It was Oct. 24, 1593, and the Philippines was a Spanish colony. A soldier had just gotten off from duty at the Palacio del Gobernador, inside a walled city called Intramuros.
Tired and weary, he decided to rest inside the palace until he fell asleep. But upon waking up, he was more than 9,000 nautical miles away from Manila, across the Pacific. He was in Mexico—and no one could explain how he got there in almost the blink of an eye.
Science may speak of energy grids and lines in what could be a case of teleportation. Or maybe it was just urban legend. But in a landmark like Intramuros, stories of the past are necessary footnotes to the present—living or dead.
On Jan. 30, when the sun had set and darkness came, the narrative of Intramuros was retold through the ghosts of the past.
The Voyager, as he likes to call himself, tested his lapel mic and asked the participants to gather near the stone walls. “Just breathe. Do not get frightened. When you feel something, tell me. Do not run,” he said.
Clyde Tasipit, a paranormal investigator and member of the Profilers of the Unknown (Center for Paranormal Studies or CPS), led the group to the first destination: a watchtower at the Intramuros walls, facing Manila City Hall. A lady guard was said to have died inside the post and continues to haunt the place.
For a person with normal sensibilities, the watchtower is just an old structure with a strong smell of urine and marred by vandalism. Most participants did not see or feel a thing. But hearing the tale is enough to elicit fear.
“We are not ghost-hunting here. This is an Intramuros tour with a twist—on the context of ghosts. If you see or feel something, that’s only a bonus,” said paranormal investigator Jade Martin, also a member of CPS and the initiator of a series of free ghost walks in Intramuros.
The idea was originally exclusive to their team, but they decided to open the tour to the public. Its event page has drawn 12,000 Facebook users.
“It went viral. It means a lot of people still express interest in Intramuros, except that the government somehow neglects it,” said Martin. “We should have a stronger drive to preserve Intramuros because it says a lot about our history and our past. We engage in ghost walks to get reminded of our past,” she added.
Tales of the paranormal are told and retold by inhabitants then and now of the oldest district of Manila, through hundreds of years.
There are stories of cruelty by the Spanish colonizers still echoing inside the walls. In Fort Santiago, where Jose Rizal was jailed, ghosts of prisoners drowned in underground dungeons remain.
Shadows and apparitions manifest in a hallway where a university now stands. Small cells that held soldiers bound for the firing squad have become corner eateries near Mapua Institute of Technology. Priests are said to be buried under Manila Cathedral. Even elementals are present—the kapre and dwende of Filipino horror stories—in a corner tree.
Tasipit walked toward a haunted tunnel and asked the participants to gather around it.
“Set aside all emotions and focus on the tunnel,” he said. “Feel the energy on your eyes, as if the energy in your body only flows through them. You will see a prisoner sitting down and a woman looking at you,” he said.
It instantly gave some people the creeps, but frustration soon ensued. No matter how long participants stared, there was no sign of ghosts. Tasipit offered an explanation as to why most of us now fail to “see.”
“Like cats and dogs, we were all born psychics. The only difference is that humans now have religion and technology,” said Tasipit.
He pointed out that the ability to see manifests in children, who often see and play with entities which adults can’t do. In the 1300s, he noted, all of our psychic abilities were replaced by religion. But technology is also a factor.
“Before, we practiced remote viewing, but now we resort to text messaging. Technology has eaten us. We rely on technology instead of really seeing a place,” he said.
But some haunted sites in Intramuros have too strong a presence to be ignored. Such is the Aduana Building or Custom House. The neoclassical structure, which closely resembles the abandoned Diplomat Hotel in Baguio City, was built to attract merchants to stay within the walls.
“We have received a lot of reports about this building. This falls under demonic entities. Upon investigation, we found an active portal that’s still open until today. That is where a demonic entity passes to get to another dimension. As to where that portal leads, we still don’t know because we haven’t seen it yet,” Tasipit said.
History gives meaning to the present. But for paranormal investigators, science is equally important to discuss different phenomena around us.
Take the “enchanted door” of Intramuros walls. Tasipit’s group tried to send drones beyond the door but did not find any paranormal entity. But inside, they felt like they were entering a different dimension altogether.
Baluarte de Santiago, a bastion beside the mysterious door, has a circular ruin that attracts and amplifies strong energy, he said. When this energy hits a person, it causes hallucinations.
“A kind of plant that emits a hallucination-causing scent also grows inside it,” he said.
“Not all paranormal things have no scientific explanation. You just need to observe and know what’s going on around you, because everything in this world has an effect on human activities,” he added.
Whenever someone asks CPS to exorcise a certain site in Intramuros, the team immediately declines.
“Even if they pay us P10 million, our answer is still no,” said Tasipit. “If you want to exorcise one place, you have to exorcise the whole Intramuros because the entities will just transfer. And we wouldn’t do that because they are the reasons Intramuros became what it is.”
He said intervention is necessary only when the entities are already hurting people. Coexistence is still important.
“They have lived here even before us, so we just need to respect them,” he explained. “They have built and fought for this place, so we can’t ask them to leave. They have loved this place and offered their blood and sweat for this place so they have the right to be here. We, on the other hand, are just tourists.”