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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sensing inner fire : centralized disaster intervention in the 1948-1951 eruptions of Hibok-Hibok Volcano in Camiguin Island Philippines Cruz, Genevieve


The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with over 7,107 islands of the archipelago prone to intense and frequent earthquakes, typhoons, storm surges, tsunamis, landslides, heat waves, and volcanic eruptions. Disaster, being the convergence of both geographic risk and socioeconomic vulnerability, is said to be embedded into the socio-cultural fabric of Philippine society, with the 1951 eruption of Hibok-Hibok on Camiguin island being the first major eruption encountered by the Philippine state after it was granted independence from the United States in 1946. This was the eruption that triggered the creation of the Commission of Volcanology, a state sponsored network of seismic expertise that has since functioned as the leading authority on seismic and volcanic sensing in the country. This thesis explores the larger historical context of the eruption, by using social volcanology to examine the succeeding attempts by the Commission of Volcanology and other mid-level bureaucrats to relocate the rural population to other neighbouring islands in Visayas and Mindanao. The local population’s responses to these initiatives are revealing of urban and rural tensions surrounding Hibok-Hibok’s violent eruption in 1951. These tensions have yet to be explored in light of the island’s material history as a major producer of Abaca – an endemic crop that thrives on rich volcanic soil. It was this crop that made Camiguin an affluent rural community, where thousands of people chose to endure the risk of living by an active volcano to sustain themselves. This is a case study that explores the inherently political nature of disaster intervention, and how progressive narratives of expanding networks of expertise, such as that of the Commission of Volcanology, need to be challenged in a landscape with an enduring history of volcanic eruptions.

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