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Living with Risk; Coping with Disasters: Hazard as a Frequent Life Experience in the Philippines

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The interrelationship of human beings and the natural world, and the influence of the physical environment on a community’s social and cultural development, are graphically demonstrated in societies that face the persistent threat (and reality) of disasters. A prime example is the Philippines, whose over seven thousand islands are located in an extremely hazard-prone area. The Philippines as a whole experiences more earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis than any other place on earth. Although Western social sciences typically depict “disasters” as abnormal occurrences, communities and individuals in the Philippines have come to accept hazard and disaster as a frequent life experience. Indeed, in a number of respects, Filipino cultures can be regarded as the products of community adaptation to these phenomena. As the following discussion suggests, a range of processes permit the possibility of disaster to be incorporated into daily life and allow for what might be called the “normalization of threat.”