The anticipated arrival in Eastern Samar province on Saturday of Typhoon Hagupit, Filipino for "smash" comes a year after Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 dead as it swept inland along the same route.
Meteorologists tracking it over the Pacific, 435 miles off the country's eastern coast, say it has sustained winds of 127mph and gusts as high as 149mph.
Haiyan survivor Emily Sagales said many of her neighbours in central Tacloban city, which was ravaged by Haiyan, had packed their clothes and fled to a sports stadium and safer homes of relatives.
She said long queues had formed at food stores and petrol stations as residents stocked up on basic goods.
The 23-year-old, who saw her mother-in-law killed and her home washed away in Haiayan, gave birth to her first child in a crowded makeshift clinic following the disaster.
"The trauma has returned," she said.
"It's worse now because I didn't have a baby to worry about last year."
Hotels in Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 people still struggling to recover from last year's damage, were running out of rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend.
Roan Florendo, of the hilltop Leyte Park hotel, said: "The sun is still shining but people are obviously scared. Almost all of our rooms have been booked."
The military has been put on full alert and evacuation centres have been opened, while food packs, medicines and body bags have been transported to far-flung villages that could be cut off by heavy rains.
In capital Manila, President Benigno
"I think we've been challenged worse by Yolanda," Mr Aquino said, referring to Haiyan's local name.