The Philippine Meteorological Service began more than a century ago. Prior to 1865, Francisco Colina, a young Jesuit scholastic, professor of mathematics and physics at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila started a systematic observation of the weather. But it was only at the beginning of 1865 that a systematic recording of the observations made from a few primitive instruments two or three times a day was begun. From the hourly observations made by Colina of a strong typhoon later in the year, another Jesuit scholastic, Jaime Nonell, wrote a brief treatise which was subsequently printed by the Diario de Manila. This piece attracted the attention of businessmen, merchants and mariners in Manila and recognized the implications of such an effort. They requested the Jesuit superior, Fr. Juan Vidal, that the Jesuits undertake regular observations for the public so that the latter may be forewarned of the approach of typhoons. Meeting some reluctance from Colina and Nonell because of the primitive instrumentation available, the businessmen offered to finance the procurement of the proper instruments from Europe. The Jesuit superior had no other choice except to accede to these repeated requests and finally made arrangements for the acquisition of a recently invented instrument by another Jesuit, Fr. Angelo Seechi of the Vatican Observatory in Rome called the Universal Meteorograph.
The following year, Federico Faura, S.J., still a scholastic, was designated to direct the fledgling observatory. This signal honor was in recognition by his superiors of his scientific and mathematical abilities.
Day and night observations were made possible by the Seechi meteorograph on its arrival in 1869.
In 1879, after comparison of local observations with those made on hurricanes by a brother Jesuit in the West Indies, Fr. Faura felt confident of issuing a typhoon warning. On 7 July, he warned of a typhoon crossing Northern Luzon. In November of the same year, he predicted a strong typhoon crossing over Manila. The government relying on the accuracy of the earlier warnings took every possible precaution. The resulting slight losses from this typhoon finally and permanently established the reputation of the Observatory.
This recognition went beyond Philippine shores and more foreign observatories began requesting for the monthly Boletin del Observatorio de Manila. Typhoon warnings and other meteorological information were requested by Hong Kong businessmen through the Governor of the British crown colony immediately following the installation of a submarine cable between Manila and that colony.
Because of the growing demands of the Observatory's services, it was felt that the Jesuit enterprise should become an institution supported by the Spanish crown. On 28 April 1894, a Royal Decree recognized the Manila Observatory as an official institution under the direction of the Jesuits. The establishment of a network of secondary stations in various points of Luzon followed immediately.
In 1885, time service was began for merchant shipping as well as a system of visual (semaphore) weather warnings.
The following year, the Faura Aneroid Barometer came out. It was a graphic expression of the observations made by Fr. Faura based on his paper Senales precursoras de un temporal published in 1882.
In 1887, a section devoted to the study of terrestial magnetism was set up. Six years later, the first maps of the terrestial magnetism in the Philippines was published. Almost simultaneously with the taking of the first meteorological or weather observations, seismic or earthquake observations were taken. It was only in 1890, however, that the section on seismology was officially established. Just before the end of the 19th century, the observatory was almost as fully constituted as it had thereafter been (the astronomical section having been set up in 1899) and had already won admiration and acclaim not only from the general public but also from the shipping concerns throughout the Far East and scientific institutions in the rest of the world.
The Weather Bureau
Rev. Jose Algue succeeded Father Faura in 1897 and saw the institution through the Philippine Revolution and the Fil-American War. As a consequence, he was witness to and participant in the reorganization of the Observatorio into the Weather Bureau on 22 May 1901 as provided for by Act No. 131 of the Philippine Commission. There was hardly any change instituted except in name. Its technical departments were maintained as divisions and the Bureau was placed under administrative control of the Department of Interior.
The years that followed were years of growth and development for the Bureau. In 1908, Father J. Coronas introduced the first weather map in the Far East. From thereon, typhoon forecasts were made based on analysis of weather maps. The Bureau participated in various international expositions and scientific expeditions and was represented in several Pan-Pacific Science Congresses. Its typhoon forecasts reached such a degree of accuracy that shipping men in the whole Far East have come to rely mainly on it for their safety on the seas against storms. Its published works, the results of many years of uninterrupted study and research in meteorology, terrestial magnetism, and astronomy were well known and had later proven to be of inestimable value to the American forces in the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese during World War II. Father Depperman, for example pioneered studies in tropical cyclones and was considered an authority on the subject internationally.
