Raise the Roof

Mapping and Characterizing the Transformations of the Ifugao Bale in the Batad Rice Terraces

  • Marie Edraline B. Belga College of Architecture


Significant change is observable within the landscape of Batad Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Ifugao Province of the Philippines. One distinct fixture that is transforming within Batad’s landscape is the ‘bale’ or the traditional Ifugao house. The 'bale,' with its steep pyramidal thatched roof echoing the mountainous landform around it, is one of the most distinct features of Batad. The traditional use of the ‘bale' is, of course, as a residence. It also serves as a granary for harvested rice, with the topmost level considered sacred - allocated for rice, heirloom articles, and sculptures of the 'bulul' (rice guardians). Today, the bale(s) of Batad not only sit beside more modern-looking structures, but they themselves also have transformed uses and configurations. The study aimed to map, quantify, and characterize the transformations of Batad’s bale(s) through a multi-method combining drone photogrammetry, GIS-based geo-tagging, and actual field visits to document the bales’ conditions. Two maps pertaining to Batad’s bale(s) were produced from the study. First, a map showing the categorization of each bale based on their current occupancy type, i.e., residential, agricultural, tourism-related, etc. The second map shows a five-tier categorization based on the level of the bales’ physical transformations (or conservation) in terms of design and material. Supplementing these maps are photo-documentations of the bale(s), and anecdotal interviews with locals focusing on stories about the transformations of the traditional houses surveyed. All of these informed the narrative about the drivers of change and factors that support the sustainability of the bale(s) in Batad’s landscape.

Author Biography

Marie Edraline B. Belga, College of Architecture

Marie Edraline B. Belga is an assistant professor and currently the College Secretary of the College of Architecture at the University of the Philippines. Part of her ancestry hails from the Cordillera Region, thus sparking her interest in Cordillera architecture and landscape. Before joining the academe, she was part of TAO-Pilipinas, Inc., a non-profit, non-government organization assisting marginalized communities on housing and security of tenure issues; a planning assistant for CONCEP Inc., and the projects manager and national civil division head of TWA Inc. Her research interests lie in sustainable tourism planning for heritage sites, disaster risk reduction, and traditional vernacular constructio