Malacañang is a hotbed of horror stories.
We probably got bored a lot between deadlines those days, so when there was too much of a breeze to shoot, the conversation eventually shifted to who got a visit from barong-clad headless dudes, or whose turn it was to fall down that cursed staircase at the old press working area.
(I was among those “pushed” by some unseen hand down the frigging stairs back in the day.)
One of my first-hand accounts was when I was fixing my travel papers to the US and Canada. Inquirer assigned me to cover President Ramos’ visits there, and I had to submit my credentials to the media office before it closed. It was a Friday afternoon, and FVR was set to fly the following week.
I ran up the stairs to the Media Affairs Relations Office, the first door to the left past the wooden stairs. It was nearly 5 o’clock. Which meant no one would receive my papers over the weekend and I could be left behind for failing to submit my passport and travel fare.
To my great relief, I could hear two women chatting animatedly behind the door. I barged in without knocking, hoping to deliver my papers before the ladies called it a day.
The light was on, but the office was empty. Uhm, girls? I left my papers on top of the most important-looking desk, scribbled my panic on a piece of bond paper, and hightailed it out of there.
Eventually I was told that there was an emergency meeting about the trip in another office, so whose voices were those?
The reporters’ cubicles stood side by side. On one corner was my workplace. People’s Journal’s Badette Tamayo’s table was on the other end.
One day I was transcribing an interview and failed to hear clearly what Mr. Estrada slurred. “Was it ‘have’ or ‘have not,’ Badette?” I shouted from my corner.
Badette just sat there staring at her computer monitor. So I asked again. No answer. A third time and still no answer. I turned to her. A few feet away, and she was soooo oblivious.
I rolled my eyes, rewound the tape and listened again. Seconds later, Badette grabbed me by the shoulder and handed me an official-looking document.
“Bakit ang suplada mo?” I asked as I turned to her. Badette smiled but looked puzzled.
“Nagtatanong naman ako nang maayos, eh,” I added. Then I noticed that she was dressed in her quirky vintage threads. The girl staring at the monitor wore all white.
Badette said something about coming up from downstairs with another reporter just seconds ago, but my mind was already reeling. She was talking but I was no longer listening.
I apologized to Badette, but it took me years, this time at the Senate press office, to tell her why.
New Zealand hauntings
By Cheche Moral
“Last night…” Helen, one of the travel agents in our tour group, began.
She had that look in her eyes that was all too familiar, the kind that bordered between plain dread and outright terror. I had to stop her right there.
“Don’t. Let’s do this tomorrow.”
It was our last night in Wellington, and everyone had gone up to his room to pack for the flight home the next day. Helen, Camille and I were the last ones to turn in.
When the two got off on their floor, I cursed under my breath as my key card wouldn’t work to stop on mine. I had to go back to reception. Then I was all alone. Inside the lift. In the empty hallways. Close to midnight.
The last nine days of our New Zealand trip had been so good, so uneventful, I didn’t even have to take out my red pajamas—my talisman against the paranormal, real or imagined. Why now?
I didn’t sleep well that night, waking up several times, soaked in sweat, even as the AC was full blast.
As we sat in the airport holding area in Canberra on our layover, I would hear each of my companions’ stories.
Helen, who stacked her unused pillows neatly on one side of the big bed, woke up to find them strewn all over the floor.
Therese kept it to herself, but for the last two nights in the same hotel, there was incessant scratching inside her closet.
Jack woke up in the middle of the night because her TV was suddenly turned on, its sound set to full volume.
Anna, our host, had it worse: She saw the arrows in her room’s smart TV screen change channels—and the unseen who was using the clicker was surfing for porn sites! She’s a Kiwi, not a Filipino weaned on, and inured to, tales of ghosts and phantasms, ergo prone to multo imaginations. But she was shaken.
On this trip, I was glad to be “unscathed,” which almost always never happens to me in hotel rooms. This, even as we spent a night in a city once destroyed by an earthquake that claimed the lives of hundreds—New Zealand’s deadliest natural disaster yet.
I was glad I found out only after we had checked out.
Sleepless in New York
By Raoul J. Chee Kee
It was my first trip to New York City, and my childhood friend Roy and I decided to share a room in a Chelsea hostel. The room was tiny, with only a double bed and an open closet where we stuffed our bags. Even then, there was hardly any space to move around.
“It’s fine,” I thought; at least there was a window that looked out to a pretty, tree-lined street, and we were only going to be there for a couple of days.
