Yes, We Call Typhoons Bagyo Because of Baguio City. Here's Why


If you’ve ever wondered why the Filipino word for typhoons is “bagyo,” and whether it has anything to do with Baguio City, here’s your answer. 

Yes, the term “bagyo” is a direct reference to the city of Baguio. And the reason many languages in the Philippines call it that (and not just Tagalog) is because of what happened 110 years ago today.

On July 15, 1911, a storm dumped about 1,170 millimeters (about 46 inches) of rainfall within a 24-hour period in the City of Pines. The storm had actually started a few days earlier. By the time it ended, an astonishing 2,210 millimeters (87 inches) of rain had been recorded, the most-ever in Philippine history. To put that into perspective, the second heaviest rainfall ever in the country was at 1,854 mm (73 inches) caused by Typhoon Pepeng (international name: Parma) in 2009. During Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, the most destructive typhoon ever in the country’s history, “only” about 281 mm (11 inches) of rainfall was recorded within 12 hours in some areas, including Surigao.

The July 1911 cyclone in Baguio is ranked 13th in the list of wettest tropical cyclones of all time worldwide.

There are not a lot of stories about that very rainy day in Baguio City, but according to multiple sources—including the American Meteorological Society, the book The Philippine Archipelago by Yves Boquet, and news outlets like the Chicago Tribune—the impact of that heavy rainfall was so great that Filipinos in other parts of the country started calling typhoons “bagyo,” in reference to what happened there in July 1911.


Now you know.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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