BA Anthropology, University of British Columbia (2013)

Biography

Chaya graduated with an MA in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality & Social Justice, and is a member of the UBC Philippine Studies Series. Years of advocating with Indigenous communities in the Philippines have inspired Chaya during her undergraduate years as an Anthropology student to explore possibilities for transnational solidarities among Indigenous movements in the Philippines and Latin America. These explorations culminated in a project called “Common Threads” in 2012—an ethnographic community project with the Mayan women weavers in Atitlan, Guatemala, followed by a conference hosted by the UBC First Nations Longhouse to discuss parallel colonial histories and present-day struggles shared between the Philippines and Guatemala.

After graduating, Chaya returned to Manila and worked with the Assisi Development Foundation in a variety of community development projects with partner Indigenous communities in the Philippines. Among them were the formulation of an Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan to support the Boracay Ati Community’s struggles to secure their ancestral domain; Chaya also taught in the Pamulaan Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Education in Davao City, and co-curated the Living Heritage Centre with the students.

On November 8, 2013 super typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) hit the central region of the Philippines. Chaya was deployed as an emergency relief worker until June 2014; she assisted in the coordination of relief efforts for the Tabang Visayas Network as part of its Secretariat, and also assisted in the delivery of rehabilitation efforts in partner communities devastated by the typhoon.

Chaya’s MA thesis is a feminist anthropological research, exploring the ways in which Waraywaray women survivors from the town of Palo in Leyte Island understand perceptions of ‘disaster’, ‘emergency’, ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’, and how they make meaning of their shared traumatic experiences. In light of the intensifying weather conditions already being suffered by the most vulnerable communities in the Philippines, Chaya intends for her work to make a valuable and urgent contribution to ongoing social and climate justice work.

Beyond her formal academic research, Chaya also continues to combine her interest in sikolohiyang Pilipino (or Indigenous Philippine psychology) with artistic and consciousness practices as decolonisation projects created in collaboration with other scholar-artist-activists.