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Snippets of past and present research projects

Research Projects: Welcome




The Architecture of Post-Disaster Housing Reconstruction as Discourse

The complexity, ambiguity, and lack of resources that characterise post-disaster housing reconstruction results in the field being one of the least successfully implemented aspects of disaster recovery (Barenstein and Pittet, 2007 p.3), which, in turn, is one of the least understood aspects of disaster risk management (Raju, 2013). Much of the literature about about housing reconstruction analyses gaps in the planning and implementation phases from a managerial point of view (Bilau, Litt, and Will, 2015; Shaw and Ahmed, 2010).

As the effects of natural hazards are magnified by planetary urbanisation within the climate emergency, the research team believes in the urgency of bringing forward alternative ways of perceiving post-disaster housing reconstruction to yield new insights into challenges of the field, as well as reveal underexplored ways of moving forward with resettlement housing.

In contrast to technocratic ways of analysing the challenges of disaster recovery, this proposed research aims to pilot methodological approaches for examining architectural practice in post-disaster housing reconstruction by drawing on the idea of ‘material registers’.

The aim is to highlight the interrelationships of architectural and linguistic practices of displaced individuals and families in resettlement housing sites between the junctures of design anthropology, critical architecture, linguistic anthropology, and material culture studies. We pose the question: What lessons about post-disaster housing reconstruction can be gleaned by viewing architecture in post-disaster housing reconstruction as a form of conversation? In doing so, we endeavour to help address the ‘policy-practice defect’ in disaster management (Dyer, 2002) in post-disaster housing reconstruction by exploring what material and discursive dimensions of practice ‘say’ about the long-term needs of those affected by catastrophe.

Project Sponsor: Brown University Center for Human Rights and Humanitarianism

Role: Principal Investigator


Simon Cervantes (United Architects of the Philippines, Malayan Colleges of Laguna)

Monica Santos (University of the Philippines Diliman, Department of Anthropology

Olivia Sicam (University of the Philippines Diliman College of Architecture

Project Status: Ongoing



Architectural Reimaginings of Climate Change Adaptation
in an Estuarine Island

We dwell in a “pluriverse”: a world of many worlds (Escobar, 2017). Here, addressing contemporary global environmental crises requires unsilencing the voices that have been undermined by modernist approaches to climate change adaptation.

Escobar identified architecture and urbanism as fertile grounds for changing the course of dwelling on the planet.

With this concept of the  “pluriverse” in mind, we use architectural design in the context of an estuarine island in the Philippines as a starting point for unsettling dominant perspectives of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Our objective is to use architectural design interventions to illuminate the perspectives and experiences of those most affected and who tend to be left out of the conversation about how to grapple with its effects.

Project Sponsor:

Co-Risk Lab and Humanitarian OpenStreetMaps Team

Principal Investigator: Pamela Gloria Cajilig (RMIT University)


Olivia Sicam (University of the Philippines Diliman College of Architecture)

Simon Cervantes (United Architects of the Philippines, Malayan Colleges of Laguna)

Monica Santos (University of the Philippines Department of Anthropology)

Project Status: Ongoing

Research Projects: Projects


Violence Against Women in Post-Yolanda (Haiyan)

Padayon sa Pag-laum Recovery and Rehabilitation Program: The VAW Research Component Supported by ActionAid International

The VAW Research completed for the project Enhancement of Anti-VAWC Mechanism from a Gender-Responsive and Rights-based Approach in Six Selected Barangays in Palo and Tacloban Leyte (Project Kamingawan), supported by Oxfam International (Tacloban City Office) and implemented in the period October 2014 to March 2015, builds on an earlier VAW rapid research supported by ActionAid International and completed for the Programme of Assistance for the Recovery Phase.

A set of activities were implemented to respond to Outcome D: Government is transparent, and provides an enabling environment to build vulnerable people's resilience, end violence against women, and reduce risk and vulnerabilities during disaster. 

The activity to address this Outcome was stated as “Conduct of baseline research on DRRM/CCA & VAWC”. The VAW research under the AAI-WeDpro Agreement was conducted for Palo, Leyte and Culasi, Antique in the last quarter of 2014 as part of WeDpro’s implementation plan to address Outcome D.

