Monsooner or Monlater, You’re Gonna Get Wet

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Here in the Philippines, the climate is tropical. What does that mean?

Well, a few of things. First, the tropics is the area located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer… Everything in the middle. Because of the location of the Philippines (Between 4° 40′ N and 21° 10′ N), the country is wholly, 100% tropical.

Next, the location means that the length of your day is relatively consistent throughout the year: Roughly 12 hours in most of the country. Therefore, there is no “daylight savings” or “summer” time here… There is no point to adjusting the clock. It gets dark at about the same time in December (In the far North, a little earlier) as it does in July.

Finally, there are generally no seasons as they are known in the States or Europe. Seasons in the Philippines are better characterized as either Wet or Dry. Though the entire country has a wet season and a dry season, the meaning  varies greatly from North to South. The weather is not uniform throughout the country, though temperatures are normally close at any given time. Draw an imaginary line from Bataan stretching down Leyte (or, look at the map). South of the line, rainfall is generally consistent throughout the year. North of the line is dictated by the East Asian Monsoon.

Monsoon winds in action!

Monsoon winds in action!

Monsoon means a reversal of the prevailing winds, and generally a reversal of the weather. The North / South line on the map is the rough boundary of the monsoon. The East Asian Monsoon stretches from the Philippines North through Taiwan, South China (including Hong Kong), and eventually Southern Japan and Korea. The weather “shifts” during the summer months in the North. A look at the boundary of the monsoon also roughly shows the track of most of the typhoons that strike the Philippines, and typhoon season coincides with monsoon season.

So, what is monsoon season like? Well, starting in May, it starts to rain every day. Monsoon rains are heavy, often with significant lightning and thunder. 10 cm (about 4″) of rainfall in an hour is by no means unusual. The rains are generally strong, very brief (normally no more than an hour or two), and look menacing. For example, as I’m typing this, about 15 minutes ago, I had to put on the lights in my office at 16:00… it was nearly as dark out as at 21:00.  This is also the season of frequent brownouts due to the heavy storms. In Manila, the brownouts are short in duration: an hour or two at most. In Abulug, brownouts can last for weeks. The rains normally start in the late afternoon, and often can cause flooding due to the heavy amounts of rainfall. This occurrence is each and every day from May through the beginning of September, with the rains decreasing in frequency gradually until the dry season starts in November.

A Monsterous Typhoon

A Monsterous Typhoon

In the far North, just about every typhoon in the region hits landfall. On average, 13 per year. A typhoon is exactly like a hurricane (Just a digfferent name): High winds, storm surge, the whole deal. If you intend to live in Manila, you always need to keep fresh batteries, drinking water, first aid kit, and flashlights on hand. No excuses, because there isd at least one typhoon per year that impacts Manila. Tyuphoons normally track along the monsoonal boundaries, hitting the Philippines first before continuing North into Taiwan and China.

Dry season in the North is exactly opposite,  as you might expect: Little to no rain from the end of November through the beginning of May. We also learned the hard way about getting work done on the house during the dry season: You may find an unpleasant surprise once the serious rains come. Think about how houses are built here and the reason why becomes clear: Metal roofs, plywood base, not much sealant. Unfortunately, monsoon rains tend to blow, sometimes horizontally, so finding leaks can be a real challenge, especially if work was done months earlier!

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.


Comments

  1. Jade says

    JohnM,

    Thanks for a well written and timely article.

    Daisy and I always use the Typhoon2000 website for tracking typhoons heading toward the Philippines. We feel it is very good.
    I had not noticed it mentioned or posted before, so here it is:

    http://www.typhoon2000.ph/

    On it there is a link for the most serious weather junkies.
    The Naga automated weather station:

    http://www.typhoon2000.ph/weather.htm

    Here is an article about this automated weather station’s originator, Michael Padua.
    It is an interesting read.

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/talkofthetown/view/20091219-242994/Michael-Padua-One-man-weather-center

    Let’s hope that this typhoon season will not have any devastating ones , but be prepared.

    Jade

  2. maria says

    hi john
    if you remember that landslide due to excessive rain in leyte a few years ago that buried the town of ginsahugun, that was not too far from where i was born and where my family is living, mantahan southern leyte.

    • John Miele says

      Maria: I don’t remember that one, but up in Cagayan, landslides are very common, particularly heading up into the mountains. There are several bridges that are routinely washed away from flooding, especially since the town is situated between two rivers. Driving up from Tuguegarao, there is a section of the National Highway near the river bank by Lallo that is always washed away after a heavy typhoon season.

  3. says

    Hey John,

    I was just thinking of writing about the monsoons since I’m experiencing a lot of that now in Laguna, in the foothills of Mt. Makiling. Excellent info, including the map. I was at Mega Mall on Sunday, and around noon, it just poured and poured. I had to take the bus back, and by the time I got on the bus, I was half-soaked. And the a/c on the bus was just blasting away. Brrr. Maybe we can add pneumonia to the perils of the monsoon. And laundry doesn’t get quite dry.

