The Banaue rice terraces in Ifugao is a natural heritage and considered as one of the eight wonders of the world. Because of its unique physical features, it has attracted local and foreign visitors. It has become a world heritage site because of its universal value. Thus, a source of pride for Filipinos. Now, it is in the brink of being delisted from the prestigious Unesco world heritage list of sites and monuments due to the fact that its integrity as a natural attraction is being disturbed by the unregulated construction of concrete houses right on the rice terraces itself. Moreover, the new generation of Ifugaos is not so keen in tilling their ancestral lands that most of them try to migrate elsewhere to seek for greener pasture.
The lack of awareness on the significance of the rice terraces and the quest for economic deliverance are contributory in Banaue’s inclusion in the endangered list of heritage sites. This is a challenge to the local government of Ifugao and the Philippine national government. The local officials of Ifugao should have relentlessly educated their constituents on the value of their ancestral lands. The history of the place, customs and traditions, and the awesome view of the rice terraces which was painstakingly etched from the mountains by their ancestors centuries ago are enough reasons to make one proud of its rich legacy and identity. The local officials should have exercised its regulatory powers in order to conserve this heritage site. The people should have realized that without Banaue rice terraces, Ifugao won’t have the kind of international recognition and distinction that it has now.
As in any other heritage site, the perennial issue is how to increase revenues through heritage conservation and improve the lives of the people. The effects of heritage conservation must trickle down to the poor. This has to be addressed in order to enlist the support of the populace. As the saying goes, “you cannot educate a hungry stomach.” Awareness and appreciation entails education.
The call of the hour is not only to save Banaue from being delisted from the UNESCO World Heritage List but to save it from natural and man-made disturbances. We should not allow the pristine and breath-taking beauty of the site to disappear forever or else the next generation will have nothing to appreciate.