The small island of San Francisco, Cebu in the Philippines has gained global recognition for its community-based disaster management program. By institutionalizing the purok system—a sub-village level of organization—citizens are empowered to plan and implement disaster preparedness programs that fit their specific needs and geographical context. We interrogate the logics that underpin this prize-winning governance innovation. We find that San Francisco—the island where all survive even after the most devastating of disasters—functions through the modality of participation as knowledge transfer. It is underpinned the ethos of solidarity over conflict and takes place in a predetermined rather than citizen-driven space for participatory politics. We situate our arguments in the recent literature on public participation to understand the precise character of participatory politics in the field of disaster response.