Every typhoon season, Filipinos will glue themselves in front of their TV sets and scour all social media for updates on suspension of classes. Concerned about safety, you also monitor the news for weather and flooding updates in your area when a storm batters the country.
But have you ever been curious about how typhoons in the Philippines are named? How does the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) come up with typhoon names in the Philippines like Bruno, Jolina, and Queenie?
Naming storms may sound trivial, but there’s more to typhoon names than meets the eye.
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How Assigning Typhoon Names Began
PAGASA has been giving local names to storms that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) since 1963.
But it wasn’t until 1998 when the public was involved in naming typhoons in the Philippines. That year, PAGASA held a “Name a Bagyo” contest that had Filipinos sending their proposed local names for typhoons. From the nominations, a committee chose 140 Philippine typhoon names.
PAGASA’s System for Naming Typhoons in the Philippines
Some of the handpicked 140 names now make up PAGASA’s list of names for tropical cyclones. The list was divided into four sets of 25 typhoon names (each starting with A to Z) with additional 10 auxiliary names (each starting with A to J).
PAGASA’s list is a mix of male and female names, as well as gender-neutral names like Kabayan, Quinta, and Zigzag.
On average, 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. So each set of 25 typhoon names is enough for one year.
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What are the Typhoon Names for 2021?
The following set of names will be used for all typhoons coming in 2021.
Recycling Philippine Typhoon Names
PAGASA uses each set of typhoon names in rotation every four years. For example, the set of names for 2021 (Auring, Bising, Crising, Dante, etc.) will also be used in 2025, 2029, and 2033.
The state weather bureau assigns each Philippine typhoon name in alphabetical order to determine the number of typhoons that have entered PAR every year. The first typhoon to enter in any year starts with A, the second one starting with B, and so on.
In case all the 25 typhoon names are used within the year and another storm will enter the country, PAGASA will use the auxiliary set of names.
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Retired Typhoon Names in the Philippines
PAGASA removes a name from its list if the typhoon has caused at least 300 deaths or PHP 1 billion worth of agricultural and infrastructural damage. According to PAGASA, this practice can help prevent the trauma from haunting survivors who lost their families and properties to the typhoons.
Some of the most destructive and deadliest typhoons in the Philippines whose names were retired include Yolanda (2013), Pablo (2012), Sendong (2011), Ondoy (2009), Frank (2008), Milenyo (2006), and Reming (2006).
PAGASA also drops Philippine typhoon names that sound like the those of prominent figures to prevent public ridicule. In 2015, for instance, the weather bureau changed Nonoy to Nona because it resembled the nickname of then President Benigno Aquino III. Likewise, PAGASA replaced Gloria with Glenda during former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term.
In January 2021, PAGASA announced that it has officially retired four typhoon names from its list. These are Ambo, Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses, which have been replaced by Aghon, Querubin, Romina, and Upang.
If you can recall, Typhoon Ambo struck Visayas in May 2020 and left PHP 1.574 billion in damage. Typhoon Quinta, meanwhile, hit Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Quezon. It left 27 people dead and PHP 4.223 billion in damage.
Typhoon Rolly was a super typhoon and the world’s strongest typhoon in 2020. It left 25 people dead and PHP 17.875 billion in damage.
Last but definitely not the least is Typhoon Ulysses, which ravaged Luzon and Metro Manila, leaving 101 dead and PHP 20.261 billion in damage.
Why PAGASA Uses Local Typhoon Names
Before it gets inside the PAR, a tropical cyclone already has an international name from the World Meteorological Organization. Why does PAGASA still have to give a local name to the cyclone once it enters the Philippines?
The weather bureau assigns familiar yet distinctive Filipino names to typhoons for an effective recall among the public, especially in the provinces. According to PAGASA, international cyclone names need to have local typhoon names so that Filipinos will easily remember them.
Practically speaking, having local typhoon names also lessens confusion. Imagine how complicated it would be had PAGASA chose numbers instead of names to identify storms. Weather reports would then sound like, “The incoming Typhoon 2021-12 will be stronger than the previous Typhoon 2021-11…”
Assigning an easy-to-recall name to a typhoon helps draw public attention to its disastrous effects. It also highlights the fact that a storm within the PAR is a threat to the country.
Thus, having local typhoon names helps in disaster risk awareness and preparedness.
It’s quite interesting to know how PAGASA came up with the list of typhoon names in the Philippines. The more unique and very Filipino the typhoon name is, the easier it is to remember!
Since it’s typhoon season once again, are you and your family typhoon-ready? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Have an emergency plan set up so you’ll know what to do when the typhoon hits. Make sure that you’ve also prepared an emergency kit that you can use in case of a flood or power outage.
If you own a vehicle, do what you can to avoid flooded car problems. Check your car insurance policy if it has enough Acts of Nature or Acts of God coverage.
Don’t have car insurance yet? Find affordable car insurance packages through Moneymax. This will definitely help you with car repairs in the event of a flash flood or when damaged by super strong winds. Stay safe!
-  Philippine Tropical Cyclone Names (PAGASA-DOST)
-  Information on Disaster Risk Reduction of the Member Countries (Asian Disaster Reduction Center)
-  Pagasa ‘retires’ names given to previous devastating typhoons (Inquirer.net, January 2021)
Venus is the Head of Editorial Content at Moneymax, with 15+ years of experience in digital marketing, corporate communications, PR, and journalism. She invests in stocks, mutual funds, VUL, and Pag-IBIG MP2. Outside of work, she’s crazy about cats and Korean dramas. Follow Venus on LinkedIn.