Last June 2019, PAGASA officially declared the start of the rainy season in the Philippines. Preparing for days, even weeks, of heavy rain is certainly something Filipinos aren’t new to — PAGASA says much of the Philippine climate is characterized by heavy rainfall. With a tropical and maritime climate, rain is something that all regions experience, but to varying degrees. For example, Baguio City, Eastern Samar, and Eastern Surigao usually experience the most amount of rain, while the southern portion of Cotabato experiences the least.
High amounts of rainfall are highly dependent on the tropical cyclones or typhoons that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility. According to a report by PAGASA, an average of 20 tropical cyclones cross the Southeast Asian region every year, with around an average of 8 or 9 of them passing through the Philippines.
For 2018, PAGASA recorded a total of 8 typhoons that hit the Philippines, not including 2 severe tropical storms, 5 tropical storms, and 6 tropical depressions. Typhoons— and their stronger counterpart, super typhoons— affect the Philippines the most, bringing in heavy rainfall and winds that are around 118 to 220 km/h.
Apart from being in an area which tropical cyclones frequently go through, Inquirer notes that the Philippines is also located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region which is frequented by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The Philippines has had its share of natural calamities, with the UN’s 2018 World Risk Report recording the country as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, ranking third overall. These tragedies brought by natural causes leave plenty of people suffering from their effects. Below are some of the areas most affected by natural calamities in the Philippines.
In what was described as akin to the force of 32 Hiroshima bombs, an immense 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Bohol in 2013. The quake caused massive damage to buildings, historical landmarks, and homes, leaving a death count of 87 and an injured 164 in the area alone.
What triggered the earthquake, as explained by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs), was movement along the East Bohol Fault. Philvolcs recorded 110 aftershocks after the main earthquake happened, and warned that the aftershocks would continue until a few days after the tragedy.
Densely-populated Cebu also had major casualties in the earthquake that ravaged the Bohol area in October 15, 2013. The Official Gazette of the Philippines reported that the earthquake took the lives of at least 13 people in Cebu and damaged plenty of buildings and historical structures across the Central Visayas region. A total of 819,051,000 pesos worth of damage came from the earthquake’s onslaught in Cebu alone, destroying public buildings, roads, hospitals, schools, homes, and several major bridges and flood control structures.
Cebu also suffered plenty of losses during the infamous Super Typhoon Yolanda. When the super typhoon made landfall on November 8 2013, the Philippine Star recorded 71 casualties from Cebu, mostly from communities near bodies of water. Yolanda left a record number of 1,347,497 people affected in Cebu, the highest in the Central Visayas region.
On September 20, 2018 a major landslide also hit Naga City in Cebu, leaving 8,091 people homeless for almost 3 months. As Typhoon Ompong ravaged the region, the strong winds and heavy rain caused a slope of limestone and soil to collapse onto homes.
The aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Leyte shocked the entire world. With winds that exceeded 300 km/h, Super Typhoon Yolanda was dubbed the strongest that had ever struck the region, leaving 14.1 million people affected and more than 7,360 dead and missing.
The Eastern Visayas region is definitely no stranger to natural calamities. Rappler reports that major land masses in Eastern Visayas — namely, Samar, Leyte and Biliran — are the worst-hit areas in the country’s typhoon zone, with the three major islands facing the Pacific.
Just last December 2018, Typhoon Usman hit the region, leaving a death toll of around 85 people, with 20 missing. The typhoon eventually left 24,894 individuals spending their holidays in 170 evacuation centers.
On Christmas day 2016, Typhoon Nina ravaged the Bicol region with strong winds peaking at 185km/h. Typhoon Nina left plenty of areas in Bicol without power for a week after the storm had passed, damaging around 30,897 houses.
The coastal areas of Bicol are susceptible to being heavily affected by typhoons. The last typhoon that ravaged the Bicol region before Typhoon Nina was Typhoon Reming in 2006, which left 794 deaths in the area.
Storms are also particularly dangerous for areas near an active volcano. Along with the beauty of the Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone-shaped peak comes the potential for disaster, keeping locals in the area constantly on their feet. The Guardian said that half a million people in the region that had to be evacuated during Typhoon Nina, as large ash deposits on the slopes of Mt. Mayon could be dislodged by rains and winds.
Bicol was also largely affected by Typhoon Usman in 2018, with strong winds and heavy flooding collapsing the ground in the uplands of Legazpi City. This caused a landslide which killed three people, and left homes buried by wet soil.
The bodies of water in the Ilocos region, with its 29 river systems and three river basins, provide sufficient irrigation for agricultural purposes. However, they can swell to up to three times their sizes in heavy rain, causing flooding in the neighboring areas.
The coastal communities in the region are also at high risk for storm surges. In fact, 2018’s Typhoon Ompong alarmed people in Ilocos Norte, with PAGASA warning of possible storm surges up to 6 meters high. The neighboring provinces of Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan were also warned of possible storm surges up to 2 meters in height.
Ilocos Norte also recently declared a state of calamity after the province was left heavily flooded by the constant downpour of Tropical Storm Ineng.
To know more about the Philippine climate’s inclination to storms and heavy rainfall, check out Daydreaming in Paradise’s ‘Why Does the Philippines Have Typhoons’.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.