JUST this week I was privileged to be a part of first ever Brown International Advance Research Institute in the Philippines or Biari Philippines as one of the fellows, with the theme “Community Resilience for Natural Disasters,” held at the Holy Angel University. It is a multi-cultural, multi-sectoral gathering of scholars, practitioners, and for the first time, representatives from local communities, providing avenues for learning, engagement and collaborations focused on disaster resilience.

The whole week was packed with enriching panels and workshops that covered the entire gamut of disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) and resilience, from cultural contexts of disaster resilience to frameworks for psychosocial interventions, from humanitarian interventions to community-based experiences in resilience.

It has been an insightful and inspiring experience for me, both as a cultural worker in the government and as a budding scholar. First, I encountered several research findings which understandably do not put government-led interventions in a good light and tend to highlight the lack of these. There is an opportunity from those in the public sector to listen and work with the academe for evidence-based policy formulation and program planning and implementation. The academe can also venture into generating research that looks at resilience within the context of local governance.

Further, I realized that while cultural heritage preservation programs focus on the preservation part, there is a need to include resilience as a fundamental part of these. The aim should be, not only to preserve our heritage, but to ensure that heritage is resilient enough to be passed on to future generations. As a researcher, I am more inclined to look at the inclusion of resilience measures in local DRRM plans specifically pertaining to cultural heritage.

At the national governance level, it is interesting to know that the Department of Science and Technology through Phivolcs incorporates inputs from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Pagasa in its Rapid Earthquake Damage Assessment System and makes this system available to local governments, the business sector, and other organizations. I hope that at the national level, the REDAS will incorporate data from the Philippine Registry of Cultural Properties managed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts which can be used for risk assessment of built heritage.

My interest in studying how festivals are resilient and promote community resilience was not only renewed but heightened, drawing from the Kapampangan context and experience, with events like Angeles City's Tigtigan Terakan King Dalan (roughly Music and Dancing in the Street) which started post Mount Pinatubo eruption and City of San Fernando's Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) which surpassed, and boomed, after Pinatubo and the seemingly perennial lahar experience.

As a Biari Philippines fellow, I am both overwhelmed both by the privilege of a week-long learning, brain-tickling, eye-opening experience, and the responsibilities that come with the privilege, especially beyond Biari, as an active agent of resilience in the community, whether through research or ventures, and advocating a culture of resilience in our country. I look forward to research collaborations with my new friends from the Biari.

Special thanks to Adam Levine and Seth Cullen of Biari, BIARI alumni in the Philippines like Carin Gonzalez, Holy Angel University, and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation for sharing with us their dream of bringing Biari in the Philippines, and while the process has been for the most part cerebral, it is more importantly Biari with a heart.