When I was a kid back in the 70s we used to visit my lolas house every Sunday. She lived in this big house in New Manila which was passed on to her by her mother. It was a very old house and had been built by my great-great-grandfather who owned the property. As much as I loved the Sunday gatherings, seeing my titos and titas, and playing with my cousins, my family was never really comfortable with the house, and we always felt this creepy vibe every time we visited. There were many stories the family shared about that house which I remember hearing when I was very young. It wasn't a surprise that my lola had many housekeepers and drivers come and go throughout the years. Even new ones would only last a few weeks until they decided to pack their bags and leave as well.
I remember my Tita Conching got very sick one time, and the doctors at St. Luke's Hospital couldn't figure out what was causing her illness. My Tito Eming had the house blessed by the local priest from Mt. Carmel Church many times. Our family held a novena in the livingroom praying for her recovery. The doctors tried their very best to give her medication, but she didn't get any better. As each day passed her condition worsened, and everyone in our family felt helpless. One Sunday afternoon during a novena I decided to visit the servant's quarters, which was a smaller but cozy room where the driver and my lola's guard would hang out. They had been serving the family for many years and were also deeply concerned about my tita's illness. I don't recall the entire conversation between Mang Danny (the driver) and Sarge (the guard), but it was something about the huge Balete tree in my lola's garden. I remember Mang Danny saying "dapat kasi ipaputol ni mam yung puno ng Balete" then Rosario (one of the maids) passed by us, weeping after coming from the novena. A few days later, I overheard my dad talking to his brother on the phone. I found out that Tito Eming had convinced my lola to have the tree chopped down, and on my next visit to my lola's house I saw that the tree was gone. Mang Danny told my dad that our priest came by in the afternoon to bless the garden and pray over the spot where the Balete tree used to stand. That same week my Tita Conching had a miraculous recovery, and the puzzled doctors released her from the hospital. Our family had a dinner party to celebrate her being back home, and everyone was happy except for my lola. She wasn't in such a good mood as she thought that cutting the tree down was a bad idea.
The next day my dad dropped me off at my lola's house, only for me to discover the most shocking thing I've ever seen in my life. Mang Danny said that Cocoy was very sick and that it probably wasn't a good idea to see him, but I insisted on seeing my cousin. I ran up the stairs to his room and saw him asleep on his bed. I almost screamed in fear when I saw Cocoy's right leg (which he used to kick the mound); it was covered in boils! His entire right leg was swollen and covered in gruesome boils. The maids told my yaya that they did not get any sleep watching over my cousin who was in great pain. "Bakit kasi sinipa ni Cocoy yung bahay ng Dwende...", whispered Mang Danny in a very sad tone. His mother (my Tita Sylvia) was used to these sort of things as she'd seen similar incidents growing up in Leyte. She said that an Albulario would be the only person who would be able to cure Cocoy. My aunt sent a telegram to a friend in Bacolod and requested for an Albulario to come to my lola's house. It took a few days, but the Albulario finally came and immediately started his work on Cocoy. I remember sitting outside Cocoy's room feeling very scared and spooked to the bone. I distinctly remember hearing Cocoy's painful screams along with the chanting of the Albulario. A few days later, Cocoy recovered and his boils disappeared. His skin had no scars or any signs of boils having been there. The Albulario explained to our family that he had to make several offerings to make peace with the Dwendes in the garden; they were very angry at Cocoy for destroying one of their homes. Cocoy went back to Bacolod a week after his recovery, and sadly never came back for summer vacations.
My family decided to sell the house in the 1980's after my lola passed away, but the house is still there. It looks much older and the faded statues around the driveway still stand. I often think of stopping by whenever I'm in the area, but I never really get the chance. I would think of introducing myself to its new owners and have a look around for a bit. But every time I drive by and catch a glimpse of the garden, I immediately feel a chill down my spine that makes the hairs on my arms stand up. The feeling that takes me back to that one summer. The summer that made me believe in things I could not explain.
--Sandy / Antipolo
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