‘I see dead people…’
PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez () - September 3, 2006 - 12:00am
Summer. Cora, my 30-something niece, was recounting her experience with a stubborn client who lost her balance as she ascended a podium: "I told her to wear flat shoes instead of stilettos, tita, but she refused and ka-plook, she fell like a sack of potatoes. I dug my nails deep into my arm to stop myself from disintegrating into some kind of laughing hyena."

We laughed so hard at her story that we gasped for breath and slapped each other’s shoulders and nearly fell from our chairs.

Suddenly, my niece turned to the left side of her chair. Something caught her eye. She looked down and then up and then her gaze went way past the door of our family room. There were eight of us seated around that round table and we all had the same reaction, "Hey, Corksky! What’s happening?" My question seemed to have snapped her back to reality, and she gamely continued with her funny anecdote.

The following day, my niece called about another subject but curious me had to ask, "Corksky, why did you stop in the middle of your story yesterday? You looked dumbfounded. Did you see something or what?"

Cora’s voice turned serious but calm. She replied, "Ah, Tita, you won’t believe it but I have the third eye. Last night, in your family room, I saw a young boy, handsome and cute, about six years old. He approached me smiling and was about to give me a piece of paper. Suddenly, an elderly woman dressed in an intricately embroidered and beaded kimona appeared and led the boy by the hand away from the room," she continued. "Everything happened in a flash, and I didn’t want to spoil the convivial atmosphere generated by my funny client, so I just let it go."

"Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me there are ghosts in my house?" I asked.

"You bet," she shot back, "And not only two but a family."

At that moment, I recalled a geomancer friend who told me the same thing and even gave some info on the spirit: "She is the original owner of this house. She spoke to me and said that she has never left this house because it was a lucky house."

Freakin’ Friday! I gasped. So, what do we do now?

He suggested a ritual of prayers and fruit and food offering to the spirits that were immediately consumed by the occupants of the house. Brushing his hands as if celebrating a job well done, he chirped: "Fine. The regal lady agreed to stay by the guava tree at the back garden, but don’t be surprised if, once in a while, you see her wandering around the house. She doesn’t mean any harm. In fact, she’s happy that someone is using the house, and she loves to hear the sound of people partying and laughing and having a good time."

"Not bad," I thought. "Maybe, she’d even agree to housesit at the place whenever we are overseas."

The following week, my daughter arrived for a vacation and went to bed exhausted from her long trip. She tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep. Finally, she turned on her bedside lamp and slept with the lights on.

The following day, she said, "Ma, I felt some entity in my bedroom, and she kept touching my forehead. I know it was real because I had goose pimples. But the moment I turned on the light, she disappeared. So there."

Our house was bright and airy, and there was constant movement with electric fans humming, the sound of music playing – rock ’n roll, Motown, classical, easy listening – in every part of the house. The girls were laughing and exchanging jokes as they went about their daily chores, and music played even in the computer room. Jessie, our Girl Friday, had her radio tuned to her favorite station while she used the phone and fax machine continuously. Birds were humming, and the garden was filled with tall trees and green plants and frangipani blossoms.

On occasion, Jessie would hear the sound of water running from the shower of the bathroom next to her desk, sometimes the sound of my voice calling her to go outside to the garage. Instinctively, she’d get up from her swivel chair and follow the direction of the voice only to find the garage empty; there was no one in the garage, or in the bathroom. The girls, too, would hear a voice that sounded a lot like my husband’s and they would enter the main house to find that no one was there.

These ghosts have been playing with us. They can imitate my voice and my husband’s and play pranks on the occupants of the house, but nothing terrifying or nothing that would make us cower in fear. Never a sense of danger, either.

Visiting my friend, we got out of the car to press the bell and, from the main gate, I saw a woman waving back at us from the bedroom window.

I waved back and said, "Hey! There’s a lady in Cynthia’s room upstairs. Could that be her sister or mom?"

Cynthia ushered us into their living room and, excitedly, I asked, "Cyn, there was a lady waving at me from your bedroom window, was that your mom or your sister?"

Cynthia laughed, "That’s our resident ghost. My mom and my sister are both abroad."

I froze. "You don’t say."

"Yes," confirmed Cynthia. "Our ghost came with the house. No séance or mumbo-jumbo could drive her away. She’s generally a friendly ghost. Sometimes, she plays with our guests when she gets bored."

I was out of Cynthia’s house in an instant – more so when another friend told me that the same ghost had pulled the blanket away from her as she laid there shivering from a blast of cold air.

Back in Naga, my friend Sharmaine also tossed and turned in her big four-poster bed. It kept her bewildered. "I had no problem sleeping in my bed in my city condo, but over in Naga, I get black and blue from sleepless and restless nights."

Somebody suggested that, maybe, it was the four-poster bed. True enough, Sharmaine later realized that it was the same bed that had been used by her great-grandparents and passed on from generation to generation. The bed had served many of her ancestors, and has become, literally, too close for comfort for her.

Once, I went to an auction in Australia and fell in love with a dresser that was 480 years old. When the auctioneer was giving me instructions on how to ship the piece of furniture, he cautioned me, "The mirror is original, thus almost five centuries old. I suggest you buy a new mirror and replace the old mirror with it. You may keep the old one, however, should you decide to sell the dresser because buyers still prefer to get everything original, old and intact."

"What’s wrong with using the original mirror?" I asked.

"The mirror has served as witness to many ladies grooming and preening themselves in front of this dresser, and you’d never know which lady had a good life or who had a wretched marriage. If you don’t replace the mirror, the ghosts of these ladies past may still be there to tickle you or… haunt you. It’s your choice."

Quickly, I replaced the mirror and have never had an untoward incident – so far. The auctioneer also said something to me that echoed in my ears: "Spirits love to dwell in mirrors and old trees."

Old trees? Enter Rosanna. She was a green thumb who took especially good care of three avocado trees that grew in her backyard. Every year, they harvested a bounty of avocados until one day she noticed the trees were looking tired with drooping and falling leaves, and the trunk flaking. Alarmed, she called a tree doctor who, instead of prescribing some highly concentrated fertilizer, told her to "bury some fruits and food in the soil to appease the spirits." Overnight, the trees sprang back to life and yielded fruits year after year. One day, Rosanna was watering the plants in her garden when she stepped back in horror. All the avocado trees were dead, in one swoop. Only dried branches remained. Sadly, she asked the tree doctor what had happened. "Oh, well, the spirits grew tired of your trees and decided to move somewhere."

In this age when everything can be explained by science and reason, how many folk tales remain rooted in our heads and have provided a good excuse for us to curl up and listen to fables from the crypt?

I love a scary story, once in a while, but don’t you dare leave me alone in the dark.
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Thanks for your comments and suggestions. E-mail me at lettyjlopez@hotmail.com.

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