Among the world heritage sites in the Philippines, the Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordilleras have such a powerful presence that makes them one of the most outstanding places in the country. Lying high in the Cordillera mountain range, their setting cannot be replicated anywhere in the lowland tropical landscape of the Philippines – or even anywhere in the world, for that matter.
High in the remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range, scholars believe, slopes have been terraced and planted with rice as far back as 2,000 years. Mountains terraced into paddies that still survive in varying states of conservation are spread over most of the 20,000 square-kilometer land area (7 percent of the total land mass of the Philippine Archipelago) that is in the Northern Luzon provinces of Kalinga–Apayao, Abra, Benguet and Ifugao. The improbable site is found at altitudes varying from 700 to 1,500 meters above sea level, where terraces are sliced into mountain slopes with contours that rise steeply.
Existence in the Cordillera unites man with nature, and the unparalleled view shows how man has shaped the landscape to allow him to grow rice. The sheer majesty of the terraces communicates uniqueness and strength. Besides wind and rustling leaves, there is also the constant sound of water flowing downhill on the canals that irrigate the terraces. And there is nobleness in culture and environment expressed by the timeless tranquillity of the terraces. Most Filipinos regard the terraces as their greatest national symbol.