Waking up to Super Typhoon Rolly

Samantha Suppiah
15 min readNov 1, 2020

The 2020 Pacific typhoon season has been “less active” than expected. That was the narrative before we woke up to a Super Typhoon bearing down on the Philippines this morning.

Supertyphoon Rolly/Goni is the sixth tropical cyclone to enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) in the last month and a half.

That’s one a week.

Super Typhoon Rolly, Windy.com data visualisation, 1100h, 1st November 2020

Since the end of September, the Philippines has been battered by storms in quick succession. The damage inflicted by these tropical storms have rarely been proportional to their strength as they interact with complex geographic and human landscapes in the Philippines, the Global South country most exposed to extreme natural events.

The Philippines lies atop the Pacific Ring of Fire — bestowing upon Filipinos a consistent barrage of earthquakes, volcanic events and threat of tsunamis.

The Philippines is a country of 109 million kind and beautiful people, plus a million privileged idiots who are the reason why around 12% of every taxable paycheck is lost to corruption.

Philippine population growth has been staggering in the last five decades. As economic opportunities in rural areas dwindle due to globalised industrialisation, people move into already-cramped cities to eke out a living. Metro Manila, the National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines, is where you’ll find the highest population density of human beings in the world.

Philippine population growth (Worldometers)
Population density of the Philippines, 3D Aerialod visualisation of GHS_POP and EU data (Alasdair Rae, Vivid Maps)

This typhoon season in particular has been complicated by a few major chronic factors.

First, COVID.

The Philippines is still on its first wave. The number of daily cases peaked and then stabilised, with signs of momentum dying down, though with the occasional outbreak in different urban neighbourhoods and evacuation centres.

It’s a miracle that with a population of 110 million, there have been just 7,238 deaths on record — officially, that is…

Samantha Suppiah

Southeast Asian trickster. Design strategist for decolonial sustainability & regeneration. www.possiblefutures.earth/samantha