Winter Is Coming… well, the Philippine one

Let’s talk about the weather today… I wallow enough in grief and am still in deep mourning but don’t want to write about that again, or at least just yet, or today.

There is no such thing as Winter in the Philippines, which is not such a bad thing if you ask me, the eternal Winter-hater. The cold temperatures that other countries with four seasons have during Winter is something completely alien to us, to the extent that when temperatures drop below 25C it is cause to bring out the shawls, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets even when we are not confined to air conditioned quarters. On the rare occasion that the thermometer registers 20C in January and the fans are not needed, there is is grumbling everywhere (and yet the average temperature in the air conditioned offices is 18C!). Basically it is only the Filipinos who have lived abroad and experience truly freezing temperatures who don’t complain and will welcome the cool air with open arms.

The mountain provinces of course are the exception to the rule. In some places like Baguio they have had a record low of 6.3C, but that is not a regular occurrence.  A “harsh” Winter there will range between 10-14C, which is a walk in the park on a mild Spring day in Germany!

It’s been dreary weather here in Manila the last three days, which seems to match my mood just fine, the suitable accessory to all the black I have been wearing. It’s the first day of the Amihan, and no sun in sight. There are two main weather trends in the country: Habagat and Amihan. The Habagat, or the monsoon season, is characterised by the high humidity, heavy rainfall, and western winds. The Amihan, on the other hand, is dominated by the northeastern trade winds, supposedly little rainfall, and significantly lower temperatures. You could have fooled me about the little-to-no-rainfall bit because the view outside the window tells me something completely different.

The humidity in the Philippines is something I can never get used to and I sometimes find myself missing the dry heat of India, which to me is so much more bearable. So when the weather bureau declared the official start of the Amihan today I had to smile. The cooler temperatures can only mean that the countdown to Christmas has intensified! Walking around the mall yesterday amidst all the Christmas decorations so soon after Halloween and All Saints Day was a bit of a bizarre experience. Everywhere you go around Manila these days, Christmas is in full swing, with the decorated trees dominating the lobby of just about any given building, every possible form of Santa Claus being displayed (sitting, climbing, running, dancing, eating, serving, shopping, you name it, you’ll find it in Manila), and carols blasting out of every corner. As of today, there are still 51 days left before Christmas but I’m not sure Filipinos are going to be able to wait that long! We started celebrating September 1, and two days ago I witnessed the first Christmas party at one of the restaurants! A group of senior citizens met for their monthly breakfast meeting and they all brought their brightly-wrapped Christmas gifts!

As per Philippine custom, I cannot decorate my house this year for Christmas because I am in mourning and custom dictates that if there is a death in the family there should be no parties or celebrations for the next year. My neighbours would crucify me if I did… especially since the colour red is frowned upon during the mourning period. In some provinces, the death of the mother requires daughters to mourn an entire year, and in the more conservative communities, 27 months! I have half a mind to ditch the no-decoration thing, and put up at least an Advent wreath in the house and a Nativity Scene. I can’t imagine my parents haunting me for that…

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