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Why there's no such thing as 'summer' in the Philippines

IMReady is GMA News and Public Affairs' information campaign for public safety. It aims to make preparedness a part of Filipino lifestyle, and to empower people to respond better to emergency situations—beginning with thought-provoking articles from experts in the field.

Even as temperatures in the country are expected to climb to as high as 40°C in the coming weeks, it's hard to imagine that there's no such thing as "summer."

Technically, there really is no "summer season" in the Philippines—or in any other tropical climate country in the world, for that matter.

Summer, being one of four seasons, is only experienced in temperate regions like in northern Asia, Europe, the United States, and Australia. Their summers are characterized by warm temperatures and dry conditions. Astronomically, summers have significantly longer daytimes than night times.
Temperate zones (in pink). Photo:

Moreover, summer in the northern hemisphere starts on June 21 this year, which is marked by the Summer Solstice—the day the sun appears highest in the sky. But on the other side of the world, Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere, summer starts on December 21.

However, since the Philippines is close to the equator, it receives a relatively consistent amount of sunlight—and overall warm climate conditions—throughout the year, and the change in daytime is insignificant.

So the Philippines doesn't really experience summer. At least, not in the way that other countries in temperate regions experience them.

Instead, the country experiences annual changes in climate patterns that we have come to call "seasons": the dry season and the wet season. 

And even then, these "seasons" are relative terms in that, even during the dry season in the western section of the country from March to May, there's still a lot of rain on the eastern coast.

Officially, we herald the start of the dry “summer” season once the cool northeast monsoon winds or "Amihan" finally wane and are replaced by the warmer Easterly winds. This typically happens some time in the middle of March.

So what terms should we use to describe the seasonal change in weather? In Filipino, we use tag-init or tag-tuyot. In English, we can use "dry season." But, inaccurate though it may be, the term “summer” is here to stay: no other word rolls off the tongue in quite the same way, especially when used in the context of summer classes, summer getaways, summer breaks, and summer outfits. 

In this way, "summer" is an apt description of the feel of the season, if not of the season itself. — HS, GMA News
Nathaniel "Mang Tani" Cruz is GMA News' resident meteorologist. A former spokesperson of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), he also served as a meteorologist at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology. Mang Tani brings with him close to 30 years of experience in weather forecasting.

Dr. Carlos Primo "CP" David is a geology professor at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS). He earned his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Geology from Stanford University and is the project leader of DOST's Climate X. Dr. David is also the Head of GMA's IM Ready Group.