Backpacking the Philippines Soon? Here’s Your Ultimate Weather Guide (July to September 2017)

“Summer” is out and rainy season is in!

Not so much fun, right? Well, just because wet season in the Philippines is already kicking in doesn’t mean we have to take a break from exploring this beautiful country.


Not the Best Time to Travel?

A lot of people (mostly travel agents) claim that the months of July, August, and September is not the ideal time to visit the Philippines. It is partially true as many of the 19 to 20 tropical cyclones that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) every year arrive during this quarter. Also during this time, the southwest monsoon, more commonly known as habagat, is at its peak.

And yeah, who in the world would not be traumatized of roofs flying off houses or walking in waist-deep waters?

However, it is important to know that tropical cyclones and habagat episodes (1) do not happen everyday from July to September; (2) affect only a portion of the country when they occur. Plus, doesn’t it sound so much better to go on an off-peak or low season?


An Overview of What’s in Store

It could get scary when things get out of hand, but it makes a huge difference when planning and preparation comes into play. Here are a few possible meteorological hazards in the coming months:

1.   Tropical cyclone (TC or simply Bagyo)

A tropical cyclone is the generic term for any intense circulating weather system over tropical seas and oceans. You may have heard tropical depression, tropical storm, severe tropical storm, typhoon, and super typhoon more often because they are all classifications of a TC.

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For the next three months, a minimum of two (2) tropical cyclones per month is expected. Worst, there could be 3 TCs by July, 4 by August, and 4 by September. That’s nearly one TC per week!

2.   Low Pressure Area (LPA)

A low pressure area is a region where the atmospheric pressure is lower than what surrounds it. Known to be associated with cloudy and rainy weather, LPA is the formative stage of a TC.

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With that, expect LPAs to be aplenty in the coming months, mostly coming from the Pacific.

3.   Southwest Monsoon (Habagat)

While the term “monsoon” pertains to wind, habagat is more commonly associated with rains originating from the west (or southwest). Habagat usually signifies the start of rainy season in the Philippines, beginning in the latter part of May and ending on October. However, one must know that the habagat season is characterized by various weather conditions.

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In the coming months, you may hear words such as “monsoon breaks” or “enhanced habagat“. Monsoon break, as the word implies, is the time when habagat is not directly affecting the country. This could be distinguished as the hot and humid weather that lasts for a few days with possible short-lived thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening.

Enhanced habagat, on the other hand, implies danger as southwest monsoon is being intensified by an LPA or a bagyo. This is the one that brings heavy rains and causes widespread flooding or landslides.

4.   Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

You may have heard intertropical convergence zone several times and still not be able to grasp its meaning. By dissecting the words, we get the meaning of ITCZ as a belt of converging winds (northeast and southeast trade winds) within the tropics. Technically a series of low pressure, ITCZ is characterized by a cloudy weather with light to moderate rainshowers and intermittent thunderstorms.

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From July come September, the ITCZ is seen to oscillate from the southern part of Mindanao up to the southern part of Luzon.


The Ultimate Weather Forecast (July to September 2017)

Note: All weather forecasts that follow were derived from PAGASA (the weather and climate authority of the Philippines) which were thoroughly discussed during the Climate Forum last June, 2017. According to their climate monitoring section, there is no unusual warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean, signifying that El Niño will be inactive in the coming months.

1.   Northern Luzon (Ilocos Region, CAR, Cagayan Valley)

nluzon

If we are talking of meteorological hazards, Northern Luzon is perhaps the least ideal place to travel in the next three months.

Climatogically speaking, Ilocos Region and CAR are very susceptible to heavy rains once habagat sets in. Weather outlook shows this is highly possible by July and September. Enhanced habagat may cause landslides or rockslides over the Cordilleras (including Banaue, Sagada, and Baguio City) and may interrupt sea travel over the western and extreme northern coasts.

Whereas the western portion seems to be wettest, the eastern part appears to be the most vulnerable in terms of incoming tropical cyclones. Based on climatological tracks, a large percentage of TCs that entered PAR passed by Cagayan Valley from July to September. These TCs were packed with wind speeds that could damage infrastructures or topple trees. Once an incoming TC affects Northern Luzon, water levels over major rivers may rise, air and sea travel may be suspended, and ways along mountainsides may not be passable.

Verdict: Plan your getaways to Northern Luzon very carefully. While it is still possible to experience a hassle-free vacation, it is highly advisable to postpone your trips to the north once you hear of an incoming bagyo.

2.   Central Luzon (including Metro Manila)

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Like Northern Luzon, Central Luzon is generally wet in the west and generally dry in the east.