The Bureau was placed under the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources immediately when the latter was created in 1917. Under the Commonwealth, it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Commerce where it stayed until 1947 except for a brief period when it was placed under the Department of Public Works and Communications during the Japanese occupation.
The last of the Japanese Jesuits to serve as its Director, Father Miguel Selga succeeded Father Aigue in 1926. Like his predecessors, Father Selga was an indefatigable and dedicated executive. Through several conferences, he managed to obtain the cooperation of the beacis of other meteorological services and he had been able to develop a uniforin code of storm warnings for the Far East.
Since its founding, through its several transitions, and until the outbreak of the World War II, the Bureau functioned continuously under the direction of the Jesuit Fathers. Most of the Filipino staff remained faithfully in the Service until separated by death or old age. Even its instruments, with a few exceptions, were as old as the institution. This set-up was rudely interrupted by the War. The Bureau, like the nation itself, was isolated from the rest of the free world except in the Greater East Asia Co-Propserity Sphere, the Japanese dream of Imperialism. For the first time, it functioned with an all-Filipino staff headed by Mr. Maximo Lachica, head of the Department of Geodetic Engineering of the University of the Philippines. This was a period of limited activity in the Central Office. In the field, however, the weathermen went underground. The ability of the liberating forces to secure accurate weather information over enemy-occupied territory was attributed to them by General Douglas McArthur.
In February 1944, during the Battle of Manila, and after more than three-quarters of a centruy of existence, the Manila Observatory was blasted to destruction, completely laid to waste, and nothing but the burnt-out shell of its astronomical dome on Padre Faura Street bore mute testimony to its once glorious past. All the instruments, all the records, and the mass of scientific knowledge accumulated through the years were lost.
On 24 July 1945, the Weather Bureau was re-established with seven men constituting its entire personnel complement with Mr. Edilberto Parulan serving as Officer-in-Charge. A former Japanese temple on Lipa Street in Sampaloc, Manila served as its headquarters. For equipment, there was one borrowed table made of a wooden plank resting on two gasoline cans. Every vestige of the handiwork of the Jesuits had completely vanished. Nothing was left except the men whom they have trained and the tradition of a great institution.
The following November, Dr. Casimiro del Rosario, head of the Physics Department of the University of the Philippines was appointed as Officer-in-Charge vice Mr. Parulan. The process of reconstitution that followed was excruciatingly slow. Only the devotion of its few employees kept it from breaking apart. The only encouraging support came from the United States Army which graciously donated the first real instruments the Bureau could use after liberation.
Due to the nature and extent of its work, the Bureau had to maintain a network of observation stations strategicallydistributed throughout the archipelago-constituting its field service. The seismograph at the Ambulong Geodynamic station was repaired in 1945.
A U.S. Weather Bureau Mission, in pursuance of a provision in the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946, was sent to Manila to undertake a survey of the Bureau's needs. As a result, the Bureau was able to acquire more than two million pesos worth of meteorological equipment. Young and promising Filipinos were sent to American Universities to take up meteorology. Most of the officials and employees of the Bureau were similarly sent to the United States to undertake orientation training in various US Weather Bureau facilities. This technical assistance paved the way for the establishment of standard weather services patterned after similar institutions in the more technically advanced countries of the world. This time the Bureau was placed under the Department of Commerce and Industry.
The functions and activities of the Weather Bureau as enunciated by Executive Order No. 94, implementing Republic Act No. 51, were carried out by its five divisions: The Synoptic, Climatological, Geophysical, Astronomical, and Administrative.
In 1947, the Central Office was moved to more suitable and spacious quarters, the former Marsman building opposite Pier 15 a the Port Area. The Forecasting Center was transferred to the Manila International Airport Balagbag terminal staffed with newly trained meteorologists. It became the Manila Main Meteorological Office of MMMO.
In 1949, due to the needs of air transportation, temperature, relative humility and pressure observations in the high atmosphere were made twice daily by the Laoag, Cebu and Zamboanga stations.
In the same year a new Geophysical Observatory was set up behind the UP grounds. The following year, a complete set of electromagnetic photo-recording seismograph was installed.
By 1950, teletype service connected the Forecasting Center to Clark Air Force Base, Sangley Point Naval Base and the Bureau of Telecommunications. Exchange of weather reports with foreign countries, airerafts-in-flight and four aeronautical stations in the country-Laoag, Legaspi, Cebu, and Zamboanga were being done. Telegraphs from field stations passed through the Bureau of Telecommunications. Private radio systems and the then National Civil Defense Administration all helped to facilitate the reception of data and dissemination of the forecasts and warnings.
