By: Glo Abaeo Tuazon
Banaue, Ifugao. Going back on his earlier promise to help restore some of the tourist attractions in the country, Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Alberto A. Lim flew to Banaue, Ifugao on board a chopper to meet with the officials and other tourism officers of the Cordillera Administrative Region last October 15, 2010. Priority issue during the meeting was the ceremonial turn over of the “food for work” program to 4 recipient municipalities of Ifugao covered under the UNESCO Heritage Sites. The 1500 cavans of rice will be given to people who would work to restore the crumbling rice terraces walls or those that have fallen to neglect. Of that 600 cavans went to Banaue, 300 cavans to Kiangan, 300 cavans to Mayoyao and 300 to Hungduan. The restoration is a needed step so that the terraces of Ifugao will not be delisted from the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
It is well remembered that Cong. Teodoro B. Baguilat Jr. during his term as governor worked hard for the inclusion of the terraces in the UNESCO list and also did immense measures thru the Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office (ICHO) to study the many facets of the age old structures. While in disastrous condition or in neglect, the Ifugao terraces was given 10 years from 2001 to 2011 to uplift and be able to cope up with the Outstanding Universal Value needed to maintain its slot on the UNESCO list. Efforts were undertaken in a regional, provincial, municipal and even to the barangay level to assure that everything is taken cared of. The municipals included are Hungduan, Banaue, Mayoyao and Kiangan.
Taking the cue and study from here, Sec. Lim was taken on a tour to one of the terraces at barangay Viewpoint by Ifugao Gov. Eugene Balitang with DOT-CAR Dir. Pura S. Molintas, Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog and other officers and officials. In his stead Gov. Balitang said he will be closely monitoring the restoration to hopefully restore them to their former glories. Lim on the other hand said he immensely appreciated the site saying it is the very first time he saw it firsthand as well as the first time he has ever set foot in Ifugao. The view gave him more reason to push on with the rehabilitation projects. In his words, the cluster of Ifugao terraces is one of the icons of Philippine Tourism. As such, the European countries perceive the edifice the way they were and that is one of the reasons why they must be preserved to be able to entice more tourist visits. Not to spoil the people with dole-outs, the Tourism Department decided to fund food for work instead of cash incentives. The rice will serve as incentives to those who would be working on all the destroyed or abandoned terraces to transform it once again into workable and productive spaces.