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Baptizing Typhoons

Since Yahoo is closing down geocities soon, I went to my geocities sites to check if there's anything there worth saving. I saw this article I wrote in one of our writing classes in college. Even then, I have the talent in writing "in-depth" articles. LOL! So yeah, while my classmates were writing about the Visiting Forces Agreement, Oil Deregulation Law, etc., I was busy writing about typhoon's names.

But it's timely. And informative (haha). So here it is:


The students heard the announcement. Many of them rejoiced while some of them grumbled. They stood up almost all at the same time and started walking their way out of the fluorescent-lit classroom. Unable to get out of the building due to the rather heavy rains and strong winds, they all stayed in the lobby. And yet the mood wasn't all gloomy and tense. In fact there were some joking and chuckling around. What made many of the students happy was the fact that classes were suspended because of the typhoon. But what made them happier was the fact that the typhoon was named Jolina.

So typhoons these days can be named after (literally) colorful pop stars. Our typhoons used to have female names ending with "-ng." In other words, they had names similar to our grandmothers' and even our great grandmothers'. We were used to hearing Ernie Baron calling the whirling white shapes on his monitor Goring, Mameng, Insiang or Rosing. But now, when you chance upon Cheryl Cosim reporting weather disturbances named Darna, Barok, Pogi or even Batibot, do not be surprised or alarmed that the news programs are sensationalizing the weather news just to improve their ratings. She is not making things up. The names are legitimate and they can be found in the set of new official typhoon names in the Philippines.

Typhoons or tropical cyclones (this is how international weather agencies generally call typhoons especially those formed in the Indian Ocean just as the ones formed in the Atlantic are called hurricanes and in the Pacific, typhoons) are named so to avoid confusions between forecasters and the general public regarding typhoon forecasts and warnings. They cannot call the typhoons as "the typhoon we are having now" since typhoons do not come one at a time. Sometimes, two or even three typhoons are formed in one ocean at the same week and wander around that area. Naming them reduces the confusion on which typhoon are the forecasters talking about.

Of course, the idea of naming typhoons did not automatically come into the minds of Adam and Eve. One Australian weather forecaster started naming typhoons only in the early 20th century. The said weather forecaster named the cyclones after politicians whom he disliked. Doing so enabled him to publicly state that they (the politicians) are "causing great distress" or "wandering aimlessly at the Pacific." (Early this July, typhoon Gloria caused great rains and floods throughout the Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, much to the delight of the July 4, Fil-American Friendship Day protestors. The typhoon became the activists' convenient analogy to the Philippine President ravaging the nation with US troops and causing much havoc to national sovereignity).

Meanwhile, during the Second World War, meteorologist from the US Army Air Corps and Navy tasked to monitor and forecast typhoons being formed in the Pacific devised a list of typhoon names, which are mostly women names. This was because the soldiers named the weather disturbances after their girlfriends or wives. Only in 1979 did the US National Weather Service use a set of names that included men's names.

Here in the Philippines, the first typhoon that hit the country, reported in 1897, was named "El Baguio de Samar y Leyte." Women names have always been used to name typhoons since 1963. The said names were arranged in alphabetical order, that is from A, Ba, Ka to Ya. In 1997, then Senator Ernesto Herrera questioned Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) about naming the typhoons female names saying that it has "subconsciously associated women with the loss of precious lives and properties." It is therefore, according to Herrera, unfair and derogatory to the females.

That is why in 1999, PAGASA launched "Name a Bagyo (Typhoon)" contest. Entries for the said contest must not have any derogatory meanings, must not exceed nine letters and three syllables, and must reflect the culture of the people. The new list was therefore used starting in 2001. The said list, composed mainly of the winning "Name a Bagyo" contest entries, is still in alphabetical order, but now from A to Z (However, there are no names starting with Ng and X.)

According to PAGASA, the adoption of the new names that are mostly local and reflective of the Filipino culture was meant to enhance the awareness of the public that a formed typhoon is already within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). When a typhoon is still outside of PAR, it is still called through its official international name. Thus, when Filipinos hear a report about a typhoon named Hambalos, Labuyo or Manoy, then is the time to be alarmed.

But these should not be confused with international typhoon names Cimaron, Hagibis, Imbudo, Malakas, and Talim. Yes, the said names are international typhoon names. The reason for their very familiar and local sound is that it was contributed to the international typhoon naming organization by- who else - but our very own PAGASA.

Although PAGASA had already contributed ten names in the International list (along with other countries in the Pacific rim like U.S.A., China and Japan), they were never content. Of all the countries in the world, The Philippines, (together with Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji) is recognized for having independent names for typhoons.

PAGASA'S list of new typhoon names is composed of four sets, which will be rotating until the year 2016. Other noteworthy names in the list are Roleta, Sibak, Espada, Harurot and Kenkoy. The names, more or less, make one anticipate on what the next typhoon name is going to be.

To those who missed typhoon Jolina in the year 2001, do not despair. She'll definitely be coming back in 2005, 2009 and 2013.


Anonymous said...

You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view