The Astronomical Observatory was set up in the UP Diliman campus in 1954. From this building, time signals were transmitted seven times daily by radio.
On 15 July 1958, the then Director, Dr. Casimiro del Rosario, was appointed Vice-Chairman of the National Science Development Board and Mr. Ricardo C. Cruz, Chief of the Astronomical Division, was appointed Officer-in-Charge. On 1 August 1958, Dr. Roman L. Kintanar, Chief of the Geophysical Division, was appointed Director of the Weather Bureau. At 29, Dr. Kintanar was the youngest ever to hold the post anywhere in the government service.
Under Dr. Kintanar's administration, the Bureau followed a systematic program of development and expansion of its services.
In 1963, the first weather surveillance radar was installed atop teh Marsman building. It had served in good stead for more than a dozen years until it was damaged beyond repair by a fire that struck the building in June 1978.
On its 100th anniversary, half of the weather stations were already linked with each other by single side-band radio transceivers as part of the establishment of an independent meteorological communication system.
In 1968, the 5-year "WMO Training and Research Project, Manila" commenced. It consisted of two major components, the Institute of Meteorology in the Weather Bureau and the Department of Meteorology in the University of the Philippines. Jointly, these were called upon to meet all the training needs of the country's meteorological personnel and to carry out research in various fields of meteorology. The Institute provides technical in-service training in various levels while the Department offers a post-graduate course leading to a Master of Science degree in Meteorology. Two equally important aspects were realized in conjunction with the implementation of the project. The first was the acquisition of an IBM 1130 Electronic Computer. Computerization in the Bureau came of age. The other was the setting up of a telemetry system in the Marikina River Basin, initial efforts at flood forecasting.
The Weather Bureau in 1969 once more moved its Central Office to a new address, 1424 Quezon Boulevard Extension (now Avenue), Quezon City.
In 1970, satellite meteorology came of age in teh Philippines when an Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) system was set up to intercept photo-transmissions of the upper atmosphere by satellite. The satellite pictures increased the degree of accuracy of the weather forecasts.
In the same year, the ECAFEIWMO Typhoon Committee Secretariat established its headquarters in the Weather Bureau. The Typhoon Committee, a multinational and regional agency, seeks to improve the quality of typhoon and hydrological forecasting in the region.
The following year, five new radar stations were linked with the Manila radar station to form the Weather Radar Surveillance Network. And the first major research project of the Bureau under the general title of "Typhoon Research Project" was launched with financial assitance from the then National Science and Devlopment Board (NSDB).
On the eve of Presidential Proclamation 1081, better known as the declaration of Martial Law, Congress passed an act abolishing the Weather Bureau and in its stead, establishing the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Its signing into law by the President was aborted by Proclamation 1081.
However, on 8 December 1972, cognizant of the tremendous impact of the meteorological and allied services on national development, President Ferdinand E. Marcos, issued Presidential Decree No. 78 establishing the PAGASA. The decree closely followed the tenor of the original Act. The PAGASA was entrusted with "providing environmental protection and utilizing scientific knowledge as an effective instrument to ensure the safety, well-being, and economic security of all the people, and for the promotion of national progress." It transferred administrative control of the agency from the Department of Commerce and Industry to the Department of National Defense.
It provided further that PAGASA be composed of four major organizational units aside from the traditional administrative service. These are the National Weather Service (NWS), the National Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Data Service (NAGADS), the National Geophysical and Astronomical Service (NGAS) and the National Institute of Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Sciences (NIAGAS).
The NWS undertakes the preparation and subsequent prompt issuance of forecasts and warnings of weather and flood conditions. It maintains radio communication links with all weather observing stations in the country and national meteorological centers elsewhere. Observed data from these sources are received at the weather forecasting center where these are plotted on various weather charts, studied and analyzed and from which the corresponding forecasts, bulletins, warnings and advisories are issued promptly to the general public, the aviation and marine-interests.
NAGADS undertakes the acquisition, collection, quality control, processing, and archiving of atmospheric and allied data. NAGADS maintains some 55 weather stations, half-a-dozen upper-air stations (radiosonde, radiowind, pilot balloon, and radar wind), and equal number of radar stations, port meteorological stations, agrometeorological stations, more than 300 climatological stations and about a thousand rain stations. Its personnel monitor data 24 hours a day, seven days a week the whole year round. The data are indexed, carded, punched, taped, micro-filmed and computerized for storage to serve as the basis for applied and theoretical research.
