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JOSE G. PAMAN’S ISLAND SCARES 3:


FEAR NOT THE DEAD

The tiyanak, which takes the deceiving form of a helpless lost infant.Philipine Ghosts


Story by Jose G. Paman, Artwork Ricardo Pustanio Copyright 2008

Most cultures on earth, be they traditional or contemporary, have beliefs surrounding spirits of the dead returning to manifest themselves to the living. This was the main theme that led me to write the first two installments of Island Scares. My extended family, from great grandparents to the current generation, seemed to have experienced unexplained phenomena that could be described as ghostly activity; spirits making themselves felt in one form or another.

I thought the whole business of writing about these things done, satisfied that I had exhausted my entire mental archives of the unusual and the bizarre as I had experienced and as told me by relatives, friends and acquaintances. But then the eyes and ears are enemies of contentment. Reading what I had penned, folks around me started calling with “Did you know that...” and “Do you remember about this one...”

I must say, up front, that my personal outlook on the subject of ghosts has not changed. My father, an eminently accomplished scholar, artist, linguist, musician, athlete, marksman, carpenter, hunter, cook, university professor and world traveler, and a veteran of the guerilla war against Imperial Japan, often told me as a little boy, “Huwag kang matakot sa patay, matakot ka sa buhay” – “Don’t fear the dead, fear the living.”

Indeed, my greater fears and concerns have to do with living beings, those among us who would cause us physical or material harm. I have entered unfamiliar dark places alone, been to graveyards at the midnight hour, and gone ghost hunting without ever having seen, heard, felt or smelled what I consider to be actual unearthly presences. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, only that I have never had the pleasure or displeasure of meeting them. So on this, I have to agree with my father’s admonition and rather be on the alert against everyday, living vermin like burglars, con men, carjackers and home invaders.

This third offering of Island Scares attempts to do a little house cleaning, picking up loose ends and items I may have left out in the prior two segments. So here we go again: grab a chair and sit close to the hearth as I relate other spooky tales that may or may not signify the presence of spirits among us.

When my family and I first came to the United States from the Philippines in the mid-1970s, everyone went through the typical immigrant experience. We got our share of getting picked on, sometimes without realizing it owing to our lack of familiarity with American culture and jargon at the time (my parents, profoundly, taught us not to dwell on the setbacks but to keep our eyes on the positive goals). We lived in cramped conditions, seven people in a two-bedroom apartment, some having to sleep on the couch or old army cots. We also picked up any job we could just to eke out a basic existence.

One of my first jobs was working as a dietary aide, AKA dishwasher, for a convalescent hospital outside Sacramento. Serving in that capacity meant I was the last man out of the kitchen as the cooks and servers all left after completing their chores. A commonly-repeated occurrence was my hearing, or imagining, whispering voices in the dark corners back of the kitchen. Curiously, this did not scare me at the time. I recalled my father’s repeated command, “Huwag kang duwag,” or “Don’t be a coward” and kept on with my assigned chores. I told my mother, an English and drama teacher for a Catholic college back home, about this when I came home one night and she said it made some sense because of the nature of the facility. Many patients there had indeed died and some may have had restless spirits. I only worked at the hospital for a couple of months because the telephone company soon came calling and I found work as an operator.

About the same time as this, my youngest sister, then 11 years old, related something that terrified her. It was a habit for my younger brother and her to leave a glass of water by the nightstand so they didn’t have to go to the fridge when they got thirsty in the middle of the night. During that particular night, through eyes half-asleep, she saw what she thought was my brother pick up the glass and take a drink. She turned and was shocked to see my brother asleep in the couch at the opposite side of the room. Paralyzed with fear, she hid under the blanket and did not emerge until the morning.

Real ghost haunt us!

My brother once told of seeing a small boy sitting on top of the tall cabinet in their room. He could see the little legs swinging, he said, in a manner indicative of play. The boy was dressed in school clothes and our family guessed he may have been the spirit of someone who once attended the nearby grade school.

Closer to our time, I have come across some puzzling incidents, both at work and at home. At an apartment complex where I served as a security guard, I was walking the beat on the second floor one night when, looking out the hallway window, I thought I saw an arm (only an arm!) floating in the air from right to left. It was cut off at the shoulder and had on a white shirt sleeve. Wanting to get a closer look, I peered through the glass to see if it might have been a cat walking across a balcony railing. There was no balcony there.

At the same apartment complex, I once entered to check an empty unit and clearly heard the phrase, “...will be slow in coming” emanating from a high corner of the room. I thought the voice might have come from the heating vent and strained to listen for any further sounds, but none came. With a colorful imagination, I also mentally filled in the first part of the phrase and came up with the disturbing line, “Your death will be slow on coming.” I exited the apartment, and not very slowly.

Sometimes I hear the sound of footsteps and creaking on the second story of our house in the middle of the night. On a couple of occasions, my wife has also heard this and asked me to check for an intruder or intruders. Arming myself appropriately with handgun, club and knife, I have always come up empty-handed. Just the house settling in with contraction and expansion due to weather change, we reckoned. Neither of us has seen anything to the contrary.

Finally, I have seen what I thought was my son running into the bedroom while brushing my teeth at night. The bathroom mirror faces the direction of the bedroom, providing a full view of the room when the door is open. This has happened twice. The first time it did, I was so convinced it was he that entered that I called his name. Getting no answer, I went to the room to find it empty. After the second time, I just made sure to close the door as I brushed as a solution.

kapre, a dark-skinned giant

While some may jump at these events and claim them as indications of ghostly activity, I remain not so convinced. If there were indeed ghosts, or spirits or manifestations or whatever other term one might use to describe them, I wonder what the reason was for their making themselves felt and why they didn’t persist and try to actually communicate with the persons involved.

A common condition behind all of the above incidents was that the person involved was typically alone in a quiet environment, a condition that fostered the imagination running wild. It may be different had there been a group of people experiencing the same sensations. I don’t consider myself extraordinarily brave or daring, but I’m not gullible either. I might jump at being startled, but I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say spirits visited us in any of these episodes.

Something more menacing and that many native Filipinos still believe in are the monsters from lower Philippine mythology, like the manananggal, a half-bodied flying demon; the tikbalang or half-man half-horse; the kapre, a dark-skinned giant; and the tiyanak, which takes the deceiving form of a helpless lost infant. These are more worrisome because they are material and can cause physical harm to their victims. But they would also be for another article, another time...

About JOSE G. PAMAN


A native of Manila, the Philippines, Jose G. Paman is an award-winning martial arts author and expert with five books and more than 100 articles under his pen. He works full-time for a government agency investigating identity theft and license fraud. He is also a certified expert in the Tagalog language of the Philippines, a singer, guitarist, percussionist and Polynesian dancer. He has gone ghost-hunting with HPI (Haunted and Paranormal Investigations based out of Sacramento, Calif.) and, just returned from Oahu, Hawaii, is completing his first horror novel.

For an in-depth interview with Paman by Blue Snake Books, visit:

http://bluesnakeblog.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/of-pen-and-sword-interview-questions-for-jose-g-paman/

ISLAND SCARES 2: GHOST STORIES FROM THE PHILIPPINES

Soucouyant Trinidad & Tobago's Vampire Folklore and Legends