According to forecasts, Zambales and Northern Bataan will experience the highest number of days with rain this July. In addition, Tarlac and Pampanga along with Zambales will receive higher than average rainfall this coming July and August, possibly due to habagat. This may in turn suspend sea ventures in the west and induce flooding near Pampanga River.

Aurora may be the safest bet in the region, but there were a few instances of tropical cyclones passing by the province during the third quarter. On the other hand, Metro Manila along with the rest of Central Luzon will continue to have high chance of thunderstorm activities by afternoon or evening. And with instances of TC “Ondoy” in September 2009 and the Habagat of August 2012 (that lasted eight (8) days), chances of heavy rains in the metro shall not be overlooked.

Verdict: Draw caution of planning a trip to Zambales the same way as the north. And unless there’s an incoming TC, you will get to enjoy Aurora with its calm waters and good weather.

3.   Southern Luzon (CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol Region)

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Southern Luzon covers our favorite destinations expanding from Palawan in the west to Catanduanes in the far east. During this time of the year, the provinces of Cavite, Batangas, Occidental Mindoro, and Palawan receive the highest amount of rain due to habagat. However in the coming months, forecast predicts Northern Palawan (El Nido and Coron area) to garner above average rainfall by August.

Like Aurora, the eastern section of Southern Luzon will be much drier (apart from afternoon showers) in the coming months and is perfect for seafarers. However, Quezon and Bicol are more vulnerable to winds coming from TCs. Tropical cyclone “Glenda” testified this on July 2014, battering the south with gusts and intensifying the habagat over MIMAROPA. Take caution with TCs this July and September.

Verdict: Except for impending threats of bagyo or LPA, you can still wear your swimsuits on Jomalig, Calaguas, Caramoan, or Palawan until September.

4.   Western Visayas and Negros Island

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*Negros Occidental used to be a part of Western Visayas, but is now on a separate region with Negros Oriental.

Past records and weather forecast agree that this area is the wettest in Visayas during this timeThere is a high probability of rains in more than 50 percent of the days from July to September, with areas in Negros Occidental and southern Panay Island receiving above average rainfall due to habagat.

On a lighter note, vacationers need not to worry from any direct effect of a tropical cyclone as there is a very slim chance during this time that one will pass the area.

Verdict: Nothing will really stop you from making your way to Boracay or Manjuyod sandbar; unless you don’t like thunderstorms.

5.   Central and Eastern Visayas

cvis
*Negros Oriental used to be a part of Central Visayas, but is currently on a separate region with Negros Occidental.

The weather in Central and Eastern Visayas for the next three months suggests you will have a good time there. Below normall rainfall is expected in certain areas by July and August and in an even larger portion by September. Moreover, Samar provinces could experience the least number of days with rain also by September.

While the Eastern Visayas Region is mostly remembered by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 and the Southern Leyte Landslide in 2006, these events happened during the last and first quarter, respectively (November and February) so there is really not much to worry about.

Verdict: With generally good weather (apart from rains due to ITCZ), calm waters, and a smaller number of visitors in the east, July to September will be a splendid time to visit the place.

6.   Northern and Eastern Mindanao (Northern Mindanao, Caraga, Davao Region)

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Usually from July to September, this part of the country experiences intermittent rains and some thunderstorms due to ITCZ.

For this year, the provinces of Agusan, Bukidnon, and Misamis Oriental is seen to rain in more than 50 percent of their days from July to September; but these rains will not exceed the normal rainfall in the area. On the other hand, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental will have the least amount of wet days.

Verdict: Aside from generally calm waters and a very low chance of TCs passing through, a few isolated rains won’t hurt either. Thus, your trip to the Garden City of Samal or the Surfing Capital of Siargao will still be a breeze.

7.   Western and Southern Mindanao (Zamboanga Peninsula, SOCCSKSARGEN, ARMM)

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For the record, no tropical cyclone has ever passed this area on a third quarter since 1948.

The weather systems that usually affect the western and southern parts of Mindanao until September are ITCZ and, at times, strong southwest monsoon. However, in the coming months, rainfall forecast indicates below normal rainfall in the area especially this July. In fact, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi will likely get only 6 to 10 days with rain on July and on September.

Verdict: WEATHERWISE, the calm waters (unless there is habagat) and generally favorable weather makes a pleasant three months to visit the area.


It’s not that bad after all!

The Philippines is a tropical country: rains and tropical cyclones may be inevitable but so are sunshiny days. All in all, it’s best to regularly check the weather forecast, at least three (3) days prior to your trip, in order to ensure safety. And as the saying goes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad decisions.” 🙂

 

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