September 19, 2015 by Stephen Bentley
Stormy Weather! Or Why I Prefer the Philippines to British Weather
I write this during yet another thunderstorm and a heavy downpour here in Negros Island in the Philippines. I love thunderstorms. Are you one of those people fascinated by the TV documentaries about storm chasing, whirlwinds and all that other violent weather that us humans have to contend with? I know I am. Where did all that start? I mean loving thunderstorms . In my case I can trace it back to when I was a child, but more of that later.
I am also conscious as I write that violent weather can kill people. That is a fact all Filipinos are aware of as a result of the regularity of typhoons sweeping through the archipelago.
I have often heard Filipinos refer to two distinct monsoon seasons. This has always confused me, as I am sure I was taught in my schooldays back in England that a monsoon was always associated with torrential rain.
However since my retirement here I have become interested in all things Philippines and Filipino. I did some research on the two monsoon seasons in the Philippines. They are known as the ‘habagat’ and the ‘amihan’. In a nutshell the ‘habagat’ is what we are experiencing now in September. It is the summer monsoon driven by the prevailing southwesterly and westerly winds. It dumps heavy rainfalls all over South East Asia and usually lasts from late April/early May through to October.
The ‘amihan’ or winter monsoon is a relatively cool and dry period with many days of cloudless azure skies. The prevailing winds are northerly or northeasterly. It is a feature of an anticyclone weather system that forms over the large continental mass of China. This is similar to the anticyclones that produce similar weather patterns in both Central Europe and Central North America. This ‘amihan’ in the Philippines usually lasts from late September/early October through to the following April.
It has to also be noted that there are micro climates within the archipelago. There are great differences in rainfall patterns between various islands. Here in Negros, Western Visayas, we have on average a little over 5” of rain per month (based on data gathered in nearby Cebu City) with a high of 7.87” in October and a low of 0.79” in March. By way of contrast Baguio has a high of 45.67” of rain in August and a low of 0.79” in January and February. I mentioned the ‘amihan’ bringing relatively cool temperatures in the winter months and technically that is correct. However to a Brit an average high of between 29C and 32C throughout the year is still relatively hot!
As I was saying I write this during another thunderstorm. I love them and I guess it stems from my childhood days in Liverpool. On the odd occasion that we used to have a few summer weeks of unbroken hot weather it was common to have a thunderstorm to signal the end of the hot weather. I have vivid memories of standing with Mum at the front upstairs window of our home and watching the lightning flashes and listening to the loud claps of thunder. I was always apprehensive at first but Mum put me at ease when referring to the loud thunder and softly saying, “It’s only God playing marbles.” On our regular visits to my maternal grandmother I also vividly recall this. Grandma would always open the front and back doors of her house during a thunderstorm. She had a bee in her bonnet about fireballs produced by lightning strikes. Her belief was that if a fireball struck it would enter the front door and roll right through and leave by the back door! Who knows she may have been right – the pity is we will never find out as lightning never struck her house!
I know I prefer the Philippines weather to back in Britain. Even when it rains cats and dogs here you know that in an hour or two the sun will be out and it will be baking hot again. What I will never miss about British weather is the endless days, sometimes stretching into weeks, when permanent leaden skies are the backdrop to everything. Days of gloom even in summer; those drab miserable days are worse in the winter months. They are cool, or downright cold, grey and a wall of drizzle for days on end. No wonder SAD is a recognized psychological condition.
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