NIAGAS undertakes observations and studies of seistomological and astronomical phenomena. It provides the official time for the country. It operates a planetarium and a 12-inch reflecting telescope.
NIAGAS is responsible for the training of scientists and technical personnel with respect to atmospheric, geophysical and astronomical sciences. It either coordinates or undertakes alone or in cooperation with other services in the Agency and/or other governmental and non-governmental institutions extensive researches in these fields. On the training aspect, it conducts courses both on the professional and sub-professional levels on a continuing basis. It handles fellowships for PAGASA personnel here and abroad. It publishes technical and scientific journals. The library falls under its administrative control.
The PAGASA, under PD 78, assumed broader responsibilities with a corresponding increase in its personnel complement, its facilities and resources.
President Marcos signed PO 1149 on 2 June 1977. The decree amends PD 78 that created the PAGASA and LOI 41 which transferred administrative control of the Typhoon Moderation Research and Development Council to the PAGASA. Thus by virtue of this decree, two new offices were created, raising the number of major service units to six, aside from the traditional support units. These are the Typhoon Moderation Research and Development Office and the National Flood Forecasting Office (NFFO).
Parallel to the establishment of the PAGASA, a Typhoon Moderation Program was enacted as Republic Act No. 6613. The Typhoon Moderation Research Development Council (TMRDC) was placed under the Office of the President with the primary responsibility of conducting researches and formulating methods to moderate the destructive effects of typhoons and minimizing the destruction wrought by floods, rains, and droughts. PAGASA played a major role in the TMRDC by providing the technical expertise including its facilities to the project. The first of a series of weather modification experiments (WEMEX I) was conducted over Bohol by the TMRDC.
In 1973, the Pampanga River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Project, a joint undertaking of the PAGASA and the Bureau of Public Works, was inaugurated initiated by the Typhoon Committee and upon recommendations of a survey mission, the Government of Japan provided the equipment and training of personnel for the Project for a little over a quarter of a million US dollars.
Earlier in 1974, PAGASA in cooperation with the Office of Civil Defense and DND put up a radio station with call letters DZCA.
1981 and 1982 also saw the phasing out of antequated weather surveillance radar systems at Virac, Daet, Mactan and Basco. They were replaced by or modiefied into WSR-77 as a more sophisticated system with PPI's in color.
Through a network of automatic stations situated at strategic points along the Pampanga River and its major tributaries, data on the rise and fall of the river levels are telemetered to the Flood Forecasting Center which is located in the PAGASA. The Bureau of Public Works provides the physical personnel to maintain and operate the system.
Impresses with the success of the Flood Forecasting System in the Pampanga River Basin, President Marcos instructed PAGASA to explore the possibility of putting up a similar system in the Agno, Bicol and Cagayan River Basins.
On December 11, 1975, Presidential Decree No. 830 transferred administrative control of the TMRDC from the Office of the President to the PAGASA Typhoon Moderation Research and Development Office (TMRDO).
The UNESCO-sponsored Regional Seismological Network in Southeast Asia set up a shop in the PAGASA'S Geophysical Observatory offices in Quezon City in 1974. A multinational undertaking with the Philippines as a major participant, it seeks to standardize the training of personnel and seismological equipment and improve the accuracy of determining the epicenters of earthquakes in the region. It further seeks to enhance the capability of the seismological service.
Subsequently, in 1977, a strong motion accelerograph network was put up in Metro Manila. The network was designed to record strong earthquake vibrations in the area. Records obtained through this network, when digitized and processed, will yield ground motion parameters such as acceleration, velocity, and displacement. This would essentially affect decision-making in planning human settlements and for earthquake-resistant design of infrastructure.
On 23 March 1977, in celebration of World Meteorological Day, the first "PARANGAL NG PAGASA" awards went to three people who have contributed significantly to the enhancement of PAGASA's services. Parangal recipients will constitute PAGASA's Hall of Fame. They were: Messrs. Edilberto Parulan, Hugo dela Cruz and Pablo S. Malasarte.
The same decree provides for the elevation of the ranks of the head of Agency from Administrator to Director-General and the Chiefs of Service to Directors.