    Alex

    • Jade says

      Hi AlexB,
      Where in Laguna do you live? Our house is in Paciano Rizal, Calamba City, Laguna. We have a view of Mt. Makiling from our 2nd floor sala terrace. Our house is near a small river which does a remarkable job of flooding in the rainy season. It is located in the Atienza family compound. That’s why we live here. I always have liked the lots, many available, on the hillsides overlooking Lake Laguna de Bay. No flooding there! Do you know of the 7 story castle like house located there, owned by Rudy Diego, the former dress designer for Imelda Marcos, and much more? He gave us a tour of it while it was still under construction. Amazing person, gracious and friendly, true to the Philippine personality.
      Stay dry,
      Jade

      • John Miele says

        Jade: Sounds nice! Flood was the first thing we checked into before renting here. After the floods last year in Marikina, I was glad we checked!

        • Jade says

          John,
          Daisy’s father Ben, (Victoriano, for short) lives in Marikina with his new wife. Daisy’s mother passed away 5 years ago. Marikina is a remarkable community, a university town – PLMar University, Marikina River Park with bicycle and jogging paths – paved, rest areas, picnic areas, tasteful public art sculptures abound, all well maintained. Enough public infrastructure to make many US cities stand up and take notice, not the stereotypical Philippine urban setting! Unfortunately the Marikina River is fed by a very large watershed emptying into Lake Laguna de Bay (via the reversible Pasig river), the largest lake in the Philippines, 922 square kilometers in size, and flooding in this low lying community is endemic.
          Last year prior to the 2009 flood Daisy’s father had just completed the finishing touches on his new 2 story house there, within walking distance of the Marikina River. Bad news. His lower floor was completely flooded, appliances, furniture and as well his van. Thank god there is a second floor for them to live on during the terrible clean-up. He is now not well and Daisy will be visiting him there later this week. We pray for his complete recovery. After our wedding last year we were invited to see his new house, but money and time considerations prevented this.
          Take Care,
          Jade

          • John Miele says

            Jade: Hope he feels better. Marikina is nice, but the flooding is the main issue… Won’t buy or rent there for that reason (Along with parts of Pasig).

    • John Miele says

      Alex: Got caught in the same storm at Trinoma. When it is really pouring, the metal roof on our house gets quite noisy.

  4. Gary says

    I guess we’re lucky here in Gensan wearther wise. That’s a cool map, interesting how the patterns are formed.

    • John Miele says

      Gary: If you look closely, the patterns tend to follow the mountain ranges. They are a big influence, too.

      • Gary says

        It totally makes sense, although this map doesn’t show the topography. My folks live in Palos Verdes, CA a little south of LAX, which you may be familiar with. It’s interesting how the first 1/4 mile inland will sit in fog all day, the rest of the hill is sunny and pleasant while the LA basin is baking. I never lived in a house with AC until I moved to Gensan in 97, then to Dallas (OMG).

        Rose’s father is from Catanduanes which juts out into the Pacific – they get whacked something awful.

        • John Miele says

          Gary: I’ve heard that about Catanduanes… They always get it first, and hardest. All of them.

          Yep, familiar with the LA area. Experienced it regularly when I lived in Burbank and commuted to Santa Monica.

  5. says

    Hi John- I’m glad we live in Northern Mindanao just out of the typhoon belt after reading your article. We do get heavy rains sometime lasting up to 24 hours, but due to the topography little flooding as it heads into the canyons off the mountains to the rivers then the sea.
    Regards.
    Jim in the Bukid.

      • says

        Hi John- We do have distinct wet and dry seasons but down in CdeO yes your correct the weather is pretty constant throughout the year.
        Regards.
        Jim.

  6. John in Austria says

    Hi John, Nice article and very informative. It should be printed and given to all tourists. And as mentioned above, the map is also very interesting. May I ask where you found it?

    Combine the map with Feyma’s real estate website and people can choose where they want to retire, or at least find a bit more climate information about their chosen locale.

  7. Roberto says

    Hi John: Great stuff. Here in Caraga we don’t get pummeled with systems coming in from the Pacific, mountain ranges divert then into the Visayas, and Luzon.

  8. says

    Hi John, Wow–looking at the map that you provided, I’m amazed at all the variations in weather in the different areas of the Philippines! It’s not just dry season and rainy season everywhere you go I guess. I get a kick out of the daily weather reports on the news though–it’s reported: “partly sunny” and “occasional rain” everywhere on their weather map every day, no matter where someone might be!

    • JohnM says

      Queenie: Sorry I missed your comment… In any event, the weather guys gotta talk about something! Only job where you can be consistently wrong and still keep it!

  9. Ron Hill says

    Hi John,Here in Dipolog we are very lucky as far as typhoons are concerned.It seems that the islands around us break up the pattern and we just get the after effects ie some heavy rain and a bit of a blow.At the moment we are getting rain every day or night lasting for 2 or 3 hours.The best time of the year for living here as the weather is a lot cooler.

      • Cordellero Cowboy says

        I’m finding this kinda late. Good article, but I didn’t see any map? We’re in the foothills above Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. Not much evidence of mudslides in the local area. We’ve seen them in Bagio, and Binaue. In the hills, we don’t have the flooding and Mosquitos like at Mother-in-law’s place down in the valley.

        Take care,
        Pete

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