Surprise tropical gift: Amihan in the Visayas

Tedly noticed my wedding ring is back on. I took it off for several months during the hot, humid weather in the Philippines because my fingers and hands swell up, along with my feet and my chest, which is breastless from a double mastectomy to treat early-stage breast cancer.

But now – a shift. A change in the weather pattern the last several weeks. Cooler. Less humidity. And I can get my wedding ring on and off with no issue.

It has been so delightful, I have only used the air conditioning one time. We sleep with the windows open, soft moonlight falling across the balcony, waves rolling or crashing as white noise, wind — glorious, cool, fresh and dry wind — moving the palms, soothing my skin, keeping mosquitoes down.

This is amihan. It means ‘cool northeast wind’ in Tagalog, and it’s pronounced ah-ME-han. Goodbye habagat – the humid season with a southwest wind. And good riddance.

Amihan legend

In Filipino mythology, Amihan was a god (some sources say goddess, some say genderless) who turned into a giant golden bird to stop the war between the sea and the sky gods, and then saved a man and woman so they could populate Earth.

More specific to this area of the Philippines, in the Visayas, the story is a little different.

In Tagalog folklore, Amihan was a genderless bird and the first creature in the universe – even involved in its creation

Of course, these beautiful stories became mere legend once Christianity spread on the islands.

Several weeks ago, back in habagat season, Ati Chieftain Ernesto sat with me in our rental unit at the Hangout Beach Resort. He was waiting for Theo to get ready for a trip into town. (The Ati are an indigenous tribe we’ve worked with on sustainability projects.)

We looked out at Boracay Island, pictured in the distance at the top of this page. I broke out in a sweat. A hot flash. He told me about his boyhood and trips around the island during the different seasons.

The chief said the seasons are based on wind and current directions. He told me I would enjoy Amihan, and he was so right: I love it.

The view from a ferry ride from Caticlan to Boracay Island in Malay, Philippines, late November 2020. The Philippine Coast Guard announces port changes for ferry rides based on the season and sea current.

(Side note: despite feeling hot and sweating profusely, my temperature never rises. I know this because every place I’ve gone in the pandemic checks my temperature, and it’s always 36-point-something-Celsius.)

Personal delight over cooler, drier air

I had been so miserable in the tropical heat that prior to the pandemic, we created a travel itinerary to get me out of this part of the world. HA! And here we remain.

My problem is the hot flashes caused by tamoxifen. The drug meddles with my hormones. I break out in a sweat, feel incredibly “hot”, and once it passes, it’s so humid my sweat doesn’t dry. I’m a big wet mess.

Hot flashes have been the worst of the many side effects from tamoxifen. I hate this medicine. HATE. IT.

Some doctors have told me that because I seem to have the single most common side effect associated with the damn drug — it likely means it’s working. That helps along my persistence.

So now you might better understand my absolute delight over amihan season. It is such a pleasant surprise!

When it’s only 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and sunny without (as much) humidity, I still sweat, but my sweat dries. My chest isn’t so swollen, my scar tissue doesn’t bother me.

Generally, I feel more relaxed because I am more physically comfortable, while locals bundle up in sweatshirts and jackets.

Good thing our super-slow travel (ok, ok, stopped travel) kept me here to experience this delightful time!

Thank you, Amihan.

Thanks for reading, “Surprise tropical gift: Amihan in the Visayas.”

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Surprise tropical gift: Amihan in the Visayas

2 thoughts on “Surprise tropical gift: Amihan in the Visayas

  1. Glad to hear you’re feeling more comfortable, Ellen. We just had a few nights in the low 20’s! Stay well.

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