We hadn’t read the fine print when we booked online and realized only belatedly that we would have to share a bathroom with the other transients. Still, we chose to look on the brighter side: There were only a few guests at the hostel, and we would be spending most of the day outdoors, enjoying summer in Manhattan.
One evening, after a full day spent seeing the sights, eating Sabrett hotdogs with “the works,” and snagging tickets to the live taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman,” we trudged back to our hostel. We barely had the energy to wash up and change into our pajamas before we were both fast asleep.
I woke up screaming. It was 3 a.m.
Roy said he had been shaking me awake for several seconds before I finally came to. He said my eyes were wide open but that I didn’t seem to see him. My shirt was drenched and I felt like we weren’t alone in the room.
Heavy footsteps ascended the stairs outside and stopped in front of our door, but nobody knocked. Whoever it was just stood there.
I fumbled for the St. Benedict medal that my father had given me; it was supposed to keep me safe and repel evil spirits. Although I tried to get some sleep, I was able to rest easy only at first light. That was one memorable trip.
By Alya B. Honasan
The only time I ever got visited by a spirit was by a naughty, dear friend of mine, whom I’ll call Dodong—a happy-go-lucky, talented actor who died too soon, sad to say, because of illness. I say happy-go-lucky, because that was how he was, and that was how it felt, even when he spooked me.
For some years after he passed, he would visit me in my dreams to laugh at my problems—dreams so vivid I could even smell his cigar. I would be despondent over something, and invariably, he would show up in different places—at a drinking table, inside a restaurant, walking to the parking lot after rehearsals.
Once, most dramatically, we even met up on the walls of Intramuros (o, di ba?). His message was always the same: “Okay lang yan. It will be all right.” And I’d wake up feeling better.
It was only once that there was actually a physical manifestation of his presence. I was out of the country when he passed away, and although I visited his sickbed before I left, I lamented the fact that I didn’t get to send him off.
A couple of months later, I was alone at home. My mother, whom I shared our part of the house with then, was out of town, but she liked to leave a lighted candle in front of her small altar.
I was in bed one evening with only a reading lamp and the candle providing illumination, when all of a sudden the small candle’s flame shot up, bright and about two feet high—and I clearly heard my friend’s gruff laughter emanating from the direction of the light. I also smelled his cigar.
I got serious goose bumps and started praying. And then I realized it didn’t feel like an “evil” presence, and was, in fact, quite comforting. Yup, I was pretty sure it was Dodong, and as soon as I realized that, I yelled out, laughing nervously, “P—ina, Dong, walang ganyanan! Rest ka na, dude, we’ll be fine.”
I heard him laugh one more time before the candle shrank back to its normal size, and the smell of his favorite cigar slowly faded.
I still got to sleep that night, although I left all the lights on.
Dodong doesn’t visit my dreams anymore. I think we’ve both found whatever peace we needed, but I remember him fondly.
Goodbye, until we meet
By Thelma S. San Juan
I’ve retold this many times but each retelling is like the first time; the acute sadness and sense of loss do not diminish.
It was the last night of the wake for Mommy. Since Daddy’s health itself was precarious, we didn’t tell him of her death. While we were all in the memorial chapel praying on the eve of her internment, Daddy was left alone in the care of his caregiver and our kasambahay.
Having suffered mini strokes, he couldn’t speak audibly, but he tried to, while pointing at the glass sliding door. A woman was standing outside holding an umbrella, he told the caregiver; let her in.
Mommy loved using an umbrella because she dreaded the sun (even if it didn’t shine). The caregiver looked—there was no one by the door.
Finally, Daddy said, “Nakapasok na (she’s come in).” Then his stare shifted to Mommy’s rocking chair in front of his bed. It began to rock, even if no one was sitting there. His glance was just fixed on it, as his tears began to fall. He would nod his head now and then, as if he understood what that someone in the chair was telling him.
This went on for hours, with him just staring at the moving chair.
And that was how Mommy said goodbye to Daddy.
The household staff was in near-panic, clearly spooked. I wasn’t, as I was told about it that late night. I just realized how souls have a way of saying goodbye to their beloved—until they meet again.
By Anne A. Jambora
“There are no ghosts,” my mom said, almost forcefully.
Once again I failed to convince her that a beast visited me in my sleep each night. I was 7, and I was struggling to keep myself awake at night. It was a losing battle, of course, because I’d doze off eventually.
By dawn, a heavy breathing beside me would stir me from my sleep. Then, without warning, huge hands would cover my face, leaving me breathless before disappearing into the shadows. I’d gasp for air, horrified and trembling in fear, and weep alone in my bed.
