A powerful typhoon blew ashore in the eastern Philippines on Christmas Day as officials struggled to divert people's attention from celebrations and travel with promises of roasted pigs, reports the AP. Typhoon Nock-Ten packed maximum sustained winds of 114 miles per hour and gusts of up to 158mph—the biggest typhoon of the year, notes the BBC—and hit near the island province of Catanduanes. It's forecast to blow west across the southern part of the main island of Luzon and pass close to Manila on Monday, before exiting over the South China Sea. Heavy rainfall, destructive winds, and battering waves were threatening heavily populated rural and urban regions, where the Philippine weather agency raised typhoon warnings, stranding thousands of people in ports as airlines canceled flights and ferries were grounded. Officials warned of storm surges in coastal villages, flash floods and landslides, and asked villagers to evacuate.
Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines, which has Asia's largest Roman Catholic population, making it difficult to get people's attention. Gov. Miguel Villafuerte of Camarines Sur province, which is in the typhoon's forecast path, offered roast pigs, a popular Christmas delicacy locally called "lechon," in evacuation centers to entice villagers. "I know it's Christmas ... but this is a legit typhoon," Villafuerte tweeted on Christmas Eve. "Please evacuate, we'll be having lechon at evacuation centers." Camarines Sur officials targeted about 50,000 families—some 250,000 people—for evacuation by Saturday night, but the number that responded was initially far below expectations. In Catanduanes province, Vice Gov. Shirley Abundo said she had ordered a forced evacuation of villagers, saying some "are really hard-headed, they don't want to leave their houses because it's Christmas." (Read more Philippines stories.)