Terraces, Tinawon, and Muyung-A A +A
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
CARVED into the mountains looking like giant steps up to the sky, the Ifugao terraces continue to lure both local and foreign tourists. The fields look more grandiose when they are green with rice planted on them. Literature has it that when the dikes would be put together end to end, the length would encircle half the circumference of planet Earth. That would perhaps be the sphere that knows the terraces but the popularity may not be sustained unless there is another attraction to complement. It is a lot of help that travel from vacation hub Baguio City is cut short via the scenic routes - Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya-Ifugao and Baguio-Bontoc-Banaue. Also, the proximity of mystic Sagada appeals to a dual destination trip. But the Rice Terraces tourism should be shining on its own and sustainable.
Uniquely aromatic and flavorful, the rice raised on the terraces, generally known as Tinawon, may well be a boost. But for local restaurants to have it as an enticement to guests is limited by the scarcity of the produce. To this day, a one-per-year cropping system is still followed for this native rice variety. This is of course commendable because such practice is a time tested method of preserving the land, therefore encouraging sustainability. The alternative is to produce in-demand products that promotes rice as an ingredient but requires less of it. One such product is wine which even the ancestors have a technology for it. Of course the kind that lets a drinker wake up only after the third day from drinking is not appealing to tourists but the pasteurized, neatly packaged and transportable ones will. There are entrepreneurs who ventured on this but must be aggressively duplicated. In that way, competition will encourage enhancement of quality and furtherance of innovations.
Also closely related to the terraces and can boost up its fame are the trees. Ifugao has a distinct indigenous system of forest management that allows water to flow into the terraces to supply the needs of the water exhaustive Tinawon and edible fish and snails living in the pond field even during the dry season (referred to in the local language as tiyalgo). This is known in contemporary writings as the muyung system. In this scheme, a muyung (forest) or parcel of a forested area, often atop the terraced portion of the mountains or hills is entrusted to a household. It often goes with a field or a portion of field when it is transferred from parents to their children thru inheritance. Aside from the water that wells from the muyung, it is also a source for food, firewood, lumber for housing, herbs for medicines and pesticides for the rice fields, but the possessor/inheritor must make sure that diversity of the ecosystem is maintained and regeneration of trees is allowed. With the varied uses and the likelihood that a tree more fitted to a particular one, the Ifugao forest is typically an assortment of trees. Some examples are the Lungi and Palayon often associated to firewood, and the Tuwol, Bultic, and Udyo often associated to lumber for housing.
Other local names include the Daluttadit, Pole, Hanguwon, Balittiyon, and even Dulnuan (which also is a common surname in Ifugao). This diversity of trees plus its role to the terraces makes it a potential for ecotourism. Tourists would probably love to walk-through the forest.
A crucial element would be the people, or specifically their attitude.
The forebears have not been remiss in making sure that the present generation will be able to see the terraces and the forests. They were not selfish in seeking gains for their generation only but made sure that the land is passed in excellent condition to the next. They considered it as wealth itself needing preservation not as mere source of economic benefit. They grew real food, medicine, and other needs from it without forcing it to bear money too. Because of them, the land had something to share to the world. Their ways need to be replicated to ensure that land will continue and sustainably share the terraces and with all being well, the rice (wine) and trees.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 24, 2013.