Rain, Rain, Go Away: Manila’s Rainfall During the Spanish and American Colonial Period

Around 75 years ago, or in July 21, 1937, at about 5:30 in the morning, Dr. Gregorio L Reyes and Lucina E. Ramos, youngest daughter of Governor Alfonso Ramos of Tarlac, were united in marriage at the Balic-Balic Catholic Church (today’s Most Holy Trinity Church of Sampaloc, Manila). According to Lucina’s autobiographical notes, the wedding was a very simple and economical affair with only twenty (20) pesos spent for the wedding reception  for twenty guests (mostly immediate family members of the bride). In addition, as per family oral tradition, the early morning wedding came with a downpour of rain that Dr. Reyes believed foretold of the blessing of many children (the couple had six). It was a good thing that the newly-wedded couple and wedding guests needed to travel only a small distance in the rain as the small chapel was just a street away from the Lucina’s house where the reception was held.

As per the  records of the Manila Observatory for July 21, 1937, 37.9 millimeters of rain fell on that day or about 15.68 millimeters more than the month’s daily average. In fact, July was quite a rainy month that year with 688.9 millimeters of rain accounting for 23% of the annual rainfall of 1937. Interestingly enough, the year Dr. Reyes and Miss Ramos chose to get married was a year of extreme rainfall in Manila. How many years of extreme rainfall occurred during the Spanish and American colonial period?

Based on the records of the Manila Observatory from the period 1865 to 1940 (a total of 75 years), there were only nine (9) incidents of extreme rainfall (defined here as annual rainfall that is one standard deviation above the mean annual rainfall for the 75 year period). Manila’s annual rainfall averaged  a total of 2,091 millimeters  from 1865 to 1940 with a standard deviation of 502.00 mm. The nine (9) extreme rainfalls (yellow bar in chart below) were recorded in 1867 (+384.86mm), 1899 (+200.36mm), 1919 (+1326.66mm), 1921 (+27.16mm),  1923 (+831.06mm), 1931 (+357.36mm), 1934 (+98.66mm), 1935 (+267.86), and 1937 (+433.06mm). The American colonial officials experienced the brunt of these extreme rainfall years as seven (7) of the nine (9) outliers were recorded between 1919 to 1937. During the Spanish colonial period, annual rainfall averaged 1,916.16mm compared with the  2,232.98mm during the American colonial period (1899-1940).

Among the nine (9) extreme annual rainfall years, the highest rainfall of 3,920.60 mm was recorded in 1919 (red bar in chart). Quite understandably, the Manila Observatory Annual Report for 1919 reported with a degree of excitement that the “… Manila rainfall has broken all our records since the foundation of the Observatory in 1865, both as to the monthly and to the annual amount of rain. The total monthly rainfall for August was 1,983.0 mm., the monthly maximum ever recorded before having been 1,469.7 mm. in September, 1867. ‘ It differs from the normal for August by +1,590.2 mm” (Annual Report of the Weather Bureau for the year 1919, Philippines, published 1922, p. 7). For August 1919, the average daily rainfall was at 63.97mm with a standard deviation of 66.29mm. Out of the 31 days of August, there were six (6) days of extreme daily rainfall (August 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 25) with a total rainfall of 912.20 mm or 46% of the total rainfall for August. Was there a “siyam-siyam” or the so called nine days of continuous rains during this month?  For rainfall amount that was close to the monthly average of 63.97,  we can consider that a “siyam-siyam” occurred from August 5 to August 13, 1919: Aug 5 (158.5mm), Aug 6 (54.00mm), Aug 7 (148.40mm), Aug 8 (106.90mm), Aug 9 (107.70mm), Aug 10 (112.08mm), Aug 11 (201.40mm), Aug 12 (130.30mm), and Aug 13 (68.60mm).  This Aug 5 to Aug Aug 13 period accounted for 55% of the total rainfall for August. According to the same 1919 Annual report, the lower areas of Manila and the western part of Central Luzon were practically flooded from end July till middle of September.

During the start of the American colonial period, American newspapers carried news about flooding in the city of Manila. The Salt Lake Herald reported that Manila was flooded due to two days of rains with people having to ride in bancas to travel around Manila. As of July 19, 1899, total recorded rainfall was at 35 inches (889.00mm) already (Salt Lake Herald, July 20, 1899. page 2). In August 10, 1899, Manila street gutters were reported to be under a twelve (12 inches) of water due to continuous rains with Sampaloc completely flooded forcing residents to move to their upper floors. Policemen were forced to continue foot patrolling duties under two (2) feet of water (Source: Bourbon New, Kentucky, August 11, 1899, page 2).

Ninety-three (93) years later (August 1919- August 2012), Manila experienced 687.00 mm of monsoon rain in a 48hr period (Aug 6-7, 2012) which will mean that the 1919 August record of 1,983.00 mm could very well be broken (or might have been broken already).   No matter if we are in for another rainfall breaking month or year, no amount of rain can dampen or stop two hearts in love from getting married. The rains did not stop Dr. Gregorio Reyes and Lucina Ramos from getting married 75 years ago. The rains did not stop Hernelie Ruazol and Ram Ocampo  from getting married Last August 8, 2012 inside the flooded San Antonio de Padua Church in Singalong, Manila.  Hernalie hoped that the deluge would bring the couple an “…overflowing of blessing….” Indeed, may you be blessed with many children (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/photo/23439/at-height-of-habagat-downpour-an-extraordinary-wedding).


The Manila Rainfall Chart (see above) was created using data gathered from two sources: The excelfile containing the raw data for rainfall  in Manila from 1901 to 1940 was graciously provided by Kazuyo Fukuda, Ph.D. from the Data Informatics Group, Data Management and Engineering Department, Data Research Center for Marine-Earth Sciences, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).  An online graphical interface containing historical rainfall data for the Philippines is available at (http://www.jamstec.go.jp/drc/maps/e/kadai/mon/mon_pr.html). The 1865 to 1898 rainfall data were taken from Report of the Philippine commission to the President. : January 31, 1900[-December 20, 1900], p. 199. The newspaper accounts of flooded Manila were accessed from the online website: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/).

Thanks as well to Mr. Marcelino Q. Villafuerte II for responding to this curator’s email regarding rainfall data. Please see as well Mr. Villafuerte’s “Past and recent extreme rainfall events in the Philippines” available at (http://repository.kulib.kyoto-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/2433/155852/1/09-Marsan_Kyoto.pptx.pdf) and his “The Philippines’ Southwest monsoon season in the next thirty years : a regional climate projection” (http://rldigital.lib.admu.edu.ph/id/eprint/13).

Additional References/Readings:

Nice Day for Wet Wedding (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/269387/lifestyle/people/nice-day-for-wet-wedding-couple-marries-in-middle-of-monsoon)

Love conquers – Filipino newly wed share kiss in knee deep floodwaters http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2187356/Love-conquers-Filipino-newlyweds-share-kiss-knee-deep-floodwaters-country-braces-fresh-deluge.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Typhoon of October 20, 1882 (https://curatormuseo.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/typhoon-of-october-20-1882-hits-manila/)

The Manila Observatory (http://www.observatory.ph/)

Climatex: The Climate Experiment: Predicting rainfall for the Philippines (http://climatex.ph/)

Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) http://noah.dost.gov.ph/

Aquatastat: Philippines Country Profile (http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/philippines/index.stm)

~ by Martin Gaerlan on August 10, 2012.

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