News, Travels

Weather-based Philippine Vacations

NOTE: 2012 article, updated for 2017 (including updated image credit on end).

Weather Vacation

The Philippines (from FreeWorldMaps.net)

With the endless torrential rains in the Philippines, it is quite discouraging and even dangerous to go to the various travel hot spots: beaches, mountains, tourist destinations, and the like. Add to this mix the constant promos of airlines for the lean months, and you have a dilemma on how to schedule a vacation in such a way that you would have to enjoy it to the fullest. And this would include romantic sunsets, delay-free flights, walking sightseeing trips. In other words, you’d have to ensure a rain-free travel.

I have gathered data in order to avoid (or minimize) experiencing rain-drenched travels. However, this is not absolute, as Philippine weather is as unpredictable as Love (LOL). Anyway, the current weather data today might not be applicable decades from now due to the evident Global Warming.

Weather Vacation

Philippine Climate Types

There are currently four climate types in the Philippines, of which the categories are based on the amount of rainfall on the affected regions:

  • Type I. Two pronounced season: dry from November to April and wet during the rest of the year.
  • Type II. No dry season with a pronounced rainfall from November to January.
  • Type III. Seasons are not very pronounced, relatively dry from November to April, and wet during the rest of the year.
  • Type IV. Rainfall is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year.

As could be observed in the said map, the eastern coastal regions as well as a substantial part of Mindanao are have constant rainfall throughout the whole year. This could be substantiated by my childhood in Davao City where it would be clear by day and it would always rain by nighttime. As for the coastal regions, it would be a hit-and-miss scheduling for beach vacations, but it would be a boon for surfers who would love strong winds which translate to higher waves.

The rest of the country has a relatively stable weather pattern, with a dry season approximately from November to April. However, there are clear signs that the seasons are being jumbled by mother nature possibly due to the ill effects of pollution and greenhouse gases worldwide. In some parts, summer has arrived earlier and with accompanying heat waves, while in some parts it’s still affected with heavy rainfall with no letup. This brings us to another fact of life in the Philippines: depressions, storms, and typhoons.

Analysis of the climate map reveals that Mindanao and the southern Visayas islands are good to visit any time of the year, while tourist spots in Luzon and northern Visayas islands are good destinations during the summer months.

Weather Vacation

Typhoons in the Philippines

Tropical depressions, Tropical storms, Typhoons. They all essentially the same, with the only difference being their wind speeds. Still, Tropical depressions and storms don’t equate to safety just because they don’t have winds that could tear apart billboards and flatten houses. They could even be more dangerous compared to fast-moving super typhoons because of on heavy thing they bring: immense rains with accompanying floods and landslides.

As seen in the map, although Philippine storms and typhoons generally come from the southeastern side of the country and travel north, Mindanao is virtually untouched by typhoon paths, save for a few which cuts across the northern Mindanao area and crossing into the western areas of the country. Historically, the eastern seaboard of Luzon is most affected, especially the Bicol region as it is usually the first to be in the typhoon’s path. Also heavily affected are the Samar and Leyte islands.

Although storms and typhoons come in throughout the year, the months of January to April have shown a smaller probability of such. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there will be no rains on these months. Also, June to November months have shown the most occurrences of typhoons crossing the Philippines.

Aside from typhoons, the Philippines constantly experiences Low Pressure Areas (LPA) and Inter-Tropical Convergence Zones (ITCZ). Both are merely complicated terms for rain, haha.

While rains could dampen your mood and hamper some vacation activities (unless it’s some rain festival or something), there are quite a few benefits for the budget-conscious travelers: cheaper airfares and accommodations! Such is the effect of supply and demand on the lean months.

Weather Vacation

Rain-free

In conclusion, while you may be equipped with a few decades worth of data on Philippine weather patterns, which could be helpful when you are doing some long-term vacation planning (especially with the current airfare promos), bear in mind that these are merely general predictions.

It could be that you scheduled your vacation on a surely dry season in some part of the Philippines, but with just a bit of bad luck, it happened to rain on that very day. Or you could be traveling to a sunny part of the the country, but your flight got delayed due to heavy rains on your departure location. Well, we’ve nothing and no one to blame actually.

As for immediate and short-term travel plans, it pays to check on the various Philippine weather sites which give daily and weekly forecasts.

To check the weather on a regular basis, you could check on the Philippine government agency Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), or the popular May Bagyo (Typhoon 2000). These sites constantly update their weather status and forecasts.

With these in mind, have an enjoyable “well-scheduled” vacation!

