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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Kababayen-an han karak-an (women of storm surges) : a feminist ethnographic research on Waray women survivors of super typhoon Yolanda Go, Chaya Ocampo


Two years after super typhoon Yolanda (internationally named Haiyan) ravaged the Visayan region of the Philippines, survivors of Leyte Island who were at the front line of the strongest storm in recorded history persist through waves of disaster. Anthropologists of disaster argue there is a need to trouble the assumed uniformity of disaster experiences in the same manner that feminist scholars argue for an intersectional analysis of vulnerabilities as shaped by racism, sexism, and ongoing projects of colonialism. This ethnographic research inquires: How do Waray women survivors make meaning of super typhoon Yolanda as expressed in their survival testimonies and disaster symbolisms? How do they view their everyday life in relation to the rain, rivers, and the sea? How do they mobilize memories of Yolanda to engage in practises of social repair? This on-site feminist ethnographic research was conducted in the town of Palo in the summer of 2015, with 12 self-identified Waray women interviewed from the three barangays or villages of San Miguel, Salvacion and Cogon. I argue that women survivors employ disaster memory as a cultural practise to repair their worldview, insisting on an ontology that still holds some meaning despite the wrathful destruction of a super typhoon that pounds repeatedly through the everyday violence of poverty. This thesis outlines how the women (a) personify the storm; (b) explain order and safety in cycles and seasons; and (c) explain syncretic theologies pertaining to ideas of justice. Writing as a transnational Filipina scholar-activist, I frame my work to serve a feminist and decolonizing purpose by weaving the women’s survival testimonies together as acts of resistance over the chronic crises of everyday poverty, Yolanda and larger colonial histories. This thesis offers a Waray theory of survivance defined by an ancient ferocity in the Eastern Visayas, which claims a full humanity persisting through disaster deathscapes and the colonial present.

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