This went on, almost every evening, until I was 14. My family by then had moved to a different city and lived in different addresses, and yet the one constant in my life was this uninvited monstrosity. Even worse, my mother never believed me, dismissing it as a recurring nightmare.
Right. A recurring nightmare that haunted me for seven long years. So, at 14, I decided to take matters into my hands and face it.
One evening, after waiting for everyone to leave the house, I shouted in my room. My voice was shaking and I was in near tears: “Show yourself to me right now!” After several summons and nothing happened, I said, with more conviction, “Get out of my head. Get out of my life.”
And that was it. It never came back again.
The child on the stairs
By Vangie Baga-Reyes
I live in a high-rise condo along Edsa. In short, it’s pretty noisy and in the middle of the hustle and bustle. So a ghost experience was the last thing on my mind.
Until I decided to take out the trash myself. To the common garbage bin. Way past midnight.
I didn’t want leftovers in my unit to attract ants, let alone cockroaches. So off I went to the far side of the penthouse floor to throw the trash. It was just beside the main emergency exit.
I opened the steel door to the emergency exit stairs. To my left was the garbage bin door. I chucked in my trash, and turned around.
Then I saw her. Crying in one corner of the stairs below me. I dismissed it, thinking she was just a neighbor’s daughter.
I forgot the whole thing until I went to the building administration to settle dues. I asked the admin people how many units were already occupied.
They said that aside from us, only three other units on the floor had people. There were no kids on the floor.
By Pocholo Concepcion
’Twas a few nights last year after Christmas, when all through this house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
To paraphrase that poem, it was Dec. 27, 2015—three nights after the death of Inquirer’s lady of the house, editor in chief Letty J. Magsanoc, LJM to the PDI family—when I found myself all alone in the newsroom, around 3 a.m. The Lifestyle staff had finished putting the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday issues to bed and gone home.
I usually stay for an hour or two at my desk to destress from backbreaking editing work by reading Rolling Stone online or watching docus or music videos on YouTube. But this time, I was thinking of LJM: Will her spirit visit the office, and if it does, how would I react?
For some reason I was in a relaxed mood—not a trace of fear or anxiety, but more like the quiet vibe in a hospital in the wee hours, when patients are fast asleep. I was all alone in the newsroom.
Suddenly the stillness was broken by somebody opening the door of the men’s room a few feet from my workstation, followed by loud noises—toilet seat banging down, water flushing, more water gushing into the sink.
I thought, whoever it was making all that noise must be angry. A dilemma presented itself: I could pretend to be unaware, look away and let it pass; or I could wait to see who the hell was behind the ruckus.
I decided to wait and see. When the men’s room door swung open, out walked a man— about 5 feet tall, wearing a short-sleeved shirt that looked like a barong, his complexion so dark it was almost pitch black like his thick, close-cropped hair.
He didn’t look at me—I was on his left side—and walked to the right side, in the direction of LJM’s office. He stopped right by the desk of LJM’s secretary and took quite some time gazing at LJM’s office.
I got scared and shifted my gaze to my desktop screen.
The following day, I asked the head of security who else was in the office the night before. No one else but you, sir, he said, noting that he checked the logbook.
So, who could it be?
A senior editor surmised: “From your description, it was LJM’s driver who had been dead for five years.”
By Gibbs Cadiz
I’ve never had a third eye, or whatever it is that’s supposed to make you more open, or susceptible, to experiencing the supernatural. The closest I got to something truly spooky was when my father died.
It was in the province; I was alone, because the other family members were in Manila waiting for my sister to arrive from Australia so they could go home together.
On the first night of my father’s wake, a typhoon made landfall in Sorsogon. Electricity was cut. Everyone who was in the funeral home with me had to take leave to rush home to their families; the storm was projected to cause flooding.
And it did. Soon it was night, there was complete darkness, wind and rain were lashing outside, and floodwaters then began seeping into the funeral home. There I was with only a former classmate for company—a priest who had come to say Mass and was stranded by the storm—and Papa in his coffin, lighted by two candles in the darkness. The water crept up to our ankles, and we spent the night propped up on chairs.
Was I terrified? In the beginning. But I ended up laughing at the sheer absurdity of the situation.
Spending the night in a dark and flooded funeral chapel with a coffin nearby and only candles as illumination was a purifying experience. Could anything be more spooky? Then again, after that, could anything ever faze me again?
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