but not the least is the Hapao rice terraces. Tourists, hikers and mountain climbers alike go there because it offers a variety of attractions such as a hot spring and a scenic mountain aside from the terrace. It is one and a half hour away from View Point.
Visiting these four magnificent rice terraces can be completed within two days. Most tourist guides suggest going first to Hapao then going all the way to Batad and spending a night there. In the next day, the route is from Batad to Bangaan then backtracking to Poblacion for lunch or snack, then lastly to View Point for the souvenirs.