Life in the Philippines – bagyo and Baguio – storms and strawberries

Manila Bay hidden by an incoming rain squall

One of the difficulties for the foreigner in the Philippines is the similarity of some words or sounds in Tagalog. Tagalog is the Austronesian language of the Tagalog people, generally from central Luzon. Its vocabulary has been much influenced by Spanish and English, and it is the basis of a standardized national language of the Philippines (Filipino). The other national language, mercifully, is English. All Republic Acts in the Philippines are written in Tagalog and English.

Two words that to me sound alike are Baguio and bagyo. Baguio is a mountain city of some 350,000 residents that was initially established as a hill station by the United States in 1900 at the site of an Ibaloi village known as Kafagway. It has grown over the past 100 years or so and is known as the summer capital of the Philippines. Famous for its cool air, pine trees, fruit and vegetables and strawberries in particular, it is one of the major towns in the Philippines that does not have air-conditioning installed everywhere.

Bagyo however is a storm. We have just had four or five days of a storm here in Metro Manila, brought about by a combination of the Habagat and a Low Pressure Area (LPA) in the Pacific east of Luzon.

There are two kinds of winds and seasons that occur here every year. The Amihan refers to the northeast monsoon and the Habagat, the south western monsoon.

The habagat blows up from the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and generally brings with it a lot of moist air. When there is an LPA in the Philippine Sea to the east of the Philippines, the habagat is intensified, as was the case over the past four or five days. FLood warnings were at the yellow level for three of the four days in Manila, Bataan and Zambales, with orange warning signal for Bataan and Zambales over a day. This season is normally over the period June to October (the wet season).

The amihan usually occurs over the period October to March and generally there is a little rainfall associated with it but more characteristically, there is a lowering of the temperature in the Philippines as the wind carries cool air that originates in Siberia and Mongolia which passes across China to blow down to Southeast Asia. This makes Christmas, January and February the best time, temperature and humidity wise, in the Philippines.

I also believe that habagat and amihan are two characters from Philippine mythology. I shall investigate that later.

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A Rainy Day in Jeddah

Jeddah Rain
The Hotel driveway after the rain

It rained four days ago. I awoke at 6 in the morning to the alarm then heard the thunder. Looking out of the hotel window I saw a lovely thunderstorm, thunder, lightning and rain. Had a shower, looked out the window again and the road at the back of the hotel (the Madinah Road) was flooded.

It then occurred to me, because it probably only rains once a year here no one worries about building a drainage system. In fact, walking around town I can’t recall seeing a drain. This morning, therefore, it was like driving to work through a lake.

I’ve been coming to the Middle East on and off now for 15 years and today was the first day I have been here in the rain. The nearest I came before was arriving in Kuwait two days after it had rained. I look forward to the few days here to see what happens after the rain – to see how long things remain wet.

Oh, and actually the road out the front of the hotel is also the Madinah Road.

Saturday Night and the Storms Roll Through

Thunderstorm Over Ulaanbaatar - Click for a larger view
A single raincloud approaches Ulaanbaatar

It was a hot day today in Ulaanbaatar. Hot and dry. Late in the afternoon, early evening (right about now in fact), there is some rain in the area. This is accompanied by lightning and thunder and some local cool winds.

I will admit to feeling a wee bit homesick with the thunderstorms – sort of reminded me of late summer evenings in Sydney when the thunderstorms would roll in from the west, dropping the temperature (and a lot of rain) and giving the world that fresh “just washed” smell.

The thunderstorms rolling in from here are great as well, as they roll in over the mountains. Nature is great.

Seasonal Change

I noted it before when winter passed through into Spring, and then into Summer. These were overnight changes in Mongolia. Well, they seemed overnight at least. Here we are, sitting at the end of summer. Last weekend I wore shorts, this weekend I am wearing jeans and a flannelette shirt. Summer disappeared sometime in the last 15 days or so. Leaves will fall from trees soon (again, they will be there one day, gone the next).

Today is the 10th of September, it is overcast, very light rain from time to time. Temperature at night now is about 3 or 4 degrees Celsius. Daytime temperature between 10 and 18 Celsius. In 5 days time the central heating goes back on in Ulaanbaatar.

Hmm, grey days, short days, long nights and cold cold cold to come. I am looking forward to this first winter in Mongolia. I have some books on order and hopefully they will arrive this week as well as some more hobby stuff so I should be fine on the weekends and in the evenings. Then, if course, there is the internet — when surfing international sites it is slightly faster than snail mail – but just slightly.