Have you met the ghost of Balete Drive?
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - October 28, 2010 - 12:00am

Balete Drive. It is that Quezon City street that stretches from one corner of E. Rodriguez and crosses Aurora Boulevard till it reaches near the end of N. Domingo in Cubao district.

Since the ‘50s, there had been this myth about how it is supposed to be haunted by a white lady — the ghost of a woman who was raped and killed in the area.

That white lady had been immortalized at least twice on the big screen. There was a horror flick about the white lady of Balete Drive that was released in the ‘50s and Danny Dolor’s Remember When? section recently featured its print ad layout in this paper only a few Sundays ago. Unfortunately, I never got to see that movie.

But the late ‘80s Seiko Films project that capitalized once more on the white lady of Balete Drive I saw and some parts of it are still fresh in my mind. No, it didn’t scare me at all. But it did earn some audible gasps from the audience when it was shown commercially in cinemas. This was in the part where the white lady, as played by Zsa Zsa Padilla, sat on the steps of an old staircase laughing her head off (she was happy that she was getting her revenge) and briefly she parted her legs and the viewers saw her pair of white stockings hiking down her knees.

At least the ghost of Balete Drive was a proper lady who wore stockings, except that she didn’t know how to wear these correctly. Celine Lopez and Bea Ledesma, the fashion police of this paper’s Lifestyle section should have been there. Oh, they would have scampered out of the theater screaming — not over the scary scenes, but because of that fashion boo-boo.

From my end, I was disappointed with the film not because it failed to scare me (very few horror flicks can frighten me since I know production work), but because it didn’t offer any insight on why the white lady is haunting Balete Drive. The white lady had been used and she should have sued. The only consolation was that Zsa Zsa was hauntingly beautiful in that film. Well, she had always looked divine — then and even now.

To this day, most motorists who pass through Balete Drive still have thoughts of the white lady that is said to be wandering about — waiting for her next victim. A writer for TV one time related to me how he once drove along the street and saw a lady in white standing by an unlit lamppost and before he could even collect his bearings he saw on his rear view mirror a ghost (the same lady in white by the lamppost) already seated at the back of his car. This TV writer is now with the creative department of one of the major networks so expect that scenario to be played out on the small screen one of these days if the station decides to come up with a horror program.

Balete Drive is not alien to me. As a child, my Dad and I once took that street as a shortcut and he tried to scare me by reminding me of the supposed white lady haunting the place. That failed to frighten me though since I was with him and I knew he’d be the first to protect me from harm.

However, when I did my practicum late in my teens, I had to deal with Balete Drive alone and conquer my fears. The magazine where I had my training had to have its office in Dama de Noche, which is one of the side streets of Balete Drive. One of the staff members there was this paper’s columnist Jarius Bondoc and I still caught the tail end of his stay there during my OJT.

One evening, the presswork just went on and on through the night and by 1 a.m. I had to tell the staff that I had to go home because nobody in the house knew I was staying out late. Since I was just a student on training, they let me go. The problem was how to get home. I wanted to get picked up by the car, but nobody was answering the phone in the house and it was then that I realized that — sniff — no one cared where I was. No one was even aware that the baby of the family was missing!

While I knew how to commute, I had never done that at night. I was, in fact, surprised to find out that time that passenger jeepneys actually plied the streets 24 hours a day. I thought only cabs were available after midnight.

And so I set off onto my journey to get home. I was determined to get the first public transportation ride available on Aurora Boulevard. I didn’t care if it was a jeep, a cab, a bus or a carretela or carromata. I just had to get home. But I had to pass through Balete Drive on foot for that — at way past 1 in the morning.

In 15 or so minutes, I was in Aurora Boulevard, which teemed with lights and life. During that long walk, I was actually more scared about how to get a ride than getting confronted by the white lady of Balete Drive. The only scare I got was when I met a few drunks near the corner of Aurora Boulevard and I avoided them by crossing to the other side of the street. But there was no ghost. During the next week’s presswork, I traversed the same path — alone again — at the same witching hour and never had any ghostly encounter.

You can put me in the middle of Balete Drive today even in the middle of the night and I doubt if I’d get scared at all. I drive through alone there sometimes on my way home and — knock on wood — I get to my destination in one piece.

Caridad Sanchez pointed out to me one time that the reason why this myth about Balete Drive started to spread in the ‘50s was because there were bandits in that area that carjacked private vehicles coming from Highway 54 (now EDSA). Maybe to discourage motorists from taking that route, somebody must have made up this tale about some white lady supposedly haunting Balete Drive.

Is there a ghost there? Perhaps. But I have yet to see it. Those with a third eye actually tell me that there are also ghosts in the other streets near Balete Drive.

In Broadway Centrum where Eat, Bulaga! stages its shows daily, there are supposed to be several ghosts haunting the place. A psychic said that the spirits of a couple — a man and a woman killed nearby during the ‘60s had not left the premises and continue to wander through the studio area. Ask any worker who does business within that community and they’ll have their own ghost tales to share.

But for all those horror stories we hear about New Manila, real estate prices continue to go up and up in that posh neighborhood. I’ve recently checked the value of properties there and don’t even bother to find out anymore.

It will scare you.

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