Thousands of people flock to the provinces for the four-day Easter holiday in the Philippines. (Photo by Vincent Go)
Filipinos are bracing themselves for a stormy Holy Week as Typhoon Maysak, earlier classified a "super typhoon", made landfall in the Philippines on Holy Thursday.
The weather bureau Pagasa has alerted the public against possible flashfloods in low-lying areas, landslides along mountain slopes, and storm surges and sea surface waves of up to four meters.
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center has classified Maysak (named Chedeng in the Philippines) a "super typhoon" while the Japan Meteorological Agency labels it a "very strong" one.
As thousands of Filipinos flocked to the provinces for the start of the annual four-day religious holiday on Thursday, authorities called for "necessary adjustments" in travel schedules.
Alexander Pama, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, urged travelers to coordinate with local government units.
"It is a challenge for us because a lot of people are in the provinces for their vacation. They are in holiday mode, they might not notice the warnings," Pama said.
International aid group Save the Children said it is "closely monitoring the situation." The group has already launched "necessary preparations for a possible emergency response".
Ned Olney, country director of Save the Children, warned the public "to heed safety warnings and prepare as if this storm is going to be a big one".
"This isn't typhoon season, and Save the Children is concerned about the millions of people that will be traveling this weekend to spend time with family at Easter," Olney said in a statement.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year. Typhoon Maysak is the third typhoon this year.
Thousands, if not millions, of people, including tourists, in the predominantly Catholic Philippines travel to the provinces during the holidays to be with their families.
"This is the only time of the year that we can go to church together," said Lito Cardeno who was traveling to the southern Philippines with his family to be with his parents.
"It's a religious obligation," he said, adding that the bad weather will not prevent him from traveling. "God will take care of us," he said.
Holy Week in the Philippines is a significant religious observance for both Catholics and Protestants.
Government offices, businesses, including the media, shut down operations until Black Saturday as people join religious processions, church activities, and local practices such flagellations and crucifixions.