Ghost Trouble in Cebu

Although I cannot say that my previous visits to the Philippines have been entirely ghost free, on this trip strange and unusual things had begun to happen. At first there were strange knocks on the door, they were heard by all but no source was found, then, lights began to act strangely, unplugging themselves and flickering menacingly. Today, the strangest thing of all happened, my flip-flops vanished. Yes, gone, here one minute and gone the next, naturally it’s not possible that I am to blame. Ghost did it. End of debate.

Now, my step-mother is a good catholic lady and as such has a particular dislike of bad spirits. Before the shoe incident she decided to do the sensible thing and nip the haunting in the bud by performing a blessing in the rooms. She went about with holy water and prayers and made sure no ghosts were about. Everyone took this very seriously. Especially my dad who declared: ‘My love, we must write to the newspapers and make sure everyone knows about the ghost that knocks on doors and turned on a light’.

After that, for reasons unknown to me, it was decided that we should spend two days scaring each other with ghost stories. I have no ghost stories myself but I found Arlene’s (step-mom) to be very interesting. They mostly feature local spirits. Arlene appears to be some type of ghost magnet so it’s good to be clued in.

Ghost nurse, not necessarily indigenous to the Philippines, this particular benign spirit was discovered by my step-grandfather whilst he was watching over his own unconscious father over several nights in hospital. At midnight, every night, a nurse would come in and check his machines and status before leaving. Unlike the other nurses this one never said a word and when ‘papa-pa’ asked about her, because he was slightly annoyed that he had been ignored, he was told there was no nurse on duty at that time, and the only nurse matching that description had died some years before.

The Manananggal, this is a bad local spirit, it is something like a vampire but it can detach its torso from its lower body before growing bat wings to search for prey. Its favorite foods are the blood of a sleeping victim or unborn babies, the latter it eats by sucking at them with its long tongue through its mother’s belly button. Arlene was nearly attacked by one of these when she was visiting the home of a relative, they did not know she was expecting my step-sister at the time and were quite puzzled as to why this monster was clawing at the doors and walls trying to get in. They defended the house with garlic, herbs and prayers though and the creepy thing was unable to get in.

The Tiyanak, Arlene had no stories about this creature, but it interested me as it is loosely considered to be a relative of the Pontianak indigenous to the region I grew up in, this is a type of vampire that had previously been a woman who died in childbirth, these are generally beautiful, man-hating seducers, prone to ripping off the sex organs of wayward men. Unlike the Pontianak, which takes the form of the mother, tyanak takes the form of a baby and lures travellers with its cries before attacking them in its true form.

The Sirena and the Siyokoy, the female Sirena is basically the same as a western mermaid and usually considered to be good, but the male Siyokoy is more familiar in appearance to the the fish-men many westerners are familiar with from comic books and horror stories, they intentionally drown and devour humans and are known to cause shipwrecks. In addition, they travel with scary marine animals, like eels and rays that act as a sort of posse. There is one of these living in the water near a house that my dad has in Labrador, locals there say that it takes the life of one person each year, usually an unwary swimmer or a fisherman, of which there are many. Actually, that house is eerie and in a disturbing spot, it is said that during world war two, when the Japanese attacked the Philippines that shore, where this house now stands, was covered in dead bodies which had been placed there before burial. Apparently two ghostly women now wander through those houses, a white harmless apparition and a black malevolent one.

I have been reading that travel blogs should offer advice to potential visitors to a region. In that spirit, please don’t get eaten by ghosts. It may also be beneficial to bring more than one pair of summer shoes.