From Nonoy to Nona: Why PAGASA renamed a tropical storm

MANILA, Philippines – Until Friday night, December 11, the plan was to name the incoming tropical storm as "Nonoy", based on PAGASA’s official list of names for tropical cyclones within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

In fact, PAGASA had already released at least 3 advisories saying "Nonoy" would be the local name of Tropical Storm Melor.

But on Saturday morning, December 12, when the tropical storm entered PAR, the name was changed from "Nonoy" to "Nona" – a decision made by "higher-ups" in PAGASA, according to weather forecaster Glaiza Escullar.

"The reason behind it is they said the name sounds like the nickname of the President," she told Rappler in a phone interview, referring to President Benigno Aquino III's nickname, "Noynoy".

She added that since the tropical storm will make landfall, "after passage of the tropical cyclone, the name of 'Nonoy' may be associated with the name of the President."

This is actually not the first time the name of a tropical cyclone was changed because it bore some similarity to the name of a president.

Gloria, too

According to Escullar, the name "Gloria" was on the list of tropical cyclone names in 2006, after it was used in 2002. 

Although not qualified for decommissioning, the name was eventually retired and replaced with "Glenda" since the Philippine president at the time was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But unlike in the case of "Nonoy", "Gloria" was not used in earlier PAGASA advisories before the change. 

PAGASA retires a name when it has caused at least 300 deaths or P1-billion worth of damage in crops and infrastructure.

Online

The change was not lost on many Filipinos online. Many were actually curious about it.

SEVERE WEATHER BULLETIN #1-AFOR: TROPICAL STORM “NONA”TROPICAL CYCLONE: ALERTISSUED AT 5:00 AM, 12 DECEMBER... Posted by Dost_pagasa on Friday, 11 December 2015

 

"Bakit naging Nona, sabi kahapon Nonoy? Sino nagpabago [ng] pangalan [ng] bagyo? Para siguro hindi katunog [ng] pinakamataas sa gobyerno kaya siguro pinapalitan," Facebook user Ismail Capa said.

(Why was it changed to Nona when they said yesterday it was Nonoy? Who ordered the change in the name? They must have changed it so it doesn't sound like the name of the highest official in government.)

Another user, Argel Magpali, used a metaphor: "Hahaha ano pa ba kinakatakot nya kung Nonoy ang pangalan ng bagyo? Eh marami na rin naman siyang nasalantang pamilya eh (What is he still afraid of if the name of the storm is Nonoy? He has already affected many families anyway.)"

President Aquino is on his last few months in office. His public satisfaction rating had improved in recent months after it took a nose-dive in March 2015, when his administration was still reeling from public outrage over the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

It remains to be seen whether his satisfaction rating will continue to improve before he steps down from office, especially since his administration will be the subject of both praise and criticism in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections.

But social media user Annie Vivas Labatos had a warning for Filipinos closely monitoring the tropical storm: "Nona or Nonoy, whatever the name is, just keep safe everyone."

Escullar said that based on the forecast track, Tropical Storm Nona is expected to hit land on Tuesday morning, December 15, somewhere in Bicol Region. (READ: Tropical Storm Nona slows down, maintains strength) – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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