For the pictures, credits to the various sites, in order of appearance: FreeWorldMaps.net, Top Destination Choice the Philippines, and Cebu Experience
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Political/Social Awareness, Thoughts

Inundation and the Follies of Man

Inundation Manila

Flooded Manila, photo from Business Insider Site

In the direct path of the typhoon belt and constantly under the heavy monsoon clouds, the Philippines, the tropical country in the edge of the Pacific, is in a rather tight corner in terms of weather events. And within a span of five years, we have been experiencing extreme events such as long droughts, heat waves, and severe storms.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the new normal now. Last 2009 the National Capital Region as well as the surrounding provinces suffered a deluge brought about by the tropical storm Ondoy. Last year, the southern cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were flooded when Mindanao was suddenly passed by the tropical storm Sendong. Now, we have a heavy rainshower with no name and which has lasted for about five days now, and it has brought back the specter of Ondoy on Metro Manila, that of rampaging flood waters down the streets and alleys of this crowded region of 15 million Filipinos. Major floods are cyclical, in 5 to 100 year periods, but having a few “once every hundred years” flooding within two years is something really attention-grabbing.

Inundation Manila

The view outside our condominium.

It’s quite depressing to see in the television the constant flashing of scenes of people clinging for dear life, shivering in the rooftops, huddling in evacuation centers, and the like. There is a high degree of certainty that these scenarios are sure to become regular in the years to come. Such disasters have a series of repercussions: paralyzed public/private institutions, delayed schedules, damaged and lost properties, personal stress and trauma, as well as the huge financial losses in cleanup, repair, business shutdowns and personal wages.

Inundation Manila

Man awaiting rescue

Naturally, in moments of despair people would look for scapegoats to place the blame of this calamity: an incompetent president, an unreliable weather bureau, a corrupt legislature, shortsighted city planners, pestering informal settlers, or even a vindictive God. Whether or not those in the list are largely to blame, one thing is for sure: we ALL have a hand on it, intentional or not. Even I am party to this crime against earth. I would just like to clarify that the following analysis is not some blame game. Rather, it is a neutral write-up that would hopefully serve as a wake-up call for all of us.

It’s quite impossible to clearly delineate the environmental follies of man, given the complexity and number of factors involved. For a start, most of our cities and towns are badly planned in terms of zoning, drainage, and the like. The city and municipal planners seem to disregard the readily available geohazard maps which detail the landslide and flood prone areas, and the local governments don’t have the political will to enforce critical plans such as relocation of people, construction regulation on some areas, and dismantling of some structures. The famous Daniel Burnham who designed the master plan of downtown Chicago and Washington, D.C. also came to the Philippines more than a century ago to design the cities of Manila and Baguio. Sadly, these plans never bore fruit.

Inundation Manila

The Pasig river as envisioned by Burnham, picture from The Grandeur Traveler site.

In the political world, the politicians who seemingly don’t look beyond their three/six year terms blatantly tolerate the unregulated growth of informal settlers’ population among the various areas of the metropolis to ensure their voting base. Besides the accompanying crime and poverty, these informal settlers clog the waterways and pollute the rivers with their human and material wastes. Also, waterways are essentially risk areas when it comes to flooding, and with the congestion of informal settlers on such places, disaster is sure to follow.

The government has made some measures to relocate informal settlers, but some of these are ill-planned as the relocation areas are hazard prone. Now, why is the National Capital Region heavily congested? People from the provinces come to the metropolis in search of employment, sacrificing the good and simple life in their hometowns. We can’t blame these folks, the Philippines has a skewed economy as Metro Manila accounts for a third of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In short, the money is in Manila, and not in some rural region. Now add the factor of people uneducated on proper family planning, and we have a population bomb on our laps.

Inundation Manila

Manila Slums, picture from Heckeranddecker WordPress Site.

Back to the aspect of zoning and urban growth, we have raped our forests and populated the riverbanks. The trees are there for a reason, to absorb water and hold the ground. The flood plains and natural catch basins are called as such since they are naturally flooded in a seasonal manner. People move in to flood plains and cry for help when it rains. But then again, it’s not really their fault since its property developers who created these subdivisions, buildings, and townhouses. How did these construction firms get away with it? It comes back again to the city and municipal planners and those darned hazard maps. Since urban growth is inevitable and permanent, measures should have been done to avoid possible problems such as spillways, dredging, pumping stations, dikes, among others. How come these are still not enough or that some plans going as far back as the 70’s remain in the drawing boards? It comes back again to the politicians and powers that be.

