Known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Banaue Rice Terraces is perhaps one of the few and shining examples of collective action or effort in the Philippines that was carried out in the spirit of doing something positive for the community and not purely for individual gain (Are the people in Malacanang reading this?).
A masterful engineering feat, these more than 2,000-year-old sprawling man-made structure is carved and hewn by hand from the mountainside by the indigenous Ifugao tribes of the Cordillera mountains in northern Philippines.
Rising more than 1,500 meters above sea level, the terraces are best viewed after the rice planting season when the growing rice is greenest. The bad news is that more and more Ifugao farmers are moving to the cities in search of work, and maintaing the irrigation system and the complex network of rice paddies require not only extensive manpower but also the continuous transfer of skills and techniques to the current generation.
The next time we Filipinos go to the voting booth on election day, we should ask ourselves what the aspiring candidates are actually doing for indigenous tribes like the Ifugaos and their communities.
And perhaps if these same candidates- if elected (God forbid!)- don’t fulfill or renege on their promises (like what many politicians are inclined to do), we should device a system for them to climb to the highest rice paddy in Banaue, face the 5,000 feet plunge down the mountainside and make them decide right there and then to either walk-the-walk or talk-the-talk.
Mabuhay ang Ifugao!