By Niña Elyca Ruiz, Contributor Significant efforts to conserve the Banaue Rice Terraces are music to our ears…sometimes literally. Recently, 20 composers were chosen to undergo a cultural immersion and fine-tune their music as part of the semi-final round of the very first Banaue International Music Composition Competition (BIMCC). Launched in November last year, the BIMCC was organized to honor the famed Banaue Rice Terraces and create awareness on the need to restore it to its natural charm. “Through music, we are sending a strong message to the public and the world about the beauty and culture of the Banaue Rice Terraces. At the same time, we hope to draw attention from Filipinos to help restore our World Heritage site, and the ecosystem that thrives in and around it,’ said BIMCC artistic director Chino Toledo. The composer-fellows hail from different parts of the globe. While there are Filipinos among the group, the rest come from as far as the countries in Europe, South America and the Middle East. When asked if being a Filipino sets a competitive advantage among other participants, local composer-fellow Jem Taraloc explained they are on equal footing, considering that all of them (Filipinos included) have never actually set foot at the Banaue Rice Terraces and have depended on research to create their musical pieces. The semi-finalists were provided with a variety of materials to aid them in their composition — from texts, to pictures, and videos to familiarize them with the Ifugao culture. In the meantime, the discovery of chants and rhythms in the province piqued the interest of foreign participants. Composer-fellows Alessandra Salvati of Italy and Theodore Broutzakis of Greece, for instance, both found it fascinating to blend their western musical influences with eastern sounds. “What we are here for is to look for the high quality of musical writing, and everyone in the group has achieved that. It’s Banaue (music) from different points of view,” underscored Toledo. The BIMCC is set to culminate with a symphonic concert on July 25 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where an orchestra will perform the music of the 10 selected finalists of the competition. The top 10 finalists will be determined by an international panel of judges composed of renowned composers, musicians and academicians. Restoring the Banaue Rice Terraces The BIMCC is part of the initiatives of the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project that aims to rehabilitate the innate beauty and cultural practices of this natural wonder. The project is spearheaded by a private organization, Universal Harvester Inc. (UHI), in partnership with the municipality of Banaue in the province of Ifugao. “We would like to create awareness on the plight of the Banaue Rice Terraces, as it is suffering from deterioration due to neglect and natural calamities. And with this, it needs to be rehabilitated to conserve its beauty and keep it on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list,” said Dr. Milagros Ong-How, president and chief executive officer of UHI. UHI is also calling for the advancement of Philippine agriculture by recognizing outstanding farmers in the country through its TOFARM advocacy. “Through these activities, not only are we unlocking potentials and boosting productivity, but also preserving our heritage as Filipinos,” Ong-How added. BIMCC’s winners will receive cash prizes from the competition’s organizers — US$12,000 for the grand champion and US$6,000 each for the two runners-up. The public can further support the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project by purchasing donor seats on the grand finals night Visit https://www.banauemusic.org/ to know more about BIMCC, and other ongoing efforts for the rehabilitation of the Banaue Rice Terraces.