WHO would have thought that rice terraces, which we associate most often with Ifugao Province, exist as well in Cebu?
Cebu’s residents can see these in the mountain barangays of Argao town, whose center lies approximately 65 kilometers south of Cebu City.
The rice terraces stretch between two balete trees, which are believed to be more than 100 years old, in Barangay Butong, Argao. These are well-irrigated by a spring, which gushes from the ground near the balete trees.
To reach Barangay Butong, one has to travel for more than 20 kilometers from the town proper. Butong is one of three barangays farthest from the southern town’s center.
Josefina Sardido, 49, said it was Quintino Sardido who started the rice terraces.
When she married Tito, a grandson of Quintino, in 1982 the rice terraces already existed, she recalled. Tito’s father, Bernardo, used to plow the rice terraces.
“Naporma na nga rice terraces tungod sa area nga bakilid (The rice terraces were formed because of the terrain’s slope)... Naa may tubig ilang gimula nga mahimo og pilapilan (Since there was abundant water, they decided to build the terraces),” Josefina said.
Each layer of the rice terraces is supported by rock walls.
Josefina said the area where the rice terraces exist belonged to the grandparents of Quintino. Quintino died at the age of 101 last Sept. 24, 1983.
Eventually, Flaviano Sardido, a son of Quintino and brother of Bernardo, bought half of the land.
Currently, the rice terraces belong to the Miranda clan and Flaviano.
Crispolo Sardido, 45, also a son of Bernardo, said the water that helps the rice fields survive comes from the top of the mountain, flows down and comes out from the ground where the balete trees stand.
Crispolo said they have experienced several droughts and El Niño episodes, but the spring has not dried up.
“It was even the source of water for the different barangays during drought,” he said.
Margarito Famat, 77, said he used to work on the rice terraces when he was younger. At 12, he plowed it with the help of a carabao and earned P1.50 per day.
“Di man lisod kay naa may agianan sa kabaw. Unahon ang babaw dayon paubos (It was not hard to plow the rice terraces because there was a path for the carabao. We began by plowing the highest levels, then made our way down),” Famat said.
He said the rice terraces face the mountains named Lantoy, Suyak and Takliad.
Rep. Wilfredo Caminero (Cebu Province, second district) said that the town considers the rice terraces one of their heritage sites.
“You can see how industrious our ancestors were. If this will be touched, we will lose part of our history,” he said.
Aside from Barangay Butong, rice terraces are also cultivated in Barangay Linut-od, an adjacent village.