The Philippine archipelago teeters on the edge of the “Ring of Fire”. The Ring of Fire is an area the frames almost the entire Pacific ocean the edge of which has a LOT of earthquakes and volcanic activity. Even so you are more likely to see calamity from Typhoons than from tsunamis (they are two different things).
The major seismic activity that occur miles off the shore is what causes huge ocean water displacement. The displaced sea moves to the shore in a HUGE wave that can cause total destruction. Tsunami is a borrowed Japanese word – 津浪 (hiragana つなみ) which literally means Harbor Wave – “Tsu” – Harbor “nami” – Wave.
The sporadic occurrences of Philippine Tsunamis is documented going back to 1627 (see NOAA Tsunami database). Although they do happen they don’t usually take a lot of lives. The notable exception would be 1976 where a Tsunami hit Mindanao and killed over 4,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes. There is also 1965 where 355 people were killed by a tsunami in Luzon Island and more recently 81 people died in the 1994.
Typhoon vs. Tsunami
The devastation of super storms like Haiyan are sometimes confused with tsunamis or the word “tsunami” is used as an adverb to describe the sheer magnitude of destruction and death of a typhoon. However, there is a difference between the technical definition of a Typhoon and a tsunami. Typhoon is storm sweeping in from the ocean on the land and a tsunami can come on clear calm day because its generated by a huge displacement of ocean that gets pushed on to the land (usually from an earthquake). Also, the death toll of a tsunami can be exponentially higher than a storm. Super Typhoon Haiyna, one of the largest storm in recorded history, killed 5,260. The Tohoku Japan Tsunami of 2011 killed 15,887 and the the Indian ocean Tsunami killed over 250,000 in several countries.
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ –Ring of Fire
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tsunami – origin of the word Tsunami
NOAA Tsunami database http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov
Old paper about the philippines tsunami of 1976