A little island off of Sipalay, Negros – It’s HOT!!!
As soon as I stepped off the 747 in Manila, I instantly felt the heat and humidity. Although cliché, it literally was like stepping into a wall. I had left Massachusetts when it was nearly freezing out, so the juxtaposition to the tropical environment was a bit disorienting. And like being told a root canal is going to hurt, you don’t really know how much it is going to hurt until metal meets mouth. I had read and researched ad nauseum about the tropics, but all the reading in the world isn’t going to prepare you for the actual experience. Within a minute, I was sweating like the proverbial stuck pig, beads – nay, streams – of sweat rolling down my face and back. And to add insult to injury, the end of November actually falls within the Philippine’s Winter – this was actually the cool season! Mopping my sweaty brow with my sleeve, I realized that this was going to take a good deal of acclimation.
White sand beach, Island of Siquior (Isle of the Witches) – It’s still hot.
All of December was hot and humid – even the local expats (other foreigners living there) found it too much, and some of them had been in the Philippines for decades. I took some small solace in this but it didn’t detract from the fact that I was constantly sweating. Soon after arriving, I had fallen into a pattern. Wake up and shower. Go to gym in morning then shower. Take nap then shower. Wake up from nap and shower. Go out for dinner, come back and shower. Most of the showers were actually short little “bird baths” – just enough water and soap to take off the thin layer of yucky slime that accumulated on my skin since I was unable to evaporate sweat off due to the high humidity. Right after the shower, I would hop in front of my fan to maintain some semblance of a bearable body temperature. Ahhhhhh…….
The constant warmth made exploring the city a chore – who wants to wander around in suffocating heat? Soon I had adopted the local expat dress code of sandals, cargo shorts, and t- shirt. The cargo shorts are eminently practical as they are cool and hold your rolled up hat, sweat bandanas, phone and other sundry items in the spacious side pockets. Sandals are preferable to sox and sneakers as sox lead to sweaty feet (and possible trench/jungle foot ) and your feet are going to inevitably get wet from the sneaky little showers that are always rolling in for a few minutes (or hours) here and there.
The sun was also merciless. I mean, when I was out and about, I could feel my poor Caucasian covering crisping under it’s rays. Yowza!! I was renting a motorcycle at the time (Yamaha YBR 125) and just riding around under the blazing sun was too much. I soon adapted the local custom of wearing long sleeve t-shirts and a head covering while riding. Although somewhat of a pain in the butt, it worked spectacularly well (and made me look like a ninja). And every time I did it, I would simply remember that folks back home were suiting up in winter coats, gloves, hats and boots just to step out their front door.
Everything’s relative, right?
I used aircon (local term for air conditioning) only for about 8 hours at night. When I turned it on, it would be about 85 F in my apartment. Setting it on low it would get down to about 80 which was OK and it would also clear out some of the humidity which was sweet.
In January, a Low Pressure Area rolled in and the entire Philippines experienced record low temperatures for about three weeks. I loved it – finally, I could wander about and not be constantly sweating. The local Filipinos – unaccustomed to such “cold”- were hustling about in heavy jackets and knit caps. Yep, 70 F was just a little to frigid for them.
The LPA finally moved on, and we have had gorgeous weather ever since. Days are sunny, clear and bright and nights are resplendent in their bands of scintillating stars and bright, happy moon. Oh, and I can see Mars every night, blinking down at me like a red and white Christmas tree light. Very cool.
Flooding at Twin Lakes – Five days after the rains
Finally, there is the rain. Being the tropics, they can sometimes get VERY heavy. Torrential even. Typically, the rain doesn’t last long, so you just have to step under cover and wait for it to pass. When on a motorcycle, everyone heads for the nearest gas station and huddles under the station’s expansive roof, smoking cigarettes next to the rows of gas pumps. I now have a luggage box on the back of my motorcycle in which I keep a groovy little poncho that keeps my torso pretty dry during the few times that I have had to ride while it is raining.
Groovy rainbow after rains, Palinpanon Road, Dumaguete
Now March is rolling in – the start of Summer. Egads!! I am receiving no comfort from my fellow expats who keep saying “Oh man, it’s gonna get real hot now!” I am moving south of the city proper to a little town called Dauin in a week or so. Am renting a house right on the ocean that has no aircon, and am hoping that the local expats there are right – you don’t need AC when your house is right on the water due to the constant ocean breezes.
My heat-intolerant, pussy ass sure hopes so.