DD: There’s a planetary intimacy in what you describe as being held together by gravity and orbits and alignments – pushing and pulling and revolutions in any and every which way. Much more to explore for embodying these in collective and collaborative practices, for sure. I’m in the troposphere somewhere – 11,000 meters above Sukkur in Pakistan – now en route to the Philippines. My immediate view is this in-flight television, showing the plane’s horizon as the curve of the earth. We’re racing with time as we glide over clouds, so I’d be remiss not to connect this with the title of your residency project. How did Cloudrunner begin, and what were your motivations?
March 18, 2023, 10:36 Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
MC: I’m traveling up the western coast of Luzon and am now in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. This »Sunshine City« is named after the Ilocano word for light or brightness, and experiences more clear, sunny days than most of the country. The midday sun has been unbearable these past few days. Today, I’m staying indoors until late afternoon.
I’m interested in what historical geographer Greg Bankoff calls »cultures of disaster.« Years ago, I did initial research on the failed nuclear power plant in central Luzon and briefly touched on volcanic risks posed by nearby Mount Pinatubo. I revisited the idea of Pinatubo after reading reviews of two recently published climate fiction novels on solar geoengineering, both of which mention the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption as the basis for stratospheric aerosol injection proposals. The eruption was catastrophic and it remains a traumatic memory for the people, biodiversity, and landscape of central Luzon, yet the Philippine perspective appears nowhere in fiction and scientific literature on solar geoengineering. I wanted to work on something that would include those who were displaced and directly affected by Pinatubo in discussions on planetary-scale climate interventions.
According to Lawrence Heaney of The Field Museum, cloudrunners, or cloud rats, evolved on the island of Luzon in a spectacular display of mammalian adaptive radiation. A few species of cloud rats live in the Zambales mountain range, along with the Pinatubo volcano mouse. Apomys sacobianus was thought to have gone extinct after the eruption, but was rediscovered by Heaney’s team in 2011. I hoped to learn about the small mammals of Pinatubo during our remote residency in Zambales. Instead, I ended up at a sea turtle sanctuary, releasing olive ridley hatchlings while pondering on the Aeta legend of Bacobaco.
sumpong (2023) and »Cloudrunner« seem to be looking at different sides of the same mountain. Are you coming to Angeles to get a glimpse of Pinatubo?
18:11 Makati, Metro Manila
DD: Yeah! It’s timely, and let’s say, serendipitous to be connected for this conversation when we did. I’m in the city now; sticky skins, basking in the tropical humid. It’s been a while since I’ve been back but a much needed and desired return. With Pinatubo, as the host of this homecoming, I hope for nothing but a warm embrace (and, if the volcano’s feeling extra hospitable, maybe a Pinatubo rodent round-up).
Awful jokes aside (jet lag), these narratives of and encounters with, or that are in proximity to, the volcano warrant surfacing as shared matters toward a »planetary thinking« – what many scholars advocate for and what Indigenous peoples like the Aeta embody. In the project, the volcano mouse and the cloud rat seem peripheral to the eruption, but actually, they exemplify survival by resilience, all while having thrived in disaster.
While in Zambales, how has ARAW’s »situated knowledge« of »cultures of disaster« before, during, and after the residency – evolved from immersion, with participation, in risk and in presence? I’m also not opposed to hearing more about the sea turtles (please).
March 20, 2023, 23:03 Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
MC: I’m on the northwesternmost part of the coast of Luzon now. The sand is coral white instead of volcanic gray, the northern wind is fresh with sea smells and the beach is teeming with beings dead and alive. This is clearly no longer Apo Namalyari’s domain; the region is powered by wind farms and not the heat of the earth.
Do you have any memory of the Pinatubo eruption? What led you to Pinatubo?
I remember looking out the window of our Parañaque family home and seeing the entire street covered in gray ash. My grandfather joked that it was snowing. At five years old, I knew about typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and power cuts, but this was something else. Thirty-two years later, I still haven’t experienced anything else like it.