Typhoon That Wasn’t Meant to Be – Bopha: Memories Lost

Source: Report of the Philippine Commission, 1990, Volume 4.

Visayan Mindanao Typhoon Tracks, 1880-1898. Source: Report of the Philippine Commission, 1900, Volume 4.

As of December 15, 2012, the typhoon that wasn’t meant to be, Bopha, increased her deadly reputation: a total of 955 dead, 841 missing, and 2,662 injured. Marga Ortigas quoted many survivors as stating that they didn’t know what the typhoon warning meant. Not that they couldn’t in a literal sense, but in an experiencial sense, as many have not experienced a typhoon in their entire lives. If geography is history, then the island of Mindanao’s geography meant a lack of history about typhoons.  As Greg Bankoff noted, in his book Cultures of Disaster: Society and Natural Hazard in the Philippines, “Nor do typhoons and their accompanying rainfall commonly track across its region (2003, p.136).” However, as experienced this 2012, and last year, typhoons do visit Mindanao as these have done in the very distant past.

Mindanao Typhoons During the Spanish Colonial Period

During the Spanish colonial period, between 1880 and 1898, a total of 397 typhoons entered the Philippines for an average of 20.9 per year (Philippine Commission, 1900, p. 292).  In a span of 18 years, a total of five (5) cyclones visited Mindanao.  In a 1900 map of the typhoon tracks, the Mindanao typhoons were shown and numbered/year  as being the following: 1 (1883), 2,3,4, (1892), and 9 (1897).  One can simply compare the tracks taken by these Spanish period typhoons with the typhoon’s Bopha’s track and note some degree of familiarity. Of course, memories of these Spanish era Mindanao typhoons have clearly been forgotten many generations later. One wonders how many generations will pass before the 2011 and 2012 versions would have been forgotten. Unfortunately, typhoons do not have memories as well.


National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Update, December 15, 2012. (http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/835/NDRRMC%20Update%20re%20Sit%20Rep%2028%20Effects%20of%20Typhoon%20Pablo.pdf).

Marga Ortigas, Typhoon Bopha: a tale of two stories (http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/asia/typhoon-bopha-tale-two-stories)

Report of the Philippine Commission, Volume IV, 1900.


~ by Martin Gaerlan on December 15, 2012.

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