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Hombac” is the Tagalog term for storm surge

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Finding a Filipino word for storm surge: ‘Daluyong’ or ‘humbak’?

Posted at 11/18/2013 8:41 PM | Updated as of 11/18/2013 9:35 PM

MANILA – Not many people in the Philippines knew what a storm surge was before ‘Yolanda’ hit central Philippines. It was a new concept that did not arouse fear, unlike the the word tsunami, which evokes images of the destruction in Japan in March 2011 and in countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

After the super typhoon claimed the lives of more than 4,000 (and counting), people began to criticize authorities for not explaining well what a storm surge is.

Filipino-American geologist and environmental scientist Kelvin Rodolfo told ANC authorities correctly warned about the threat posed by storm surges before Yolanda struck on November 8, but many did heed the warning.

Thus, Rodolfo suggested there should be a Filipino term for “storm surges.”

He said communication is key in effective information dissemination.

Rodolfo disagreed with some local officials of Leyte and Sámar who say they it would have been better if they had been told that a tsunami was coming.

He said the public should not be warned of an incoming tsunami when what is going to happen is a “storm surge”.

“While people know what tsunami is like, we could have generated unnecessary panic…and you would have also killed people in panic,” he said.

Rodolfo said a tsunami is triggered by an earthquake, and a storm surge is not.

CLICK HERE to read the rest.

Photo by Aarón Fávila.

In light of super typhoon Yolanda’s record-breaking onslaught last November 8, there has been a debate on what should really be the Tagalog equivalent of “storm surge”. National Artist Virgilio Almario says it’s “daloyong” (or “daluyong“) while Lagunense historian Jaime Tiongson, using the 17th-century Spanish-Tagalog dictionary “Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala” as his basis, claims that it should be “hombac” (or “humbak“).

I support Almario’s advocacy of using Filipinas instead of the dull-sounding Philippines to refer to our country (more on this in a future blogpost). But with regard to a Tagalog term for “storm surge”, I’ll go for Tiongson’s “hombac” because it was well defined/mentioned at least three times in that ancient dictionary which was compiled by Fr. Pedro de San Buenaventura (published in Pila, La Laguna in 1613) and it accurately describes the tragedy that happened in Tacloban (and other nearby areas) early this month. Below are three entries for that ancient Tagalog word in the said dictionary:

1) ARibar : Hombac pc : con tormenta es de la costa y tambien de la laguna : significa, golpe de mar, cami.y. hinohombacan nang dagat, hiconos la mar arribar aputos golpes de sus olas. http://sb.tagalogstudies.org/2010/10/77.html
2) Fondo : Humbac pc : de entre ola y ola, hungmohumbac .1.ac. hazer fondos la mar, hinohumbacan .1.P. . ser arrojado y goldpeado dellos, humbac aya nang dagat nayto, o que de fondos haçe esta mar. http://sb.tagalogstudies.org/2010/10/323.html
3) Ola : Vmbac pc : que hae el agua con la fuera del viento, hinohumbacan .1.P. ser golpeado dellas; patabi tayo at nang di tayo humbacan, bamos haia la orilla no nos golpeen las olas. http://sb.tagalogstudies.org/2010/10/452.html
(emphasis mine)

As can be gleaned from above, we can easily see that “hombac” has been associated with storms (“con tormenta“) or a strong/violent surge of water (“golpe de mar“, “ser arrojado“). Also, in definition 3, I believe there is a typographical error: instead of la fuera del viento (outside the wind), I’m pretty sure Fr. San Buenaventura meant la fuerza del viento (wind force) especially when preceded by “que hae el agua con“. Now, hae is another typo error (it doesn’t mean anything at all in Spanish); it should be hace (yes, this ancient book has lots of typos with many words lacking the appropriate accent marks). Loosely translated into English, “que hace el agua con la fuerza del viento” means “what the water makes (or what happens to the water) when blown by forceful winds”.

Meanwhile, (and if I’m not mistaken), Almario’s “daluyong” appears in only one entry (spelled archaically) in the country’s oldest dictionary, and it is even subcategorized under the Spanish word “ola” which means “wave”:

Ola : Daloyon pp : de la mar o de otra agua, dungmadaloyon .1.ac. olear el agua, dina daloyonan .1.P. ser golpeado; lubha tayong dina daloyonan nitong dagat, mucho nos golpeen las olas. http://sb.tagalogstudies.org/2010/10/452.html

Unfortunately for Almario, his Tagalog candidate for storm surge had nothing to do with gale-force winds nor storms.

On a related note, the city of Mandaloyong in Metro Manila was named after “daloyon” which meant “a place of waves” because hundreds of years ago, there used to be a beach there. Due to geographical and tidal shifts coupled with anthropogenic circumstances, that beach is no more; it is now covered by the bustling city of Macati, “a place of tides”. The place therefore opened up to what is now Manila Bay.

For the sake of argument, let us pretend that Almario is correct. Since Mandaloyong was named as such, it can be surmised that it was frequently visited by large waves. But frequently visited by large tidal waves or wave surges? A stretch. Besides, there has been no record of a tidal wave —or a storm surge— that had happened in Manila Bay. At least, none that I know of.

Tiongson is correct. What destroyed Tacloban was a deadly hombac, not a surfer-friendly daloyong.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

It’s not over till it’s over. People in the Visayas still need our help. Their road to recovery will not be overnight. It might take months or even years. So please, let us do everything we can to help them. Remember: we are all in this together.

La gente filipina es una familia, no una nación. 🙂

Please CLICK HERE on how you can help our Visayan brothers and sisters. Thank you.

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4 responses »

  1. Hi Pepe! I am Pia Ranada from Rappler (www.rappler.com), a social news network based in Metro Manila. I’m now writing an article about storm surge. May I credit your blog as my source for the words “daluyong” and “humbak” as Filipino terms for storm surge?

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    • It would be a great honor, ma’am. Just don’t forget to mention Jaime Tiongson, please. Because he was the one who rediscovered the word, not me. I merely gave it a thorough analysis. =)

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  2. ABS-CBN television anchor Ted Failon, who was able to report only briefly Friday from Tacloban, said the storm surge was ‘like the tsunami in Japan’.

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  3. with higher waves on top. Sustained winds of 67 mph (107 km/h) were recorded in Mobile, Alabama , and the storm surge there was approximately 12 feet (3.7 m).

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