Risk and culture: the case of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Soledad Natalia Dalisay (Department of Anthropology, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Philippines)
Mylene T. De Guzman (Department of Geography, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Philippines)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Publication date: 11 July 2016



The purpose of this paper is to look into the socio-cultural contexts that shaped people’s evacuation decisions during typhoon Haiyan in three affected areas in the Philippines.


This is a multi-sited ethnography that utilized interviews, focus group discussion and participatory risk mapping among selected women and men in areas affected by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Coastal communities encounter threats from storm surges as brought about by typhoons. During such periods, disaster evacuation programs are implemented. In some instances, evacuation programs are met with resistance from community members. Such resistance has been attributed to the people’s hard headedness and ignorance of the potential impacts of living in hazard prone areas. This paper argues that it is not solely for these reasons that people refused to evacuate. Results showed that hesitance may also be due to other considerations and priorities vital to people. It is also because people had faith in the knowledge and strategies that they were able to develop by engaging with hazards through time. Furthermore, previous experiences with disaster evacuation programs cast doubt on their value in saving their lives. Life in the evacuation areas can be as dangerous if not more compared with living in their coastal homes. Some of the informants believed that they were being moved from hazard zones to death zones. This paper ends with recommendations for the development of evacuation programs that build people’s resilience while taking into consideration the local moral world in identified hazard zones in the Philippines.

Research limitations/implications

The study focused on three areas affected by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, namely, Tacloban City, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and San Francisco, Cebu.


Most research on disaster mitigation looked into the engineering and technology aspects. This paper looks into the socio-cultural contexts of disaster evacuation.



Dalisay, S. and De Guzman, M. (2016), "Risk and culture: the case of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 701-714. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-05-2016-0097

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