CEBU CITY, Philippines — Ronald Robusto, 35, is a familiar sight to his regular customers as he braves the streets of Barangay Quiot in Cebu City while using his winnowing basket full of homemade “bibingka” or baked rice cake as his cover from the sweltering sun.
However, even for him, who is used to being outdoors selling products on the streets for a living, the current high temperatures have added to his struggles.
“Isip tindero, pwerte g’yong inita sa mga ala una hangtod alas tres. Inom jud kog tubig perminti unya og naay makapasalipod sa adlaw, mutago ko kadiyot aron dili ko maluya kay tambok na ra ba ko, mao ra nay sekreto nako,” he told CDN Digital in an interview one Wednesday morning, April 26, 2023.
(With my work, I can say that the hottest time is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. I just make sure that I drink enough water, and if possible, I can hide under a shade from time to time. That’s my secret to beat the heat.)
Three phases of ENSO
Robusto is just one of the thousands of people exposed to the risk brought by the rising temperatures and the harsher and scorching heat index felt all over the country as it entered the dry season in March and with the start of the ENSO-neutral (neither La Niña nor El Niño) period.
ENSO has three phases: ENSO La Niña, El Niño (signifying lack of enough rainfall), and ENSO neutral.
High heat index
Heat index refers to what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.
The state weather bureau, Pagasa, said that the highest heat index recorded in Cebu for this year, as of April 26, 2023, was on April 21 at 11 a.m.
Jhomer Eclarino, Pagasa weather specialist stationed in Mactan, Cebu, said that the heat index in Cebu on that day reached 41 degrees Celsius, which fell under the “Extreme Caution Category.”
Among the effects of a high heat index on the body are heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity under the sun.
Pagasa also noted an increase in the average heat index recorded in Cebu this year compared to the average heat index recorded around the same time last year.
Average heat index
The average heat index recorded in Cebu (based on the maximum temperature recorded in Cebu on April 22) was 35 degrees Celsius, while the average heat index recorded in Cebu increased to 37 degrees Celsius this month.
“Comparing to last year, April, daghang rainy days ug naay dagko nga weather systems such as ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone), LPA (low pressure area), and bagyo. Karong April (this year) daghan og dry days kaya mas init [ang] April 2023 here in Cebu,” Eclarino said.
(Comparing to last year, April, there were rainy days and there were big weather systems such as ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone), LPA (low pressure area), and storms. This April (this year) there are many dry days that is why it is so hot this April 2023 here in Cebu.)
Meanwhile, the highest computed heat index in the country from March 1 to April 26 is in Legazpi City, Albay.
The heat index in Legazpi reached 45 degrees Celsius on April 26.READ: Pagasa: PH has 41% chance to experience ‘strong’ El Niño this year
More hot days ahead and El Niño
Yet, the situation could worsen once the looming El Niño starts.
Last March, Pagasa declared that the La Niña, or the cooling phase of sea temperature, that led to intense storms in the country, already ended, and the likelihood of experiencing El Niño (warm phase) is not remote during the middle part of the year.
Eclarino said that a transition from ENSO-neutral to El Niño would be favored (62 percent) during May to July 2023.
Excessive heat and student learning
Meanwhile, among the indirect effects of high temperature are its effects on student learning.
Director Salustiano Jimenez of the Department of Education in Central Visayas (DepEd 7) in a sit-down interview with CDN Digital on April 26, admitted that at least two schools in the Division of Tanjay City in Negros Oriental had requested to adopt an alternative delivery mode (ADM) of learning.
A teachers’ group in Central Visayas has also sought modular classes setup due to the intense heat.
“The Alliance of Concerned Teachers strongly urges the Department of Education Region VII to implement the requested setup as it is detrimental to the health and conduciveness of learning for both teachers and students. It is not true that Region VII is not affected by the increasing heat index,” ACT-7’s statement read.
Jimenez said that one of DepEd’s strategy to ensure that the learnings of the students would not be compromised, and, at the same time, their welfare would be ensured, would be to allow each school to adopt their preferred effective ADM.
These may include the shift to modular printed, online, and radio-based or TV-based instructions.
“As of now, I am awaiting more schools [from other divisions] that, maybe, are implementing or adopting ADM of teaching. They told me that it’s very hot in the area. So, we decided…The principal has the power to decide for the safety and welfare of the learners,” he said.
“What we are concerned of is that the principal can implement the ADM, but they have to make sure that the ADM that they are using always has that objective that the learners really learn,” he added.
He also explained as to why it was not yet possible to return to the normal school calendar year.
“Since there is a law on the school calendar that says that the number of school days shall not be not more than 220 days and not lesser than 200 days, and with that, our school days and our school year will be dependent on that law,” he said noting that of these, 180 days are “non-negotiable” contact days which means that there should be a face-to-face interaction between the students and the teachers during these days.
He said this was important, especially that there were “learning losses” during the time of the pandemic.
The school year opened in August 2022 and is expected to close in June 2023. (To be continued.)