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2012 Study Tour in Ifugao, Philippines

ICOMOS ICTC Study Visit to the Rice Terrace of the Philippine Cordilleras in Ifugao, Philippines
12-14 November 2012

Members of the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee (ICTC) were warmly received during a visit to the Ifugao Rice Terraces World Heritage Site in November 2012. Local community members met the ICTC team with hospitality and a sincere eagerness to share the beauty and history of the region and learn from each other about cultural heritage tourism experiences. The committee worked together to develop a report as an outcome of the visit. While it is an official ICOMOS ICTC report, agreed and approved by the Bureau and ICTC membership, it is not one commissioned by ICOMOS.

The fourteen members of the ICTC and guests who visited Ifugao greatly appreciated learning about the agricultural practices and community traditions of the centuries-old rice terraces as a landscape of outstanding universal value. The rice terraces of Ifugao, nominated to the World Heritage List in 1995, are one of the first agricultural landscapes to be inscribed as such on the list. They are comprised of the Nagacadan terrace cluster in the municipality of Kiangan, the Hungduan terrace cluster, the central Mayoyao terrace cluster, the Bangaan terrace cluster in the municipality of Banaue, and the Batad terrace cluster of the municipality of Banaue.

Committee members came away impressed by the resources of the region, both cultural and natural. The landscape is very beautiful, consisting of high mountains covered by luxurious tropical vegetation and rice terraces stepping down along their flanks to the valley. The committee felt strongly that the health of the ecosystem must be a priority in all management considerations: maintenance of the forest ecosystem is essential to the long-term sustainability of the rice terraces and the way of life.

There was agreement that the potential for combining heritage tourism with conservation of the resources is high, and that local administrators have identified and are addressing many of the challenges. The need exists for continued action to ensure that resources and local communities are prepared to handle an increasing level of tourism.

While the committee saw only two of the five terrace clusters included in the World Heritage designation, it is clear that the resources are much more extensive than what we saw and that the challenges and opportunities are great. The committee clearly understood that rice growing is the critical focus of the World Heritage designation and that it is essential that it continue to be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.

The committee members appreciated meeting with Congressman Baguilat, Jr. during our visit to Vigan, and Governor Balitang, Mayor Bumangbang of Hungduan, Engineer Carmelita Buyuccan, and Planner Maribelle Dulnuan-Bimohya in Ifugao. These leaders showed great commitment to planning and management of the rice terraces for both conservation and tourism development. The committee members also met with local farmers and with numerous citizens of the region during informal encounters. There were many productive discussions about sustainable development, agricultural tourism, restoration and conservation of the terraces, economic development, and regulatory frameworks to support and manage tourism development.

The committee members are grateful to the teachers at Tungngod Elementary School for inviting us to view the children’s performance of traditional dances and the chanting of the Hudhud narrative, it was a highlight of our visit. We also wish to thank the farmers in Hungduan for inviting us to visit their agricultural workshop. There is great pride in the region shown by its citizens, which is one of its strongest assets.

ICTC Site Visit Committee Members and Guests 
Suzanne Bott, ICTC Bureau, (USA) 
Miriam Bott (Guest - USA) 
Sharon Brown (N. Ireland) 
Jim Donovan (USA) 
Torbjørn Eggen (Norway) 
Ivan Henares (Philippines) 
Ian Kelly (Australia) 
Christiane Lefebvre (Canada) 
Mette L’orange (Guest-Norway) 
Ivan Man Dy (Philippines) 
Celia Martínez Yáñez (Spain) 
Patricia O’Donnell (USA) 
Alan Oliver (N. Ireland) 
Michèle Prats (France)