Misunderstanding the notion of conservation in the Philippine rice terraces – cultural landscapes


  • Rachel Guimbatan and Teddy Baguilat Jr are both Ifugaos affiliated with the “Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement”, a federation of individuals and non-governmental organisations committed to conserving the rice terraces. Rachel is an architect pursuing an MA in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of the Philippines. Teddy is a journalist involved in consultancy work. Their interests are in knowledge management and adaptive conservation in indigenous community enclaves.
    Email: rguimbatan@yahoo.com


The outstanding natural and cultural value of the Ifugao rice terraces has generated attention and interventions that have directly and indirectly subjected the landscape to social, cultural, economic and environmental pressure. To some extent, they have also altered the perception of the local people on their heritage value and have generated an ambivalent attitude on external impositions, especially when these become an impediment to the fulfilment of their perceived needs. One important factor that has not been considered in past conservation attempts is the people's aversion to foreign restrictions. The Ifugao hierarchy of heritage values is another factor that has not been fully grasped. However, since its endangered listing in 2001, these factors have been taken into account through a conservation approach that puts premium on local wisdom and fostering cooperation among the Ifugao and other stakeholders. The approach is a work in progress, mobilised by a group of a local-based civil society organisation gradually spawning creativity and cooperation among the present generation of Ifugao stakeholders. This article presents issues in the conservation of the rice terraces and shares information on current initiatives to resolve these issues as identified by the Ifugao who are facilitating conservation work. The objective of this article is not to render judgment on failed conservation interventions in the past as a result of recognition, but to inform the outside world about the realities of managing a protected living landscape that also happens to be the enclave of an indigenous community, with the hope of generating improved approaches in the conservation of other sites of similar value.