Words are not just symbols on a page that convey meanings but are also the product of personal experience. Any book is the sum total of an author’s life and reflects the countless interactions between him or her and the encounters and conversations that take place up until the moment of writing. It is, in that sense, very much a collective endeavour though some people’s contributions necessitate a fuller acknowledgement than others.
In particular, I would like to thank Georg Frerks and Thea Hilhorst in Disaster Studies at Wageningen University in The Netherlands who shared with me a vision that such a book was feasible and a belief in my abilities to realise it. Not only did they furnish me with an institutional ‘home away from home’ but they also provided me with the wherewithal to take advantage of it in the form of a four-month writing scholarship between July and November 2000. Over the years, moreover, they have unstintingly bestowed upon me another kind of gift - friendship. I look forward to new ventures and new horizons with them both in the future. Acknowledgement is due, too, to the University of Auckland for providing a number of small research grants between 1995 and 1998 that enabled me to carry out the archival and fieldwork so necessary for this project. Without continuing monetary support from the University, overseas-based research would become almost impossible in New Zealand since the dramatic depreciation of the dollar in recent years.
Writing about societies and cultures other than one’s own leaves the researcher particularly dependent on the insights, explanations, introductions, assistance and ‘local’ knowledge provided by friends, colleagues, acquaintances and officials in the Philippines whose generosity in time and kind are impossible to quantify. I am particularly grateful to Noelle Rodriguez and Fr Joey Cruz of Ateneo de Manila University who have provided me with an institutional haven there and also a light teaching schedule that permitted me to finish my research and embark on new ones in collaboration with themselves. I would also like to thank Cynthia Bautista and Jose Dalisay at the University of the Philippines, and Peter Walpole, Director of the Environmental Science For Social Change for their help with various aspects of this research and for reading and commenting on sections