The month June marks the transition from summer to rainy season in the Philippines. Students return to school after their summer vacation of April and May and slowly water rationing is becoming less imperative. The El Nino phenomenon of this past summer meant it was one of the hottest and driest seasons to date. Many corals have bleached from this thermal stress with long term damage to coral reefs that is still being determined. On the Great Barrier Reef scientists have even explored options of shade coverings to prevent extreme ocean warming on certain key reef locations. (This solution was ultimately rejected from what I heard.)
Filipinos are also fond of the shade covering solution not for the coral reef, but for personal use. In Filipino culture white skin is beautiful and locals will go to great lengths to prevent themselves from “getting dark,” including applying whitening lotions and wearing long sleeves in the blazing heat of summer.
I would have expected to see lightweight, thin, and breathable long sleeve shirts which protect from the sun, but also allow you to keep cool. However a warm, zip-up jacket with a hood on and pulled tight around one’s head is the apparel of choice on my tropical island. (See gentleman in the lower left of the photo below)
Warm winter hats with the faces of animals and thick straps that hang down over one’s ears are also stylish and can be see year round. Thus clothing is not the best judge of temperature. Filipino bodies are clearly built for hot environments because despite long sleeves and skinny jeans they never seem to sweat as much as me in my tank top and shorts. A sweat bandana and a refillable water bottle are two essential items I carry wherever I travel.
Mysteriously, I rarely see Filipinos drink water. Coffee, a 3-1 coffee, creamer, and sugar instant mix, is the expected drink with breakfast (my morning run is never complete without at least one person offering me coffee as I jog by). Soda products are common at morning and afternoon snack times. (Sometimes soda is cheaper than bottled water and I was shocked once to hear that a store sold only soda, no bottled water. Needless to say dentists would have flocks of patients in the Philippines.) And finally a Filipino might drink a single glass of water after he or she finishes a lunch or dinner meal. So unless Filipinos are secretly guzzling water when I’m not looking, their bodies are just much more efficient in managing heat and water conservation.
And so we each have our norm in the heat of the summer: They don long-sleeve jackets, hats and pants, and tote umbrellas to avoid the sun. I go running in a tank top and shorts for maximum cooling at the expense of tanning my “beautiful” white skin.