(Continued from yesterday)
HAPAO, Ifugao—Traditionally, women here are the ones who “move mountains”—the ones who toil on the rice terraces, working on the cultivation, planting, weeding, and harvesting of their fields. The men repair the rice terrace walls, clean the fields before planting, and carry the bundles of harvested rice from the fields to the storage areas.
But for longtime resident Gloria Belange, since all four of her children refused to help her and husband Noel toil on the rice fields, she said they decided to hire 15 men and women to help them work on their field.
It costs the Belanges P250 to hire each woman, and P300 for each man—lower than the minimum daily wage prescribed for the Cordillera Autonomous Region, but a king’s ransom for a traditional Ifugao family that tries mightily to make ends meet.
When asked if one of her kids would take over the farm once they can no longer work on the terraces, Gloria said she is doubtful.
“I hope they would continue this,” she wished on the vernacular.
That’s why she is encouraging her granddaughter, 17-year-old Candice, who lives with Gloria, to help her in the fields after school.
“I hope all my grandchildren are inspired to farm,” Gloria added.
But Candice only smiled at her grandmother’s wish while doodling on her cellphone.
The situation of the Belanges and 90-year-old village elder Innug, a spinster who still tills the land, is one of the concerns of the local government, where the native Ifugaos who have farmed on the rice terraces are slowly becoming extinct, and their children are being lured into the modern world and its white-collar pursuits.
Many LGUs in the Cordillera have lamented that since younger Ifugaos are exposed to modern realities, technology and urban living, they have opted to work in the city or abroad to earn more money. As a consequence, the preservation of the Banaue rice terraces—widely known as the Eighth Wonder of the World and a Unesco World Heritage site—is slowly fading into oblivion.
Tourism Promotions Board marketing specialist Albert Gadia said a law was enacted this year to enhance the protection and preservation of the Rice Terraces.
“The National Government has enacted a law on Farm Tourism for them [Ifugao tribes and their children] to embrace the importance of farming,” he said.
On March 24, 2012, Gadia said the government established Indigenous Knowledge Schools in local communities. In the Cordillera Autonomous Region, for instance, the Gohang National High School: School for the Conservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces was founded in 2012 for indigenous students who are being taught the importance of sustainable farming and protecting and conserving the rice terraces.
This way, Gadia said, future generations will be encouraged to continue farming the rice terraces and prevent it from turning into “jungle terraces.”
(To be continued