A sidelight to typhoons, one that is fun but must not be taken as an insult to those who suffer in their wake, is how these destructive forces of nature got their names. For sure, they don’t come whiffing through Pagasa’s radar saying, “Hi, I’m Frank. Behind me is Gener; and that’s Helen over there.”

When we were younger, typhoons reinforced our image of women as wielding influence over both the household and the universe. We rarely questioned why typhoons back then exclusively took on female names, and why the names peculiarly ended with “ing” and “ang.” We took it as God’s will. And He was a God who knew onomatopoeia, for if you listen carefully to the sound of a storm, it has an “iiiinnnnng” or “aaaaannnng” ring to it.

Also, most women in our neighborhood seemed to have names that sounded like “Ruping” (1990, P11 billion in damages), “Uring” (1991, 5,000-8,000 dead), “Nitang” (1986, 1,363 dead), and “Dinang” (1981, 2,764 dead). Women were a scary lot.

I grew up fearing the day when a super strong typhoon, carrying my mother’s name, would come rumbling from the east to wipe our town out. “Tesing,” short for Teresita, evoked such an image of a gentle and loving mother that a killer typhoon with her name wouldn’t be fair. She’s more of a gentle breeze, or an air-conditioning unit set at low cool.

Claiming that they too are capable of wreaking havoc of biblical proportions, men now want typhoons to be named after them. So in 2000, an organization called “Men as Mean as Typhoons (MMT)” lobbied for the inclusion of men’s names in Pagasa’s list. They were so successful in their campaign that most of typhoon names now are masculine, alongside a few feminine ones that they allowed to stay to make their grandmas happy.

So, in 2001, Pagasa began using new sets of typhoon names, with some upholding the notorious “ing” and “ang” tradition. Four sets of 25 names will be rotated annually. Meaning, the set for this year will be re-used in 2012.

Remember Chedeng, Kabayan, Lando and Onyok last year? They will visit us again in 2011. (If you make a stupid decision in 2010, as you definitely will, Kabayan will wreak havoc earlier. But that’s a totally different storm, although no less destructive.) In case more than 25 typhoons decide to drop by in a year, an auxiliary set will be used.

But like most men, MMT members lacked the talent to be taken seriously. Why would you want your typhoons to be named Buchoy, Estong, Estoy or Tisoy? With respect to my friends with these names, they are more like characters in a Dolphy movie than names of tree-toppling, light-bending cyclones. Julio, Jerome and Jaime sound like triplets, probably sons of an MMT official. Good they are in the auxiliary list.

Although women allowed themselves to be laughed at with typhoon Jolina, they have the frightening Ursula, Zoraida, Violeta and Yolanda reserved for the end of each year. Women will always have the last laugh.

With funny names crowding Pagasa’s list, one wonders what happened to the really stormy-sounding ones. The answer can be found in the list of tropical cyclone names for the Northwest Pacific. Beginning in 2000, tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific basin took on Asian names contributed by nations and territories that are members of the World Meteorological Organization’s typhoon committee.

We have 10 contributions there: Malaksi, Danas, Hagupit, Lupit, Talas, Cimaron, Hagibis, Molave, Malakas and Talim. Now those are really cool typhoon names. No gender, no sex, just plain brute force.

( sun.star opinion, july 22, 2008 )