Typhoon of October 20, 1882 hits Manila
Around 127 years ago, Manila’s residents were caught unaware of the sudden arrival of a terrible typhoon whose vortex reached Manila around 11:46 o’clock in the morning of October 20, 1882 and destroyed almost all houses built of light materials.[i] Of course, most of the houses in Manila were still built of nipa and bamboo and thus many were not spared the impact of the storm’s strong winds.
The Jesuit priest, Fr. Jose Algue, director of the Philippine Weather Bureau and head of the Manila Observatory, described the fury of this storm:
“No one will be able to appreciate the tremendous atmospheric turmoil like he who, for two hours and a half, heard the awe-inspiring roar of the tempest and felt the house that sheltered him tremble and rock under the powerful onslaught of the squalls, ever increasing in fury. At such moments we feel our own insignificance as compared to so imposing a manifestation of the Supreme Power, who, with a slight disturbance of the atmospheric equilibrium, can chastise us so severely. Under circumstances so critical it is a hard and painful task for the observer to attempt penetrating the secrets of nature. The best instruments are usually put out of action or break down under the destructive force of the elements. Moreover when the most solid and substantial buildings crack and sway under the impulse of the hurricane; when roofs are carried off and torn to pieces; when heavy sheets of metal whirl through the air like feathers and mighty trees fly great distances as if hurled from a gigantic, invisible catapult, then every mortal is naturally inclined to bow his head and adore the majesty of God who is passing before him with a slight display of His power.” [ii]
If Filipinos bowed in prayer amidst the devastation of the 1882 storm, a British visitor of Manila in 1863 noted how the Filipinos found great happiness amidst the flooded streets of Manila.
“I shall never forget how the Indians enjoyed it, laughing all day long up to their waists in water, and taking great pleasures in wetting any Chinaman that came near them.” The floods came after “rain descending in perpendicular torrents for ten days and nights without intermission, accompanied by crashing thunder, flashing forked lighting, and roaring winds.” In the end, the British citizen warned her readers not to step over the rain and flood as one would “probably find a nice little crop of mushrooms and other fungai growing upon the surface” of one’s boots (see Sketches from Manila, The Penny Illustrated Paper (London,England), August 15, 1863, p. 107, Issue 98).
Certainly, today’s Filipinos will find no happiness amidst the floods caused by underestimated Ondoy.
[i] See p. 57. The cyclones of the Far East, by Rev. José Algué, S. J., director of the Philippine Weather bureau, Manila observatory …Manila 1904.
[ii] Pg. 206-207