Manila– The early morning Saturday update of the Philippine weather bureau noted that the amihan or northeast monsoon, which signals the advance of the cold season and the approach of Christmas, is affecting weather conditions but for the better.
“The Pacific Ocean is restless, but there are no tropical storms in the horizon,” the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration announced.
Filipinos are usually elated at this piece of news, but they’re not, as they watched in disbelief thousands of their countrymen wading in floods, soaked in mud, and shivering with their families from their rooftops, waiting for rescue. The Philippine police reported that the typhoon left 26 dead and dozens either still missing or injured.
These scenes started Friday morning after typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), made landfall Thursday night, Nov. 12, on the main island of Luzon including Metro Manila, whose 12 million residents were kept awake at the terrifying sounds of heavy rains and strong, howling winds.
The aftermath was a wide expanse of inundated cities and provinces with cut power lines that also disconnected the means of communication.
The only shocker was that Filipinos thought typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni), the most powerful storm recorded worldwide this year that made landfall on Nov. 1 as Filipinos observed All Saints Day, was over, and Ulysses was a weaker one. It turned out Ulysses was like the more severe, monster twin.
In exactly a month — between Oct.11 to Nov. 12 — eight cyclones have entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), with an instance of two cyclones inside PAR at the same time.
Weather experts said the Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons every year, but Ulysses is the 21st to make landfall, and three more are expected by year-end. They have been warning that storms may become more severe due to global warming.
Overwhelmed local government leaders in affected localities such as Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina City, the worst-hit in Metro Manila, have asked for help from the private sector to send rubber boats for their rescue operations.
“Our local government cannot do this alone now; we are appealing for help from the private sector,” he said. Marikina, the country’s “shoe capital” for its shoe-making industry, is a low-lying valley that sits on an earthquake fault line and has a tributary, the Marikina River that increases its water level during storms.
The sight of Marikina residents being rescued from their submerged homes brought memories of typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana), the second most devastating tropical cyclone in 2009 that left heavy casualties and damage.
Currently, the provinces of Cagayan Valley and Isabela north of Manila are submerged and isolated. Cagayan provincial information officer Rogelio Sending said, “We are literally in a sea of floodwater, which is the worst in 40 years.”
The onslaught of storms now makes it harder to control Covid-19, as most of the country is still on different levels of lockdown. The Department of Health designated “safety officers to keep close watch and implement health safety protocols” in overcrowded evacuation centers.
As people struggled through the catastrophes that has affected nearly half a million individuals, Filipino netizens, while posting information on where to provide relief, continued to protest the lack of support and inaction of the government by maintaining the trending Twitter hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President?).
The hashtag trended at the height of typhoon Rolly when President Rodrigo Duterte did not make a public address until the typhoon has passed. It trended even more after he addressed the nation, saying, “I want to swim with you but they won’t let me,” apparently referring to people who are wading in floods, which did not sit well with netizens.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo is also trending but for her tireless presence in rescue and rehabilitation efforts from Bicol region south of Manila, which was battered by storm Rolly, to currently in Cagayan Valley.