Americas Community Environment & Climate

Filipinos prepare for heat despite living in ‘cooler’ Bay Area

By Cesar Antonio Nucum Jr.

SAN FRANCISCO – As Californians brace for another excessive these summer months that in the previous years were punctuated by catastrophic forest fires, San Francisco Bay Area Filipino Americans learned a lot from the past experiences and are doing their own shares of preparation although many of them live in more comfortable weather living in cities by the bay.

And even if they have not really experienced in the Bay Area the horrifying experience of forest fires, Filipino Americans nevertheless are very much aware of the dramatic change in the weather and are not taking a chance as sad impact of climate change makes it alarming presence felt in many countries in the world.

This has got to be expected especially since that in fact, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, temperatures in California have risen almost 3°F since the beginning of the 20th century and in the 126-year period of record (1895–2020), the six warmest years have all occurred since 2014 (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020).

But no way has the hottest temperatures been unique to California or even in the whole United States either.

In fact, July 20 2023, or almost a month ago marked, the 17th straight day with global temperatures hotter than any prior days on record, have recorded surface air temperatures greater than 17°C (62.6°F) — spikes that have not been seen for roughly 125,000 years and the record may be broken again and again as the days go on.

Among those concerned that climate change has got a lot to do with the prevailing weather these days is

Daly City Council Member Rod Dauz- Magbual who thinks that Filipinos in Daly City (a city with more than 1/3 Filipino population) are affected by climate change, but being in their specific microclimate in the Bay Area, their weather is typically foggy.

“Based on experience visiting family in southern California, staying indoors, in air condition is available, and hydrating has been key. There were extended times where I did not have the privilege of having AC, but hydration was essential. Also using dry fit clothing to reduce sweat away from the body,” Magbual shared. “I think many Filipinos have utilize practices of multiple showers in a day or taking a dip at the nearby beach, but hydration has been critical.

Magbual added that although Daly City has a unique microclimate than the rest of the country, they must understand that they do not live in isolation and all connected in terms of nature, pollution, and we must do our part to work together in addressing the environment.

Having a microclimate is what another Daly City Council Member Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo seconded stressing that the safety of their community in Daly City is always important as they move into the weather in the Bay Area that is hotter than usual.

“Since we have a microclimate unlike others, it can be extremely hot in other parts of the Bay Area, and we are 15-20 degrees cooler.

Manalo reminded everyone to pay attention to the heat, and do not wait until you are thirsty to drink more fluids, wear loose fitting and lightweight clothing with drinking cold fluids and avoiding alcoholic drinks that can make you more dehydrated.

Like a mother that she is, Manalo also warned against signs heat stroke like confusion and disorientation, muscle cramps, dilated or constricted pupils and headaches, nausea or vomiting.

Three-term Filipino Mayor of Milpitas City Joe Esteves, for his part, believes that the heat definitely influences the kind of activities Filipinos do. With some preferring to just stay home especially from noon to late afternoon when sun has scorching heat.

Some families take this opportunity to go to parks and resorts while some ladies go shopping in cool malls and for those doing gardening, they are busy watering their plants before the plants dry up. A few go to shorelines for colder air.

“Many families I know are aware that we need to drink a lot of water more frequently during heat period. And at these times of heat on work places, I believe that there should be some leniency, like rescheduling of work hours, for employees working under the sun during heat waves,” Esteves opined.

“All should find ways to stay cool and hydrated even by just staying under huge tree canopies. Minimize working during extreme heat…work earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon,” exhorts Esteves.

It is also advisable that if any cooling center seemed too crowded, people should consider others nearby for safety especially when there medical concerns of occupants infecting one another of disease and/or illnesses.

Angel Sangalang, another Filipino community leader and founder of Bayanihan FilAm Foundation of San Jose assured that even the vulnerable elders among are ok and keep themselves informed and stay indoors during heatwaves.