Then there’s climate change. The insatiable greed of the western world in the past few centuries has enclosed our planet with greenhouse gases and it cannot be helped, lest our global economy, which stands on oil, collapse. With the obvious change in weather events, third world countries such as ours are bound to suffer due to exposure to extreme drought or unusually severe thunderstorms. With the seas rising at approximately 3 millimeters per year due to the melting ice caps, and parts of Manila literally having sunk several feet below sea level due to water table depletion by deep wells, what would happen next is a no-brainer.

Inundation Manila

From road to river

Really depressing, right?

Do we have a right to blame the above listed? Not really. We put our leaders there in the first place, we throw cigarette butts and candy wrappers on the ground thinking that no harm would come from such teeny bit of a litter, we don’t heed the words of the wise to curb our population growth in the face of ever shrinking resources, we just half-heartedly recycle and conserve, and most of all, we just let the days pass by without even taking initiative to push the government or educate the people. We simply think that “some guy/agency is assigned to do that, it doesn’t concern me.” In the end, when we face disaster, we blame that “some guy/agency” for all our ills. When the government does one thing, people complain. When the government does the alternative, people still complain. Filipinos are naturally a complaining and never satisfied people.

Guess what, we are in a web, we’re all in this together. To blame the government, to blame the president, to blame the informal settlers, to blame the capitalists, to blame the church… means we are blaming ourselves.

Inundation Manila

Assistance

We have to face this new reality of disasters head-on, there’s not much choice concerning it anyway. We have to stop merely criticizing from the comfort of our laptops in the web, and start acting by being more environmentally concerned and by sharing what we have with those in need, whether it be financial, logistical, or by our other talents. Our country has for too long been suffering from strife and discord, unity is our utmost need right now.

With all our follies and disasters, it’s about time we give finger-pointing a break, and simply seek help from one another. After all, no man is an island. And with this climate change, all small islands sink.

You can view the Flood Hazard Map of Manila created by the Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau. If you’re interested in viewing specific various areas, you can check the Philippine Landslide & Flood Maps at the Philippine Information Agency. If you’re Googlemap-savvy, you can check out the Regional Flood Maps of the Nababaha.com site.

Some pictures courtesy of AJ Casañas and the Vincenton Post site.
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Books, Reviews

Hope for the Flowers

Hope for the Flowers

Photo by Dianna Agron (yup, the Glee actress)

Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus is a truly adult book deceptively packaged as a children’s book (in a positive way).

I read the book when I saw it from my sister’s cabinet at our old house. It really grabbed my attention that the bright yellow cover and text were hand drawn, with the witty line “for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)”. Well, I’m not a caterpillar. But I’m an adult so that made me eligible anyway, snicker.

Trina Paulus did the art and lettering from cover to cover, though I could tell that the author did not have much difficulty. The whole story is so simple you might ignore it by mistaking it as a ho-hum kiddie read. But it is in here that Trina Paulus hit home, it’s in the simplicity that lies the beauty of the story.

For the book background, the story was written during the 70’s which was a hippie era, or the age when the youth really rebelled against the establishment and experimented on a lot of stuff both good and bad. Anyway, to connect, the book was made at a time when people were disillusioned by the state of society and turned to drugs, sex, and music as a way to escape or assert their status in life.

The book, in a way, mirrors real life during those times. The title speaks for itself, it is about Hope. Beyond the counterculture period of the 60’s and 70’s, the story still holds true and is as applicable today.

The story starts with two caterpillars named Stripe and Yellow, who met each other at a time of disillusionment and a lingering powerful feeling that there ought to be more to life than what they do. The book tells of their journey, which led to separation, and leading to a false conclusion which purposely shows the current state of human affairs. However, as with all good books about Hope, of course it leads to a good ending, with a simple conclusion but huge moral about making changes into one’s life in order to rise, excel, and find true meaning.

The overt simplicity itself of the book could be a downside on attracting readership, since it is almost always mistaken for a simple children’s novel. Only well-read intellectuals, or referred readers would actually grab a copy of this. Well, it’s the loss of the common reader, not us informed bookworms.

The book is so simple and the story so short, you could actually finish reading within a few minutes. But the impact of the story to you is so huge in comparison to its simplicity. The story is inspirational in the sense that it could also make you ponder on where you are now in your life, and it silently prods you to not just aimlessly seek for the meaning of life, but for you to create your own answer, and fly away with it.

Trina Paulus has a website for Hope for the Flowers, you can check it here. They also have two FB pages, you can check out both the first and second one.

The author has a blog herself, you can also check it here.

Juan’s Say: [rating=4]
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