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Summertime in the Philippines

Summertime in the Philippines. I have been warned many times. I was told that May is the hottest and driest month of the year. I was told the heat would be unbearable and I would wish for the rainy season to start. And I have heard of locals leaving the country in May in order to escape the insane heat. They were NOT exaggerating. Not one bit.

European association with the word “summertime”

When I, and probably most Europeans, think of the word “summertime”, we associate it with only pleasant feelings: sunbathing at the beach, swimming, eating icecream and spending time outdoors in the sun.

So, naturally, when I was told that May is the “summer month” of the Philippines, I was looking forward to it. Despite all warnings from others; despite the horror stories of unbearable heat and locals going abroad to escape it; I still thought to myself, it can’t be that bad. Come on, everybody loves summertime.

Filipino summertime

Now, I would like to officially take these words back and point out my naive thoughts about the Filipino summer—it is insane! How could I have seriously thought summertime is the same everywhere around the world.

The heat here is brutal. The sun feels like burning fire on the skin. The temperature reaches up to 40C and combined with the humidity… The sunlight on the skin feels like burning fire. I turn red like a tomato the minute I step into the sun. It drains all the power out of us. It makes us sleepy and impossible for us to move or be active.

Too hot to do anything

So, instead of spending these sunny days at the beach, as many would probably assume, we’re indoors all day. The aircon is running all day and night (electricity bills are rising up!) and we try to move as little as possible. Even walking towards the nearby eatery (around 200m) is just too much. Half way through I’m always ready to give up…the sun is just that strong. There is no shade from the buildings and the heat gets intensified by the asphalt.

It’s also been many weeks since my last swim. Even the water feels too hot to go swimming. And besides, being that extremely exposed to the sun with the reflection of the water, would not only cause severe sunburns, no, it could also easily give me a heat stroke. No need for that.

I never thought that a tropical country like the Philippines, with temperatures all year long around 30C, could actually have a “summer”. The kids are currently on a 2-month summer break from school and stores advertise summer sales. For me as a Finn, it feels weird to use the word summer. For me, summer always meant that the cold, dark, snowy winter is over and nature, animals, and people wake from hibernation. Here it kinda feels like summer all year long.

Nature and heat

When it comes to nature, here in the Philippines, it’s the opposite of the European summer—instead of everything turning green and blooming here, the dry May causes the leaves to fall off the trees. Plants turn yellow, instead of green.

And as I was told today, the peak of the summer heat is even still about to come by mid May…let’s see how that will turn out!

Most people, like this fisherman at our beach, cover their face and arms. The less skin that is exposed to the sun, the better.
Most people, like this fisherman at our beach, cover their face and arms. The less skin that is exposed to the sun, the better.
Summertime is also the time of many brownouts (local power cuts). Too many people use their aircon at the same time. The only thing that helps is: stay in the shade, don’t move, and a wet cloth to cool down your head.
Summertime is also the time of many brownouts (local power cuts). Too many people use their aircon at the same time. The only thing that helps is: stay in the shade, don’t move, and a wet cloth to cool down your head.
Almost everybody uses umbrellas to protect from the sun. The sunnier the day, the more umbrellas. And also, the sunnier the day, the more skin is being covered—as in this case with a jacket. It’s better to sweat underneath the clothes, than suffer the direct heat of the sun.
Almost everybody uses umbrellas to protect from the sun. The sunnier the day, the more umbrellas. And also, the sunnier the day, the more skin is being covered—as in this case with a jacket. It’s better to sweat underneath the clothes, than suffer the direct heat of the sun.
At noontime the overhead sun doesn't give any shade at all. I've never seen my shadow that small and directly underneath me. Also, walking through town is impossible: the buildings and trees "swallow" their own shadow. Everyday we search our route through Bogo City wisely, depending on where we can find the most shade.
At noontime the overhead sun doesn’t give any shade at all. I’ve never seen my shadow that small and directly underneath me. Also, walking through town is impossible: the buildings and trees “swallow” their own shadow. Everyday we search our route through Bogo City wisely, depending on where we can find the most shade.
Arthur covered up in a sarong. Without the sarong, the skin would be so painful from the sun. Also, notice the tiny shadow of that young coconut tree and Arthur? It's right underneath them.
Arthur covered up in a sarong. Without the sarong, the skin would be so painful from the sun. Also, notice the tiny shadow of that young coconut tree and Arthur? It’s right underneath them.
Ever wonder why the beaches in the Philippines are mostly empty during noontime? Well, it's just way too hot for sunbathing or swimming—even for the Westerners.
Ever wonder why the beaches in the Philippines are mostly empty during noontime? Well, it’s just way too hot for sunbathing or swimming—even for the whites.
The heat is even too much for nature. No rain means the leaves dry out and they fall down. European autumn atmosphere in Filipino summertime.
The heat is even too much for nature. No rain means the leaves dry out and they fall down. European autumn atmosphere in Filipino summertime.

Leave a comment below about your stories of Philippine summertime.