“I live in an apartment for seniors. There are about three dozen FilAm residents. We have a chat room (Barangay Fuji Private) and support each other’s needs. We adopt a “buddy” system (or floor team) especially for emergencies and keeping tab of each other,” imparted Sangalang. “So far, we all keep ourselves cool. In fact we regularly have our halo-halo session that we immensely enjoy. I bought an ice shaver for our own use.”

Halo-halo or literally mix-mix in English is an iconic Filipino shaved ice dessert that’s assembled in a tall glass and mixed by the diner with a long-handled spoon. Each creamy and refreshing bite is packed with flavors and textures due to a myriad of add-ins, like crunchy toasted pinipig (pounded young rice), soft sweetened Saba bananas (sweet plantain), and chewy nata de coco (coconut jelly). Adding jackfruit in syrup extends the fruits’ shelf life and the flavorful syrups can be used for other purposes. Using shaved ice allows for easier mixing and eating, guaranteeing a dispersal of flavors and textures throughout the halo-halo.

Special Day Class teacher of Glankler Early Learning Center FUSD (Fremont Unified School District) Jackie Metica-Crawford who provides educational programs to students with identified disabilities disclosed that their principal will send email right away that all outdoor recess are suspended when extreme heat hits Fremont,

“Our school has an indoor playground.  We follow a schedule so that there will be only 2 classes in the indoor playground. As a teacher, I send email to my parents informing them to dress their children appropriately and I turn off some of the lights while in the classroom,” Crawford revealed.

Crawford also made sure that she has water play ready for her preschoolers with special needs: bubbles, spray bottles, ice painting and others and that the air conditioning unit  is on the whole day while encouraging her students to drink.

Chief Business Officer of New Haven School District based in Union City Annette Heldman divulge that on really really severe hot days which are very far and very few in between in their area is that they keep students indoors and remind them to be hydrated.

“And with that we make sure that water fountains and water filling stations at our campuses are working. Luckily, in our area, our weather is so nice that we don’t really have to deal with this as much,” Heldman is grateful. “Our classrooms are all air-conditioned but they may not be 100% working perfectly all the time. And even if   something might malfunction we have maintenance department to take care of those things.”

Mother of Elaine Viilasper of a 5th grade 10-year-old and a Kindergarten 5-year-old students feels fortunate to live in Daly City where the climate has been more favorable,

“But we know it is expected to get warmer in the coming month. My children are sensitive to heat and are prone to nose bleeds, so we try to avoid excessive hot climate so we do not take typical vacations to warm climates during the summers, and prefer to do indoor activities (walk around climate-controlled malls, watch movies, etc.),” related Villasper. “We primarily stay in the house during the day when the sun is high, and only leave the house after 4pm when the heat is starting to dissipate just as what we do in Manteca, CA where the temperature rises above 105 degrees in the summer.”

Like in the Philippines before, Villasper and family fill buckets with cool water and let the kids play with the water in the shade.

“We wet towels with cold water to place on our heads and neck, and use an umbrella to shade from the sun. We drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration and heat stroke/heat fatigue. When it is hottest, we encourage to take naps to pass the time, eat cold foods (ice cream, ice candy, mais con yelo etc).”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that high temperatures kill hundreds of people every year. Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet more than 700 people die from extreme heat every year in the United States.

Among its recommendations to stay cool are stay hydrated, and stay informed as getting too hot can make one sick. One can become ill from the heat if one’s body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off.The main things affecting one’s body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:

High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly. This keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.

Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use all can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.

Senior woman drinking from a water bottle outdoors with senior man wiping his face with towel.

People aged 65 and older are at high risk for heat-related illnesses.

Those who are at highest risk include people 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.

In addition to the listed tips, below are websites with additional information and resources at national, state, and local levels that everyone can access.

HeatReadyCA: For more information to keep everyone informed about how to keep your family safe.

ListosCalifornia: Stay safe in extreme heat

Ready.Gov: Resources from the federal government

(This story was produced as part of a collaboration with the Office of Community Partnerships and Strategic Communication for their Heat Ready CA public awareness and outreach campaign. Visit Heat Ready CA to learn more.)