If you say ‘rice terraces’ to a Filipino, they’re likely going to think of Banaue. Lipped in on all sides by fuzzy green steps, Banaue is directly accessible from Manila, and as such it is no idyllic getaway like Sagada. But don’t give Banaue grief. The local mud-walled rice terraces have a pleasing, organic quality that differentiates them from the stone-walled terraces in most of the Cordillera. World Heritage listed, they are impressive not only for their chiselled beauty but because they were created around 2000 years ago.
The Ifugao, once headhunters, built the terraces and were as skilled at carving wood as they were at carving terraces. Their carved bulol statues are a Philippine icon, albeit a misunderstood one: bulol are rice guards, not rice gods, as many would have you believe.
While Banaue remains the centre of the rich Ifugao culture, tourism now shapes the town. Fortunately, it’s easy to leave the tourists behind by escaping to villages like Batad, which have their own incredible rice terraces.