Maligcong Rice Terraces: Bontoc’s Gem Aims for National Cultural Treasure Status

Maligcong Rice Terraces National Cultural Treasure
The Maligcong Rice Terraces are contenders for the highly-coveted National Cultural Treasure title. NCCA photo.

The majestic Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc, Mountain Province is eyeing the distinguished honor of becoming a certified National Cultural Treasure, the same status held by the world-renowned Ifugao Rice Terraces. Gracing the northern part of the Philippines, the expansive terraced fields, carved gracefully into the Kupapey mountainside, stand as a testimony to the rich Cordilleran culture, beckoning both the young and the old to embrace a heritage rooted in community and harmonious living with the land.

The Maligcong Rice Terraces are known for their traditional agricultural systems and stunning stone walls. It is comprised of 1,160 hectares overall, taking up three-fourths of the Kupapey mountainside. Previously, it was nominated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes.

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In a step towards the site’s national recognition and preservation, the National Commission of Culture and Arts (NCCA) issued a Notice to the Public on September 5, 2023, recognizing the Bontoc municipal local government’s petition dated August 4, for the NCCA to bestow the title that recognizes places with “outstanding historical, cultural, artistic, and/or scientific value”.

Under the National Cultural Heritage Act, a National Cultural Treasure is a “unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation”. All national cultural treasures are entitled to government funding for conservation and an official heritage marker.

“Since time immemorial rice [has been] the main crop of the natives of Maligcong. They managed to build their own rice fields which resulted in the creation of the rice terraces,” the Municipal Local Government of Bontoc said in its petition to declare the Maligcong Rice Terraces a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines.

“The Maligcong Rice Terraces was built by the strong and firm hands of our forefathers. Their sweat and blood form part in the creation of this wonderful masterpiece. The stones they used to pile up and create the fields are still intact,” the local government stated. The people of Maligcong have also restored the classic stone fields of the terraces even as natural calamities destroyed them.

“The field stone walls are exemplary examples of vernacular unreinforced slope protection systems paired with practical irrigation systems of the Cordillera people,” the local government in Mountain Province reiterated.

Beyond natural landscapes, the local government also highlighted the community life of the local people in its petition. “The structures of the village proper of Maligcong Rice Terraces are archetypes of folk architecture of the Bontok people. The strong sense of culture and tradition unites the local community, preserving Maligcong as an unspoiled sanctuary amidst the ever-changing tides of modernization.”

Last February 2023, the NCCA conducted an evaluation of the site prior to the Bontoc government’s submission of its petition which argued that the destination’s history, structural form, management, function, and building technology, among others, were of high significance. The NCCA then recommended the local government to submit the petition for the terraces’ declaration.

In its Notice to the Public, the NCCA announced that the period of submission for positions of those who support or oppose the filed petition is until September 30.

Check out the other brilliant National Cultural Treasures throughout the country! In 2021, the Quezon Memorial Shrine was given the prestigious title. That year, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu Church and the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu were also granted National Cultural Treasure status.

Celebrate the rich narrative and stunning vistas of the Maligcong Rice Terraces by SHARING THIS ARTICLE with friends, family, and fellow advocates of Filipino heritage. Let’s join hands in spreading the word and encouraging a groundswell of support for its nomination as a National Cultural Treasure. Let’s make history together – share now!

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Summer is a political science student with a twin passion for journalism. Her hobbies include watching geography documentaries, searching the metro for plant-based food, and free-falling through Wikipedia rabbit holes. Her works have previously been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.