Lead Report Writer/Researcher:

Aida Santos (WeDpro)


Pamela Gloria Cajilig (Curiosity)

Romana Domingo (Curiosity)

Image Credit: WeDpro/Elbert Or

Research Projects: Projects


Disasters exacerbate existing inequalities, including gender inequalities leading to gender-based violence (GBV). After a disaster, GBV in its various forms (physical, psychological, financial, sexual) increase as women and girls find ways to survive in an environment of weakened protection for the vulnerable. Our work at Curiosity and WeDpro after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to combat GBV started with quantitative and qualitative research to assess attitudes and behaviours related to GBV in affected areas in the Visayas.

In 2015, our team engaged the assistance of women residents to conduct research on post-disaster GBV.

The women we approached had no research experience but were willing and curious to learn the basics of data collection via surveys and interviews. Their involvement was vital to our research design. Women residents were familiar with the GBV situation in the area and, as they knew many women affected by GBV in their neighbourhoods, they were driven to understand the phenomenon.

The training was transformative for us research trainers as well as for the trainees. As trainers, we were delighted by our trainees' innovative ideas for doing GBV research safely and accurately. As for the trainees who were at first mostly looking at this project as source of income, there was also an unexpected benefit: the increase in self-esteem and the realisation of their potential. After the session, Marivic, one of our trainees remarked:

"Ngayon ko lang sa buong buhay ko napatunayan na hindi lang ako panlaba, hindi lang ako pang-alaga ng bata. Hindi lang ako yung dapat nasa bahay lang. May galing din pala ako sa research. Ngayon lang ako nakaramdam na may kakayahan din pala ako."

[Only now in my entire life have I proven that I'm not just good for laundry or taking care of children. I'm not meant to only stay at home. I have talent in research. It is only that I've felt that I can also be talented.]

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Research Projects: About


A Service Design Workshop

The destruction of the built environment, including public buildings is one of the most significant effects of disaster. Our WeDpro + Curiosity workshop funded by ActionAid brought together community volunteers, the women's desk at the Philippine National Police, barangay officials, and representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to understand how violence against women (VAW) was being addressed in the midst of destroyed barangay halls and barangay women's desks.

The workshop uncovered several areas needing support as communities and officials assisted VAW victims in the midst of a destroyed built environment. A service design approach to workshop facilitation revealed that community volunteers and social workers often shelled out personal funds to buy cellphone load and pay for public transport as victims sought help from the police, government agencies, and hospitals while coordinating with loved ones. The workshop showed that victims hesitate to approach the barangay women's desk for help as the perpetrators may be barangay officials themselves or their relatives. The workshop also underscored the importance of faith and prayer to the victims, with the local church as a significant stop after visits to government offices to seek support. The workshop findings revealed overlooked aspects of VAW in the Philippine VAW policy framework and served as basis for recommending policy improvements and the prioritisation of the reconstruction of barangay VAW desks in our partner areas.

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Research Projects: About


A Design Thinking Project for Roots of Health

Numeracy is the ability to use simple numerical concepts in everyday life. This was the underlying premise for the financial literacy design research I implemented with Dr Norma Cajilig and Dr Diego Maranan, both from the University of the Philippines, and under the auspices of Curiosity. 

The project covered several rural poor barangays in Palawan who are clients of Roots of Health, an award-winning reproductive and maternal health NGO headed by the amazing Ami Evangelista-Swanepoel. We used design thinking (Brown and Wyatt, 2010) using rapid prototype-based qualitative research in developing the project. We started with a pre-research phase to test our research assumptions regarding the link between financial literacy and numeracy via focus groups. We then conducted ethnographic interviews among mothers to understand everyday their financial situations and challenges. This helped us match specific financial challenges and practices related to the four fundamental operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. At the end of each day of ethnographic research, we developed short teaching modules for each operation to be subject to prototype testing the following day. The teaching module prototypes featured financial-literacy-related math problems situated within the contexts of mothers' lived experiences of numeracy. Insight from a day's worth of research and prototyping was used to adjust the research agenda for the next day. We did four rounds of this cycle before developing teacher training and learning modules for the financial literacy programme. 

We conducted a pre-test and post-test for before and after implementation of the programme. Post-test results showed increased in scores for numeracy (as much as double pre-test scores). Many of those who attended the programme were able to open bank accounts for the first time while some managed to save for materials to build their first home. The programme had an unforeseen outcome: the children of some of those who attended the sessions eventually asked help from their mothers in studying for their Mathematics subjects. This not only boosted the self-esteem of the urban poor mothers but also improved the children's academic performance.

Research Projects: About
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