El Nino in the Philippines

We’re in mid August, which means, we’re right in the middle of the rainy and typhoon season. True enough, the past weeks and months have been rainy, stormy, and even brought a devastating typhoon.

Then suddenly, as if somebody flicked a switch (a la The Truman Show), the tumultuous weather ceased. Suddenly we’re experiencing dry, burning, extreme heat! The same kind of heat we were suffering from in April and May.

So this is the “El Niño” that I’ve always heard about, and it has arrived.

El Nino in the Philippines

I’ve heard of El Niño already just into my first month in the Philippines. It’s an “extension of summer”, I was told. While the rainy season officially starts in June there sometimes come a pushback where summer-like conditions catch up, bringing in heatwaves in the middle of the rainy season.

When I heard that El Niño can last up to a month or more, I was actually quite excited. More sunny days, less rainy days, who wouldn’t get excited about that?

Well, now, where El Niño has been confirmed by the Philippine weather bureau as to have officially started, it just doesn’t make sense anymore how I could have possibly gotten excited over this. It is horrible. The heat is oppressive. It’s “summer” all over again. It hasn’t rained in many days, the heat reaches almost 40°C in the shade, and the air condition is running on full power.

I would have never thought I’d suddenly be wishing for rain and rough seas. Sure, it looks beautiful with the sea in turquoise-colored splendor, but the intensity of the sun forces everyone to hide under the shades, or for those with the means, in air conditioned places.

Comparison to Finland’s “takatalvi”

We have something similar but conversely opposite in Finland called “takatalvi”, which means something like “winter is back”. After a long, cold, dark winter in Finland, spring finally arrives in May and brings the first sunny days along. You’d think that you finally “survived” the winter, but then “takatalvi” hits you right in the face with a week or so of freezing temperatures and snow right in the middle of spring.

Although temperature wise it couldn’t be more extremely opposite, nevertheless, the effect “El Niño” has on me is just the same: the feeling of frustration. That’s why I was so relieved when the intense summer was finally over because I couldn’t cope with the heat—but now this. Just goes to prove that I’m not built for the tropics, only for the Arctic.

Finding relief at sunset

So here we are now, on a sunny day sheltering inside our air conditioned room, waiting for the sun to set. Like the locals, it’s at sunset (around 5:30 pm) when we all come out of hiding. Because it’s at sunset when the sun rays is the mildest. I must say, it’s the most beautiful time of the day too, my favourite one.

Currently, low tide is after 5:00pm, so we take advantage of that by taking long walks in San Remigio’s vast tidal flats. It’s also the only time of the day where we can go jogging safely without fearing a heat stroke.

In contrast to daytime, when the sun is at its peak, you wouldn’t see any people on the beach, not even people swimming. But thankfully, everything changes at sunset. It’s just so much fun to watch all the locals suddenly being so active.
Many locals, most of them fishermen, walk along the shallow waters, a bucket in hand, searching for shells, crabs, and sea urchins.
Whole families, including ours, often gather around a bucket full of freshly harvested sea urchins with a pot full of rice. Here we eat the sea urchins for dinner right on the sands. It couldn’t get any more fresh.
Children play in the waters and sand and seem to be lost in their imaginary world of playing.
Dogs run around freely, playing, or just resting on the wet and cool sand, like what Jaguar is doing here.

What I love about our shores here in San Remigio is that it’s such a non-touristy place. This is what I call an authentic Life in the Philippines. So we’ll just keep on doing what we used to do in the summer time in order to cope with El Nino, which is, to hide indoors in the daytime and come out only at sunset, humans and animals alike.