Habagats Bad Winds
The month of August 2006 in Davao Gulf, Philippines has been one the most active monsoons for some years. Vast stretches of coastline were altered by the storm waves with many coastal communities having the terra firma washed away beneath their homes.
Habagat is the local name for the south westerly monsoon which blows across the Philippines typically from June to September. For coastal squatters and local surfers habagat brought opposite emotions of pain and joy.
For the few local surfers the high seas provided an opportunity to ride the waves. In the surfers eyes some of the waves were world class. With choices from various points around the Gulf. The best times came in the mornings just after the peak of the high tides when the waves were glassy, cleanly formed and well organised.
For these coastal communities who unfortunately are typically marginalised and one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society, the monsoon waves meant grave economical loss. Tourist huts decimated. Fishermen couldn't launch their boats. That meant no income for families already on the boarder line. The most severe point I saw personally was at the river mouth of Talomo. The waves we surfed were over head height with power and a shape surfers would cross the globe to find.
But as we approached the point I realised I was walking thru a refugee camp. When I reached the point I was confused, I didn't recognise what I saw. The line of coastal huts was gone. Before the curved sand bar was lined with huts and homes all the way to the point. The river meandered behind the houses and enter in to the Davao Gulf at the far end. The night before the high tides and ruthless waves breached the sand bar where the homes stood.
The result was devastation for the homes. But thankfully here there was no loss of life, only economic. But the resilience of the communities to smile and celebrate on our good and joyful rides of the same waves was a humbling experience.
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Published on 8/25/06