The steep mountainous terrain of northern Luzon was not an impediment for the Ifugao people who settled there millennia ago. From the heavily forested slopes, they carved out multileveled terraces for rice cultivation and dug an ingenious network of irrigation channels from forest water sources. These expertly rendered “structures” of agricultural engineering continue to function, producing rice for personal subsistence rather than commercial sale. But natural and man-made factors now threaten the existence of this living cultural landscape. For many Ifugao people, the traditional rice terraces no longer satisfy their economic or culinary needs. As the landscape continues to lose its importance in daily life, the young Ifugao have become increasingly indifferent to its survival and conservation. Much of the indigenous irrigation system has been destroyed through seepage and landslides, and terrace walls have been eroded by burrowing giant earthworms spawned by El Niño. An agricultural management program needs to be established to restore and preserve the rice terraces, followed by a community awareness campaign to highlight the great cultural and economic legacy of the terraces.
The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras have been declared an endangered site by the World Monuments Watch.