Lucio Tan’s ‘haunted’ house
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2018 - 12:00am

BAGUIO – The story begins in front of an age-old white house along Leonard Wood Road, here in a city where the temperature is always lower and the air is still crisp.

It begins one fateful day at a time long forgotten. The story goes that there is a little girl, who chasing after her beloved nanny, suddenly crosses the busy street and is hit by a speeding car. In that instant, between fractions of seconds, she meets her sudden death, leaving everyone who witnessed the tragedy in shock.

But the girl does not know it. She would never know. And so to this day, decades later and a world way from her time, she is seen during witching hour standing motionless in front of the house, waiting for her nanny.

 Inside the house, there is a lady, she with long cascading hair, who is often seen to this day.

 Locals say she would often be seen on the second floor looking out the window facing the road.

 She is believed to be the nanny, who would also die decades later but would return to the house to stay with the little girl.

 It is past 8 in the evening and I am here in the country’s summer capital, staying in a borrowed room just across this famous white house of Baguio, which locals say is haunted.

 The ghost stories are endless as they are varied, but the story of the little girl and her nanny is the most popular and widely believed to be true. 

 I cross the street to see for myself, but in pitch-black darkness I saw nothing beyond the locked rusty gates except a lone male guard on the right side of the compound.

 The next day when I went out for a morning run, I stopped in front of the house and wondered about its existence. I didn’t hear anything, not even the slightest sound in the silence of the morning. There was nothing around it except some withered flowers and sunlight seeping through its dusty windows.

 Why, I thought to myself, did taipan Lucio Tan, who owns a multibillion dollar empire, acquire this lone decrepit house that is believed to be haunted?

 Curious about it, I asked his son and namesake, Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. about the white house and why his father bought it. 

The younger Tan does not know for sure what his dad plans to do with it.

What is certain is that Kapitan saw an opportunity in it.

“If Kapitan sees an opportunity offered to him, he doesn’t blink,” Bong says.

 He said the house was offered to his dad a couple of years ago. 

 “He must have seen some opportunity and bought it. Sometimes no one sees it, but oftentimes he is right. That is why he is The Kapitan,” Bong says.

 History has it that the house, known as the Laperal Guest House, belonged to the prominent Laperal clan of Baguio.

 The family patriarch Roberto Laperal built the house in the 1930s, designed in Victorian style.

 The house, made of narra and yakal wood, stands out along Leonard Wood because of its classic and charming design, its gables, windows and steep roof.

 It was the family’s vacation house, but history also has it that during World War II, Japanese soldiers occupied it and used it as a garrison.

 Its walls saw soldiers rape and torture women, and murder suspected spies, so goes stories that are told and retold by locals, but often in whispers.

Over the years, persistent rumors of ghostly presence and sightings around the fabled house would be passed on from one generation to another.

Miraculously, the house has withstood many disasters, while other bigger and newer buildings in the city crumbled. One such tragedy is the deadly earthquake of 1990.

In 2007, Tan acquired the house, but locals say he never stayed in the place during his trips to the city.

At one point, the tycoon’s Tan Yan Kee Foundation transformed the house in to a gallery featuring Ifugao bamboo carving and was then opened to the public. 

Tan is said to have the Midas touch, who like the famous King Midas of Greek mythology, has the ability to turn everything he touches into gold.

The country’s fourth richest man with a net worth of $4.2 billion, according to Forbes, Tan has proven his unmatched business acumen and instinct. He built an empire from scratch – he put up his own tobacco company to compete with giants; acquired a government bank and made it profitable; and turned around an airline that was plagued with debt.

At the time of my visit, the white house was closed. I wondered what will happen to it and what Tan really intends to do with this piece of history.

I do hope he keeps it as it is because with its Victorian style, the house is already an iconic landmark of Baguio, ghost stories notwithstanding.

Before buying the famed white house, Tan was warned of its tales of horror, but for the tycoon, this was not an issue.

“When Kapitan was about to buy that property, my mom warned him that the house had a lot of spirits and ghosts,” Bong recalls.

“But Kapitan said, ‘we buy them, too,’” Bong says with a laugh. 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com

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