While some 20 typhoons and storms normally lash the archipelago nation annually, the southern provinces being battered by Bopha are unaccustomed to fierce typhoons. A rare storm that took the area by surprise last December killed more than 1,200 people and left many more homeless and traumatized.
Officials were taking no chances this year, and President Benigno Aquino III made an appeal on national TV Monday for people in Bopha's path to move to safety and take storm warnings seriously.
"This typhoon is not a joke," Aquino said after meeting top officials in charge of disaster-response.
"But we can minimize the damage and loss of lives if we help each other," he added.
Aquino outlined preparations, including evacuations and the deployment of army search and rescue boats in advance. Authorities also ordered small boats and ferries not to venture out along the country's eastern seaboard, warning of rough seas with up to 4-meter (13-foot) waves.
In Compostela Valley, authorities halted mining operations and ordered villagers to evacuate to prevent a repeat of deadly losses from landslides and the collapse of mine tunnels seen in previous storms.
Bopha, a Cambodian word for flower or a girl, is the 16th weather disturbance to hit the Philippines this year. Forecasters say at least one more storm may hit the country before Christmas.
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.