Charlie, a farmer, stepped out of his house early Thursday in G-string to await visitors who may hold the future of the rice terraces in their hands.
More than 200 amateur photographers converged in this tourist town, some coming from as far as typhoon-ravaged Cagayan de Oro City, to pick up shovels and help rebuild some of the damaged Batad rice terraces on which farmers rely.
They were drawn here by photographer John Chua, who mounted a photo safari and a “photo eskela” (photography school) to raise their awareness about the plight of Ifugao’s centuries-old terraces, which have eroded through years of unusually harsh monsoon rains.
They were quickly shown the damaged terraces and were asked to dig up trenches where the stonewall foundations would be erected.
They took turns photographing the efforts. These would be uploaded later in online and other social networking sites to show to the world the conditions of the terraces, Chua said.
Residents showed up in their finest traditional garb to welcome the volunteers to the first official “Bachang,” a cooperation program mounted by the provincial government to synchronize donations and support for the restoration work.
Bachang’s first task was to focus attention to the amphitheater-like terraces of Batad, one of five terrace clusters in four Ifugao towns which were enshrined in 1995 as World Heritage Sites, according to Governor Eugene Balitang.
To reach the damaged areas, the volunteers had to hike for an hour. Many complained of leg cramps as soon as they reached their destination, but they shrugged this off and quickly went to work.
The photographers represented the Pinoy Photography.org, Black Pencil Project, Canon Advocacy Team, Canon ICP Group, Tsu Tsi Foundation from Zamboanga, Cebu Images Camera Club, and the Federation of Philippine Photographers.
Jollibee Food Corp. sent its mascot to Banaue as part of its commitment to support the restoration project. Richard Balonglong, with a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon