At the heart of mainland Luzon is the neatly-carved, giant stairway to the sky called Ifugao Rice Terraces. A tapestry that draped the Cordillera Mountain Range, the rice terraces are a sprawling 20,000-hectare agricultural and engineering marvel. Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, the terraces majestically rise from the bottom of the valleys of Cordillera to about 1,000 meters above sea level, thus, literally becoming a stairway to heaven.
The Ifugao Rice Terraces can be considered as the greatest architectural and engineering feat in the world. It is the only Philippine monument constructed without any foreign influence or intervention, and without enforced labor of any kind. It was diligently and masterfully planned and executed and that was even before formal agricultural and engineering schools were established and tools and technologies were easily available. With only bare hands and primitive tools to utilize with, they have painstakingly sculpted the imposing slopes of the Cordilleras. Its irrigation system is in itself another marvel and has remained effective to this day.
It is the only world’s wonder that sought the preservation of life, humanity and the environment. The wonders of the ancient and medieval times can be considered as places of pagan worship like the Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus, futile veneration to the dead and the immortals like the Pyramids of Giza, where bloodshed was glorified like the Colosseum of Rome.
The original proponents may have been scorned on their grand plan; and their subjects may have even scoffed at the idea. But the construction of the terraces marked the height of agricultural revolution and of the Philippine society. The terraces were strategically angled so that the recipients will get maximum exposure to sunlight. The ingenious sharing of water from the top down to the foothills is more than a near-perfect art. Both were testaments of fair and equitable system of community life. They never took more than they needed.
The builders of the terraces pioneered homestead settlements in this side of the earth. With the terraces, they no longer need to constantly transfer from one place to another in search for food. They also exemplified the virtues of a great Filipino: stewardship of resources, spirit of excellence, bayanihan spirit, and visionary.