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Multimillion international symphonic composition contest launched to save Banaue Rice Terraces

Organized by Madame How of Universal Harvester and To Farm indie film fest, the music contest seeks to raise local and international awareness on threats facing the ancient terraces, inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage List
/ 06:00 AM March 12, 2018

Press conference at Shangri- La Manila in Makati: Luchie Roque, Chino Toledo, Milagros Ong-How, retired General Jaime delos Santos, Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog

An international symphonic competition has been organized to highlight efforts at preserving the Banaue Rice Terraces.  

Banaue Rice Terraces —PHOTOS BY LYN RILLON

Sponsored by Universal Harvester Inc., with the Municipality of Banaue, the tilt seeks to give tribute to the music and culture of rice-farming communities living around the terraces.


Contest organizer and sponsor Madame How

The  International Symphonic Competition for Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration was announced in a press conference hosted by Universal Harvester at the Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La hotel.

The rice terraces, which consist of five clusters in Banaue and Kiangan municipalities, are considered a cultural and natural heritage. They are inscribed in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as the “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.”


Josefino “Chino” Toledo, Banaue contest director, playing Cordillera flute.

Because of its Unesco inscription, the terraces have become a source of national pride and an internationally renowned tourist attraction.

Built through ingenious indigenous engineering some five centuries ago, the terraces have survived to this day. Rainwater is allowed to flow through the terraces that snake around 10,300 square kilometers following the natural contours of the mountains to irrigate rice plantations.

Retired General Jaime delos Santos, Banaue conservation volunteer


Today, the terraces are threatened by natural phenomena such as landslides, overpopulation and dwindling  agricultural manpower.

For its corporate social responsibility program, Universal Harvester has put up the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project headed by  retired General Jaime delos Santos.

In the press conference, Delos Santos introduced himself as a restoration volunteer and informed the media that the project aimed to “restore, conserve and preserve” the terraces through private and public collaboration.

Santos explained some 49 hectares had been identified for restoration and, as of last year, 16.34 hectares had been cleared and restored.


Photos highlighting the transformation were projected on the screen.

Santos said foreign scientists had been enlisted to provide technical assistance.

Meanwhile, Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog said the local government had involved the community to make them a stakeholder in the restoration.

The approach likewise focused on “the cultural aspect… the soul” of the matter. This should mean preserving the musical-cultural heritage of Banaue and Kiangan as “the people’s living tradition,” said composer-conductor, Josefino  “Chino” Toledo, competition director.

Toledo said the contest seeks to generate symphonic works built around Banaue. He cited famous compositions that form part of the worldwide musical-cultural consciousness such as Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” and Smetana’s “ The Moldau,” which have immortalized rivers in Germany and the Czech Republic, respectively.

Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group perform Ifugao music during press con at Makati Shangri-La.


The international composition contest is the brainchild of Dr. Milagros Ong-How, executive vice president of United Harvester.

Known in show business circles as “Madame How,” the Universal Harvester executive is also the visionary  woman behind To Farm, the indie film festival which funds and promotes movies revolving around agriculture. It is now on its third edition this year.

Like To Farm, the international composition contest seeks to promote Philippine agriculture and the best farming technology and practices, said Madame How.

The Universal Harvester executive added she was  a strong supporter of the performing arts, so she was sponsoring the international competition.

Toledo said composers from the United States, Russia, Canada, Spain, South Korea, Cambodia had already signified interest to join the contest.

The competition is open to all composers worldwide; there’s no age limit.

Only one entry is allowed per contestant and the work should last 10 to 15 minutes.  

Twenty semifinalists will be announced on April 20. They will be brought to Banaue on an all-expenses-paid trip so that they could immerse themselves in the environment and communities there.

Ten finalists will be chosen and announced on July 20.

Grand prize is $12,000.

Two runner-up prizes of  $6,000 each will also be given.

 Awarding ceremonies will be on July 25 at Cultural Center of the Philippines, during which the winning entries will be premiered. —CONTRIBUTED


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TAGS: Banaue Rice Terraces, Chino Toledo, Heritage Preservation, international symphonic competition, jaome delos santos, madame how, mayor jerry dalipog, municipality of banaue, united harvester inc.
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