2016 Open Air Museum in Ifugao presents culture, sustains native rice planting
“Open Air Museum in Ifugao presents culture, sustains native rice planting”
KIANGAN, Ifugao — There is an Open Air Museum here which presents a landscape of Ifugao culture to visitors, as well as provides a venue to sustain the traditional rice growing culture of the locals.
Opened in 2014, the Open Air Museum at the Nagacadan Rice Terraces has attracted more than the usual number of tourists in this part of the Cordillera Region, making tourism a major source of the town’s income, next to agriculture.
The Nagacadan Rice Terraces is the fifth World Heritage Site in the Cordillera Region, declared by the UNESCO in 1995 as an outstanding example of living cultural landscapes.
The transformation of this site,known as the top producer of the Tinawon rice variety, is extraordinary. In 2001, the Nagacadan Terraces was named by the UNESCO as an endangered site due to neglect. The farmers had abandoned the rice fields to migrate to the lowlands due to lack of irrigation system which made it difficult to grow the Tinawon native rice variety in the area.
In 2010, Mayor Guyguyon, then on his third term, initiated moves to “bring back the former glory of the Tinawon rice,” meeting with farmers who abandoned their ricefields and getting the cooperation of Governor Eugene Balitang and Congressman Teddy Baguilat,Jr., a native of Kiangan. All moves were aimed to revive the Nagacadan Rice Terraces which sprawls over an area of 160 hectares.
Seeing the development work on the site, the UNESCO removed the terraces from its list of endangered sites in 2012.
Now transformed, the Open Air Museum has become part of the terraces, covering areas in sitios Bilong, Pau, Bayninan, Onnop and Wingoyon. There, tourists can experience the traditional way of planting and harvesting indigenous rice for a fee of only P350 per visitor.
Today, it is considered a “living cultural landscape” where the local community can continue the growing of Tinawon rice variety. In the last harvest season, the Nagacadan Terraces produced 80,000 cavans of the native rice. This is expected to further increase with the irrigation facilities now being installed on the abandoned ricefields to encourage locals to go plant native rice again.
Kiangan is the oldest town in the province of Ifugao, where the Japanese Imperial Army led by General Tomoyuke Yamashita had established a base during the Second World War.
Municipal Tourism Officer Eulalie Dulnuan said that Ifugao aims to boost its tourism which iprovides an added source of income, but its primary vision is to continue the rice planting culture that connects the people to their roots.The practice is also seen as a way to support the government’s goal on rice sustainability.
The Tinawon rice is a single-crop variety which takes most of the year to grow and requires much water. The low yield has pushed the farmers to seek other livelihood opportunities in the lowlands. Records show that there are only 133 males and 99 females engaged in Tinawon rice farming.
Open Air Museums young as five
Mayor Guyguyon introduced the idea of an open air museum in 2013 to provide tourists with another way of experiencing the culture through rice planning and harvesting.
The presence of the terraces and the planting practice were combined to make the Nagacadan Terraces a tourist destination in Ifugao.
Guyguyon said that with the help of Ford Foundation and the United Nations, a fund of P1.2 million was given to Kiangan for rehabilitation and development programs for the Open Air Museum.
Since the opening of the Open Air Museum in 2014 and with the inclusion of the place in the town’s development plan, irrigation projects were also put in place, prompting farmers to return to Kiangan and plant the tinawon rice variety.
Municipal Tourism Officer Eulalie Dulnuan said that for a fee of P350 per person, tourists can enjoy an extraordinary experience at the Open Air Museum. Well- trained tour guides will lead the visitors on a three-kilometers walk over the unique landscape of Nagacadan. At the sitios, they will be met by local residents who perform cultural presentations, and invite them to native houses which now serve as galleries showing artifacts of the rich culture and traditions of the village people.
The Open Air Museum board of directors is led by Barangay Captain Jimmy Cudiangon. The villagers have been designated and have accepted the responsibility of pursuing the living museum for tourism purposes and for sustained native rice production.