Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Typhoon Megi; bugs and insects

On Saturday we were told that a “super-typhoon” was heading towards the Northern Philippines, and that by Sunday night we would be under assault here on The Rock. We checked the internet and it looked to us like the worst of the weather would bypass us, well to our north. Saturday was calm and sunny. Surprisingly, so was Sunday. We had been having more clouds recently and had to run our diesel genset twice during the week to supplement the solar panels, but we got 100% possible sunshine over the weekend. It made us wonder if typhoons suck all of the clouds within a thousand miles into their clutches, since despite the superstorm in the general vicinity, it could not have been clearer here.

On Monday morning the latest news indicated that Megi, locally named Juan, was going to hit northern Luzon (the northernmost major island of the Philippines) as a category 5, the strongest to make landfall in 15 years. The website had sent out the following: “MEGI is comparable in strength to Super Typhoon ANGELA (ROSING) of November 2-3, 1995, which battered Bicol & Southern Luzon including Metro Manila...and is considered one of the worst typhoons in Philippine History.” However, the weather on Corregidor was still relatively calm. The Coast Guard had issued a “signal one” for Manila Bay, meaning that the banceros would not be coming, nor would Sun Cruises operate its normal day tour. To our knowledge this is SCI’s first cancellation since rainy season began in June. While we were in the U.S. in July, Typhoon Basyang managed to storm its way through during days when SCI had no trips scheduled.

Around 10 o’clock Monday morning the wind began to pick up. But throughout the day we got almost no rain and only intermediate winds gusts of up to maybe 30 MPH. We closed up all of our windows just in case. Overnight we had a total of four inches of rain with off-and-on wind gusts, but nothing that appeared threatening. We had a good night’s sleep. Once again there was a signal one, so SCI’s Tuesday trip was cancelled. Steve had been scheduled to guide for a group from the U. S. Embassy, so that was a bit disappointing. Throughout the day the weather alternated between times of relative calm (maybe 5-20 MPH winds) with no rain, and quick bursts of rain with accompanying winds that probably gusted between 30 and 50 MPH. Overnight was similar, with gusts decreasing in frequency, although a couple seemed the strongest yet. The total rainfall for the previous 24 hours was a little over three inches, bringing the total for the storm to just over seven inches. We saw very little storm damage, mostly downed branches.

The Coast Guard gave Sun Cruises the go-ahead for a Wednesday trip, so we are taking the ferry to Manila for a couple of days in the big city. This will be the first time for us in two months, the longest stretch so far in our two years of staying on the island. The trick is in knowing what you need to have that you can only get in Manila and stock up. The rest we buy on Bataan, usually on an as-needed basis from a bancero.

We want to add that although Corregidor was essentially spared, due to the fact that we have yet to read any accounts of the storm, we have virtually no knowledge at this time of the effects of Megi in the rest of the Philippines. Because of its size, it quite likely left a wake of destruction and human suffering. Most of you probably are more aware of it than we are. At last report, our friend Jhun the plumber’s family in La Union – a province that appeared to be in the direct path of the storm – incurred no storm damage.

A few days ago Marcia noticed a large black ant with a cockroach much larger than itself in tow. By the time she grabbed her camera, they were over the edge of the concrete and on the ground beneath the bench, making for a much more difficult picture. For some reason the ant turned around, pulling the cockroach back up onto the concrete. Considering that the ant may have been ¾ long and that the drop-off was more than an inch, this seemed an incredible feat of strength. Hope it tasted good enough to be worth the effort!

The same day, she spotted a rather large spider – body one inch long, six-inch leg span – running up a table leg. The spider was similar in coloration to the table and maybe felt comfortable there. She was able to get very close to it without the spider moving in the slightest, making it an easy photo model. It stayed around all day, only moving when Steve touched its leg with a stick to see if it was still alive. It darted about two feet in a second and then “stopped dead” again. Later this was repeated with the same results: a very fast spider that preferred to remain absolutely still. The next morning it was gone.

Some of you have asked about mosquitoes. Unlike Bataan, which before and during the war was considered one of the worst places in the world for mosquitoes and the illnesses they can spread, Corregidor, as far as we know, has never had a mosquito problem. There is very little standing water, and when mosquitoes are present they are in very low numbers. We have seen more of them in a single walk outdoors in Michigan and Minnesota in May or June than we seen the two years we have been here. Unlike the ones we are used to, which are relatively slow to react when smacked, mosquitoes here are as attentive as flies, and are thus very hard to slap dead when they are on your skin.

We see many interesting bugs, insects and arachnids, and are including some pictures for your enjoyment. Some are good subjects, almost posing deliberately, and some are much more skittish and challenging to capture with a camera. This year we are seeing far more butterflies than ever before in our experience – both in total numbers and in different species. Most are not happy to be photographed, however, either refusing to sit at all or sitting with wings tightly folded so that their colors are hidden from view.

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