Countermapping Interventions: (Re-)telling River-Town Map Stories

  • Dominique Sasha N. Amorsolo


The municipality of Santa is a quaint lowland and coastal-riverine town located off the shorelines of Ilocos Sur in the northwestern portion of the Philippines. It is along the distributaries of the sixth largest river basin in the country, the lower Abra River, and its adjacent delta. Both town and the fluvial channel are exposed to yearly tropical cyclones and seasonal monsoons that annually traverse the island of Luzon, which may cause flooding events and associated flooding experiences in the area. Research on ‘nonhuman’ bodies tends to be viewed as only influenced by the laws of science, but it is far from such. The more-than-human, such as the lower Abra River exists due to both natural (bathymetry, topography, tropical cyclones and monsoons, and vegetation) and anthropogenic (deforestation, land use/land cover change, and mining activities) factors as dynamic storytellers that involve in (re-)storying of the fluvial – both the river’s and the townsfolks’ everyday encounters. In this study, I produced imaginative interventions as a form of countermapping traditional knowledge and historical records of the lower Abra River and the townspeople of Santa. First, I made a geonarrative countermap depicting more than 100 years of history of the river-town. Then, I generated an animated geonarrative countermap showing select river-town barangays as an “island” along with its “island-ness” and its dynamic “tidalism”. Lastly, I created a geonarrative map art of my fieldwork participation in the area as I came across these rivertown interactions. These interventions reinterpret archival data and cartographic outputs through a series of creative reimaginations, therefore, adding new strata of meaning regarding the life-story of the river and the town as a way of involving myself as a researcher in (re-)unfolding its enduring and ever-evolving river-town geonarratives.