This weekend, Tropical Storm Ketsana triggered the worst flooding in decades in the Philippine capital Manila and nearby provinces.
The Philippines, an archipelago nation comprising some 7,000 islands, is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. It leads a World Bank list of nations most in danger of facing frequent and more intense storms because of climate change. In 2008, it was one of three countries that experienced the most disasters, according to the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Apart from the typhoons that blow in from the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines also sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire where periodic earthquakes occur, and active volcanoes are found.
Disasters not only kill or injure people and cause property damage; they also disrupt livelihoods and cultural practices. That’s what happened when the volcanic Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, its lava and ashes destroyed many surrounding villages – including the traditional homeland of the Ayta, indigenous people descending from the first inhabitants of the Philippines. They had fled to the hills from the lowlands during the protracted Spanish conquest of the Philippines which first commenced in 1565.
Today, resettled elsewhere on Luzon island, the Ayta are trying to preserve their traditional culture and community integrity through education and theatre. These efforts are supported by the Ayta organisation PBAZ, part of the Education for Life Foundation. Going back to the abandoned village is one way of keeping memories alive.