Back from the Philippines — Here are Some Pics as Part of Manila Prepared for Typhoon Hagupit

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I’m back in Singapore after my trip to the Philippines.

Thankfully, typhoon Hagupit turned out to be less severe than many feared:

The people of southern Luzon expressed relief Sunday night as Typhoon Hagupit, which they had feared might be a repeat of last year’s deadly supertyphoon, largely spared their region.

Just two days earlier, forecasters had warned of a crippling direct hit on the populous region.

“We’re happy, because we were afraid it would be like Yolanda,” said Jennifer Amonuevo, one of 650 people in Legazpi Port Elementary School in Legazpi City. “Yolanda” is how locals refer to last year’s Supertyphoon Haiyan.

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Meanwhile farther to the north of the country, I spent much of Sunday, before the storm arrived, at an evacuation center in the Baseco compound of Manila’s port area.

It’s a fascinating place: full of narrow roads, tiny homes, various shops. And it’s buzzing with activity: food vendors, children running about, pickup basketball games, people coming and going to work.

Due to its location next to Manila Bay — it’s the triangle highlighted in the second map above — it’s vulnerable to storms.

Thankfully, though, the typhoon didn’t make its way north and pummel Manila, as some thought it might.

Here are some iPhone pics from the day — many of which I Tweeted and posted to Instagram — as some in the community took shelter in a large building that is also used as an elementary school.

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The evacuation center

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Smiles all around

No shortage of laughs among kids at the Baseco evac center here in Manila. #RubyPH #Hagupit

A video posted by Newley Purnell (@newley) on


And more smiles

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Inside the shelter

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Getting settled

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Playing ball

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View from the evacuation center looking out toward the water

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Preparing for the worst

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My ride out of Baseco

Had never ridden in a sidecar-like contraption like this before. #Manila

A video posted by Newley Purnell (@newley) on


Video from inside

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And, finally, rains hitting Manila on Monday. (I took this pic from a standard taxi, not a sidecar!)

The storm ultimately killed 11 and injured 480, according to local media.

Any loss of life is sad, of course. But compared to the 6,300 or so who perished during Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago, Hagupit was obviously far less destructive.

I’m in the Philippines Helping Cover Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby — Here’s How to Follow My Dispatches

I arrived in Manila early this morning; the weather has remained calm here.

Here’s our latest story, just up:

Typhoon Hagupit made landfall late Saturday, with its eye passing over the town of Dolores in the coastal area of Eastern Samar, a central Philippine province that has yet to fully recover from the devastation wrought last year by supertyphoon Haiyan.

It was too early to know the extent of damage to Dolores.

“It’s now in God’s hands,” Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is in Eastern Samar’s capital of Borongan City to oversee disaster response actions, told a radio station earlier about what is ahead for the Philippines.

The typhoon, locally referred to as Ruby, has days to make its might felt, as it moves up from the midsection to provinces just south of Manila.

For images and other dispatches, follow me on Twitter; I posted some photos from the city today.

You can also subscribe to my public Facebook updates.

Stay tuned.

On ‘Interstellar’

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The latest in a series of posts about sci-fi and post-apocalyptic movies, which I love:

I’m late in noting this, as it was released several weeks ago, but:

Go see “Interstellar.” While it’s in the theater. In IMAX,* if possible.

Gorgeous cinematography. Powerful music — and use of silence. Conceptually daring. Hugely ambitious in its storytelling scope. Thought provoking.

Not perfect, but a remarkable film.

*A and I saw it at Shaw Theaters Lido here in Singapore.

FireChat App Takes Off Amid Hong Kong Protests

That’s the subject of a brief story I wrote yesterday:

A new mobile messaging app that enables users to communicate in the absence of cellular or Internet connections is seeing a surge in downloads among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

The free FireChat app, which launched in March, was downloaded 100,000 times in Hong Kong between Sunday morning and Monday morning, said Micha Benoliel, co-founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Open Garden, which developed the app.

It is unclear how many protesters are using it to communicate regularly during the protests, which mark Hong Kong’s most serious confrontation with Beijing in more than a decade. Students and other protesters have flooded the city’s streets in the weeks since Beijing’s decision on Aug. 31 to impose limits on how Hong Kong elects its leader. The protests escalated Sunday, with police using pepper spray and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Click through for more.

‘1984: Pop’s Greatest Year’

Rolling Stone:

From Prince to Madonna to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper, 1984 was the year that pop stood tallest. New Wave, R&B, hip-hop, mascara’d hard rock and “Weird Al” Yankovic all crossed paths on the charts while a post-“Billie Jean” MTV brought them into your living room. In the spirit of this landmark year, here are the 100 best singles from the year pop popped. To be considered, the song had to be released in 1984 or have significant chart impact in 1984, and charted somewhere on the Billboard Hot 100.

Just incredible.

Any Top 100 list that has “Sunglasses at Night,” “The Warrior” and “People Are People” at 100, 99 and 95 respectively is going to be spectacular. Worth a look — and listen — indeed.

Hello Kitty is British — and is Not a Cat

Anthropologist Christine R. Yano, who has studied the history of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty:

“I was corrected — very firmly,” Yano said. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

And:

Hello Kitty may not be a cat but she has a surprisingly specific backstory: she is British, her real name is Kitty White (no relation to Breaking Bad’s Walter White), and she’s the daughter of parents George and Mary White. She has a twin sister, is stuck in time as a third grader (even though she turns 40 this year), and lives outside of London. She has a horoscope sign, too: she’s a Scorpio.

There’s more from the Los Angeles Times here.

Via my colleague @shibanimahtani, who summed up, in this tweet, what I’m sure has been a common reaction to the story: