Nov. 1-2’s Faint, Ghostly, Eerie Whispers

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Apparently, this hell of a pandemic has forced authorities to disallow mass visitation last November 1-2 to cemeteries in the highland and lowland regions in a whisperingly deliberate effort to deter possible infection to any person.

Majority of the public whisperingly understands the logic behind the government’s initiative.

But that ban won’t stop the fact that whenever All Saints Day and All Souls Day slithers around the corner, so, to, do tales of the supernatural whisper forth like “hope eternal,” to remind all and sundry that the spirit still lives forever even if finally detached from its earthly form.

And where that spirit travels, your whisper guess, my fine reader, is as good as Ah Kong’s whisper.

Maybe, the most provocative, if not, intriguing written or non-written records of people are its culture and traditions, including legendary tales of the unexplained. In parts of Northern Luzon, there can be found varied and hauntingly celebrated ghost stories in, for example, Cordillera highlands to the salty shores of lowland region 1.

Every portion of these two regions, every city, every municipality, every barangay, every sitio, nay, even every family, indeed, has its whisper of ghostly stories to share and add to the general stock of spooky stories   that will be told and re-told with a smattering of added twist to make it spookier for the ears of coming generations who’ll hear them later.

It’s a very curious study to trace the resemblance between early ghost stories, their similarity being strikingly obvious to modern day ghost stories, which is: hard to believe yet strikingly appealingly of its mystery that a hearer of such tales is often left wanting to hear more.

Great landmarks of spectral appearances are, in such stories vividly defined, like ghost stories in Baguio   you’ve heard of. Although the integrity of such ghost stories might be suspect. Yet, it’s also in the oral traditions of our indigenous people as storytellers (whether young and old) of ghost happenings have since merged into the stream of ghost chronology that appeal or attract hearers of tales of the unexplained.

In justice to our people (those who relish diving into tales of the al-alya, anito or simply apparition), it must be admitted a hearer will always entertain strong doubts as to the truth of a ghost story.  On the other hand, however, a ghost story tends to capture and somehow beguiles the imagination of an average listener.

Ah Kong mentions such particular captivation for the purpose of you, fine reader, of following the ghost stories below as told to him by chroniclers of unseen spirits, to enrich more ghost folklores of the Cordilleran and lowland traditions upon the same subject.

Here’s one: Felimon Buste, in his 60’s, a lowlander, once related about a dilapidated house in an abandoned farmland somewhere in Bugallon, Pangasinan, that stood empty for years.  The time was in the 50’s. During that time, cattle rustling was rampant in Pangasinan. Buste related rustlers killed the house owner and chased away his family.

Only rats and cockroaches lived in the rundown house. In years of non-occupancy, its windows were covered with satin curtains that defied decay and rustled eerily when the winds moaned. Nearby residents whispered a phantom always appeared behind the satin curtains.

Residents also whispered of unexplained occurrences whenever they passed by the empty house, much so they avoided the abandoned area.

One time the rustlers came again to pillage village farm stock. The rustler’s leader was said to have ordered his men to scout the villages for cows and carabaos to steal while he decided to stay in the rundown house to await his men.  When his men returned the following night, they found their leader hanging lifeless and swinging by the house’s rafters.

And the satin curtains were the ones tied tightly around the rustler’s neck.

It couldn’t be explained why the cattle rustler leader, who had coils of rope with him for use in their rustling, wasn’t used if the rustler leader was the one who decided to hang himself.  Why was the satin curtain used, instead?

Buste said people in Bugallon that time described it as poetic justice for the farmer who was slain and his family chased out, or vengeance that clawed out from the murky depths of the grave.

Now, read this next and smile – if hauntingly: Years back, a series of suicides had occurred in the agricultural belt in Benguet. This story was told by Abello Lumitok, from Buguias, told sometime in the 70’s. (Lumitok is now in the happy Agricultural Belt in the Sky; bless your soul, Sir). Lumitok has a grandson, named Samuel.

Years back, a series of suicides had occurred in the agricultural belt in Benguet. That time, Lumitok had a grandson, Samuel, who went to work in the farm belts in Australia.  In letters exchanged between them, Samuel related to his grandpa of his experience of recurring dreams of a woman he always saw in his dream. The woman was seated behind a galvanized shanty, her head bowed, face hidden in her hands and rocking to and fro in extreme grief. In one of Samuel’s recurring dream, the moonlight fell on her and he saw her face.

Lumitok also wrote to his grandson of the series of suicides being committed by farm people in Benguet. One day, Samuel, while warming up the farm tractor he was assigned to use, Samuel glanced at the tractor’s side mirror. To his horror, saw the shape of the woman, he always saw in his dreams, transforming hazily in the mirror.

And he realized to his further terror he was finally able to identify the girl:  a neighbor in Buguias. But he didn’t know her intimately.

Immediately, Samuel wrote his grandpa he was coming back to Benguet. Reaching home and two days after having arrived, he implored his grandpa to accompany him to the house of the girl. They went.

Behind the galvanized shanty where the girl lived, her head bowed, face hidden in her hands and rocking to and fro in extreme grief, they found the girl. And that day they found her, she was about to drink the agricultural pesticide in the bottle she gripped in her hands. They stopped her.

Samuel didn’t return to Australia, is now a successful farmer and happily married with the girl he saved. Nowadays, he’s a good friend of Ah Kong.

Here’s another: In the 60’s a murder of a house help was committed in the house of the late retired U.S. Army veteran Tomas Yangos at Guisad, Baguio City.

During those years, as the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) tried to solve the crime, residents in Guisad narrated of a lady appearing during nights on the road fronting the crime scene.  Guisad jeep drivers of also retold stories of a lady during nighttime flagging them down for a ride.

But whenever the drivers stopped to pick her up, she vanished. This unexplained event still lingers in the minds of Guisad old folks who believed the apparition then, sought justice.

These drivers, believers of the Faith, said such occurrences only happened after the death of the house help, and never such occurrence happened when the murder didn’t occur.

Many Guisad old timers, too, relate the same incidents in exactly the same place that the old students of Easter School   remember the stories, too well. This happened in the 60’s.

The appearances of the lady in Guisad also strengthened about the folklore of an apparition that also kept happening at the foot of Bokawkan Road leading to City Hall.

In the 60’s, a huge Benguet Pine tree stood magnificent at the foot of Bokawkan Road. It took three persons with arms outstretched to encircle that tree.  It was famous as a resting place or shade from the sun or rains.

But during eerie hours of the nights, vehicle drivers told stories of how they spotted forms of apparition. When they stopped, all they saw was the hulking shape of the pine.

These incidents repeatedly recurred that drivers often lit cigarettes and when near the tree site, would leave the lighted cigarettes as an appeasement to the unseen.

Such stories of the old time drivers were reinforced by of old time workers then assigned at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Compound. BPI is just near that said tree.   These former BPI workers said the huge and imposing tree was home of those who met untimely accidents at Bokawkan road.

They simply described the tree then, as, “Balay ti saan nga makit-kita.”

There was also a tale of a how a depressed person used the tree to hang himself.

And during nights, they presumed, these spirits came out to frolic and gambol, reason living humans happened to see them.

That same 60’s, the huge pine was struck by lightning. Curiously, the lightning left its mark like serpentine claws that reached the top of the tree down to its bottom. It was as if the tree was spent from its struggles of harboring unseen spirits –  also struggling to find peace.

In the 70’s the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) wrote finis to the life of that big pine when it began massive improvement of Bokawkan Road. DPWH decided to cut down the venerable pine tree. DPWH workers, many who were acquainted with the mystery revolving around the tree acquiesced only to do the cutting if an offering to the tree and its unseen dwellers was done.

In the custom of the highlands, a chicken was offered as sacrifice – to appease the tree for its life being taken and also appease the troubled spirits that have made the tree their home.

So ended the life of a magnificent Benguet Pine tree that reached out to the heavens but whose mysterious inhabitants, as well as those other unseen in incidents divulged in this column still remain a whispering pause for thought to many a lowlander or highlander.

These stories, whispered by highlander and lowlander storytellers, often occurred, before or on the eve of All Saints Day or All Souls Day. BELIEVE AH KONG, OR NOT.