In 1979, the new Planetarium at the Science Garden was opened to the public on a first-come first-serve basis. Equipped with a Minolta projector, it has a seating capacity of 90 people. Formally inaugurated on 18 April, the main viewing hall was named after Dr. Casimiro del Rosario, Weather Bureau Director from 1947 to 1958.
It will be recalled that President Marcos ordered several years earlier to explore the possibility of putting up flood forecasting and warning networks in the country's major river basins. In June of 1981, the Bicol sub-system was inaugurated. In May of the following year, all three sub-systems (Agno, Bicol and Cagayan) were inaugurated as a whole. On the same occasion, the Ground Receiving Station for the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite was similarly inaugurated. Satellite meteorology in the Philippines has taken a giant step.
Project 1 of Flood Forecasting and Warning System for Dam Operations was started in April 1983. It covered Angat and Pantabangan Dams and Project II, the Magat and Binga/Ambuklao Dams including the Data Information Center. This project consisting of two phases was a joint undertaking of the National Power Corporation, the National Irrigation Administration and PAGASA with financial assistance in the form of loans from the Government of Japan. This was Government's reaction to a disaster in 1978 in the downstream areas of Angat Dam in which hundreds of people were reported killed and millions of pesos of property lost when heavy precipitation reached critical levels and threatened Angat Dam forcing dam authorities to release water without adequate warning.
President Marcos transferred administrative supervision of PAGASA from the Ministry of National Defense to the National Science and Technology Authority by virtue of Executive Order No. 984 dated 17 September 1984. A major consequence was the transfer of the seismological service including its appropriations, records, physical facilities, and personnel to the then institute of Volcanology.
While PAGASA concentrates on its contributions to the country's socioeconomic development program, it also attends to its international commitments.
As a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized Agency of the United Nations, it is committed to the enhancement of the quality of life of all men of all nations through joint and cooperative efforts with the other members. The world is its own laboratory and no nation, however advanced and sophisticated, can be independent of another in striving for this goal.
The Philippines, through PAGASA, has been represented in places where scientists gather to share their knowledge. It has also provided its own facilities for the use of the scientific community. For years, the PAGASA has hosted a number of international and regional gatherings, the largest of which was the seventh session of the WMO's Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) in early 1978. Several annual sessions of the Typhoon Committee have been held in Manila, the latest of which was in late 1989. Roving seminars in hydrmeteorology were held as well. The ascendancy of Dr. Kintanar to the higher echelons of WMO brought about hosting of other meetings.
In cognizance of his outstanding qualities of leadership, Director-General Kintanar won election to the post of 3rd Vice-President (ad-interim) of the Organization in November 1978-May 1979.
In the following months, Dr. Kintanar's star soared higher with his electon during the Eight Congress of WMO in 1979 as President of that Organization for the next 4 years. He had the signal distinction of having won his seat by acclamation. He became the fifth President since WMO's establishment in 1951. he won re-election in 1983 for another 4-year term.
The Southeast Asia Association for Seismology and Earthquake Engineering (SEASEE) was established in August of that year. Dr. Kintanar was elected as its first President. For the next several years, SEASEE Secretariat was located in the PAGASA.
Through the UP Department of Meteorology and Oceanography, PAGASA offers Voluntary Cooperation Program fellowships in graduate meteorology.
Manila's selection as Center of Excellence for Meteorological Training in the region was confirmed and further strengthened its claim to being the Regional Meteorological Training Center (RMTC).
PAGASA participated in the Winter Monsoon Experiment, or MONEX, the purpose of which was to observe and study at great length on a regional scale the Southwest Monsoon. It was followed by the Typhoon Operational Experiment (TOPEX) in 1981-1984 and the Special Experiment Concerning Typhoon Recurvature and Unusual Movement (SPECTRUM) in August-September 1990 both under the aegis of the Typhoon Committee.
PAGASA and the Future
Late in 1976, PAGASA drew up its perspective development plan. It realized that for it to be an effective instrument in nation building and ultimately in the enhancement of the quality of life of the people, it must be completely responsive to the changing needs of the times.
Considering the scope and breadth of the effects of meteorology and the allied sciences on man, PAGASA has pledged its resources to the attainment of identified national goals and will direct its efforts towards national priorities such as natural disaster prediction, moderation and control,; food self-sufficiency; natural resources development; energy; transportation; industry; housing and health.