i'm no afraid of no ghost!


the lawn
is pressed by unseen feet,
and ghosts return
gently at twilight,
gently go at dawn,
the sad intangible who grieve and yearn..
                -- t.s. eliot, to walter de la mare
              
as kids, we used to listen to ghost stories from our older sisters, brothers and sometimes from our cousins when they were at our house for special occasions like fiesta. usually at night when we were about to go to sleep. my two younger sisters and i would have bed sheets ready just in case the story became more scary that we have to cover ourselves with them.
my first encounter with a ghost happened when i was twelve years old. i just arrived from a high school christmas party and was walking alone to our house. it was around ten in the evening. i could feel that someone was following me, or walking behind me. but every time i turned around, there was nobody there. i thought it was just one of my brothers or friends playing tricks on me. you know, they hide every time i would turn my head to catch them. so i was not afraid.
i was expecting them to shout and touch my shoulders or my back any time just to give me a fright. hahaha. you know the game, right?

when i reached home, i was surprised to find the whole family at the living room. supposedly, they were all asleep by that time. they all looked sad. the mood was sober. my mother was even trying to suppress her tears.
"what happened?" was all i could say. but i already had a hint. an emergency? someone died or was serious in the hospital?
"bong bong died," my younger sister said.
i became quiet.
my mother hugged me. she knew he was my favourite older brother. i was also his favourite.
so it was him who was following me, was all i could think of. he knew that i used to be afraid of walking out alone at night.

******

weeks before he died, bong bong cleared the pathway from our house to the street where we get a tricycle or hitch a ride on our neighbor's car to school or anywhere else in town. he cut the grass, cleaned the canals, fixed the street lights. even planted some roses.
he also painted the fence, the gate and the house. as if he was preparing for a feast. of course christmas was coming, but we usually don't give a fuss about christmas.
we usually do the house cleaning, beautification, repairs during fiestas, when we expect a lot of our relatives and friends to come and stay with us for days. but not so much on christmas because, well, everyone was celebrating it on the same day.
it was never a tradition in our family to visit relatives during christmas. baka mapagkalamang namamasko tayo, my father used to tell us. so we also don't expect them to come to our house.

******

other than that incident, i never felt his "presence"again even after he was buried. i heard my mother, brothers and sisters saying they saw his ghost or that they smelled candles, flowers, etc in the house.

******

the second time i "saw" spirits (yes there were three of them) was on december 24, around eleven o'clock in the evening. it was full moon. or  half moon? basta may moon.
i was already fourteen then. so going out late at night was no longer a big deal at home. yes, in the province where i grew up, eleven o'clock was already late. people usually have dinner at seven, then go to sleep at around ten or even earlier.
my disciplinarian father had imposed a curfew at home at around nine. but once we got older, he became less and less strict with this. we could go home any time at night as long as we were not drunk or high on drugs.
anyway, back to my story. i was walking home alone on the street when i heard heavy foot steps following me as if they were wearing combat shoes. there were also loud voices, like a conversation among drunk men.
i turned around and from a distance, i saw three men. or what looked like three men from a distance. they were walking so close to each other. but i could  not see their faces. i thought they were military men who came from a christmas party, still wearing their uniforms, drunk and were talking loudly.
i could not understand what they were saying. so i thought they must be conversing in their own dialect.  we used to live near a military camp and most of our neighbors were military men who came from different parts of the country, speaking ibanag, ilocano, cebuano, ilonggo, tagalog, among others.
i slowed my pace so i could take a better look at them. maybe i knew them. they could be friends of my father, a retired military officer, or of my older brothers.
but suddenly it became quiet. as though they stopped talking or walking altogether.
when i turned around, they were gone.
i retreated my steps, trying to figure out where they went. but there were no houses along the spot where i last saw them. there were no tricycles or military jeeps either that they could have stopped and gotten a ride.
scared, i ran as fast as i could until i reached home.

*******

we (i and the rest of the family) also heard strange "sounds" and smelled strange "scents" at home, especially when everyone was already asleep. or thought we were all asleep.
i also heard ghost stories from my sisters, brothers, friends, visiting relatives and neighbors. they felt and saw them at our house. or at the lawn. afraid!
for instance, an uncle who once slept on top of a table outside of the house (he was drunk) told us that he was awakened by the sound of somebody riding a bicycle at dawn. when he woke up, he saw my brother's bicycle moving on its own. without anyone riding it. he was so afraid that he left right away without even saying goodbye to any of us.
old folks who had stayed in that place longer than us would tell us that japanese military men were buried somewhere near our house during the second world war.

********

when i was already in college and my older brothers and sisters were living away from home (either they were married or working elsewhere), i had the entire second floor of our house all by myself. it had three bedrooms, a small living room that led to the terrace.
by this time, i was already used to these "noises" and "scents" in the house.
there were nights when i would hear footsteps in the living room or hear the sound of the sofa being dragged. or a door being opened or closed loudly. people talking in whispers.
there were times when i would smell the aroma of delicious food being cooked at two in the morning. or the scent of fresh flowers.
a priest had advised us to just ignore these strange things and to pray. i did.
a faith healer told my mother to offer chicken and other food, cigarettes and wine (may bisyo pa ang mga ito) to pacify them. she did, but the strange noises and smells continued.

*******

oh well, lowell, happy halloween.
my late grandmother used to tell us every time we screamed while watching horror films: don't be afraid of ghosts and spirits, they won't harm you. most of the time, it's all in your mind. instead, you should be wary of the living because you don't know what they can do to you.
how true!

(no pictures this time. i am too afraid to search for scary pictures...ngee....)














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