October 31, 2007

My Grandfather's Strange Neighbors

By: Elena A.

The year was 1969 and the world was changing. The Beatles broke up, man landed on the moon, a new jet called the Concorde made its first test flight, the Vietnam war was in full swing, and Ferdinand Marcos wins a second full term as President of the Philippines. It was an eventful year, but those big events seemed hazy in comparison to my vivid memories of what I experienced as a young girl visiting my grandfather's house in the province that year.

I was born and raised in Pasig, Mandaluyong. This year my mother had decided for us to visit her birthplace. My grandfather sent us a telegram a few weeks earlier and lovingly told my mother how much he would love to see his daughter and his only grandchild. A few days later I found myself on a bus headed for the countryside. It was the most exciting feeling for a ten year old who had never been anywhere outside the city.

My grandfather lived in a small town called Cansadan in San Jose, Antique. It was a small town that had a few houses, and a very narrow road that ran through it. My grandfather actually lived in the outskirts of town right by his farmland where he grew and tended his own crops. Every morning my mother would take me to the market where we would buy fresh fish and vegetables to cook for the day's meals. Every night after dinner, I would sit by the window and stare out into the open fields that were surrounded by huge mango trees. There weren't any lights around like how it is in the city, but somehow you could make out the dirt roads because the moon above illuminated everything else. I've never seen such a clear sky with so many stars. The gentle country breeze would tickle my cheeks, and I would always take deep breaths inhaling the scent of fresh mangos. It was a beautiful place.

It didn't take long for me to find playmates as the locals were so friendly. I met this girl named Maya who immediately became my best friend. She and I were the same age, and though I had a hard time understanding her because I didn't speak much Visayan, we were inseparable. Kuya Bong who was 18 at the time, helped my grandfather with the planting and pretty much everything; he was my grandfather's right hand man, and he was instructed to be my personal bodyguard.

One cloudy afternoon while Maya and I were out chasing beetles by the fields, we noticed a girl watching us from the dirt road that led to my grandfather's house. She had long hair, a very pale face, and wore a black dress that came down to her ankles. She was barefoot and seemed like she hadn't bathed for days. She was much older than Maya and I, probably in her teens. We were so frightened by her appearance that we ran home screaming. I told my mother what happened but she dismissed it as my imagination running wild. I didn't get much sleep after that little scare.

A few days had passed, Maya and I were tailing Kuya Bong wherever he went. We told him about the girl we saw. He smiled and assured us that it was probably someone who lost her way. There was something about the way Kuya Bong spoke that was always comforting. Pretty soon we forgot about the whole thing and had a great time playing in a nearby stream.

The next day I was all by myself washing some vegetables my mother had brought home earlier, when I heard this beeping outside. I looked out the kitchen window and saw Kuya Bong waiving at me riding a motorcycle. I ran outside to see him and almost immediately hopped in front of him to go for a quick ride. He revved the engine and we sped up heading for the dirt road that led to town. It was dusk and the sunset looked very pretty. Kuya Bong had this big smile on his face as he told me how his friend loaned him the motorcycle for the weekend. As we passed this big group of trees, something startled Kuya Bong that almost made him lose control of the bike. The same girl Maya and I had seen earlier was standing there wearing the same clothes, looking straight at us with a cold expressionless look on her face. Kuya Bong started asking her questions. I understood very little, but had an idea that he was asking her who she was and if she needed help. I was so frightened that I couldn't look at her. I started to cry and told Kuya Bong to take me home. The girl didn't speak a word. She slowly turned around and disappeared into the woods.

It was getting dark so we headed straight back home. That night Kuya Bong told our story to my mother and my grandfather during dinner. My mother kept on dismissing it as none sense. I looked at my grandfather who was silent all evening and had a worried look on his face. He was usually an animated kind of person, always entertaining us with funny stories, but tonight he retired early and didn't say a word.

I was helping my mother wash dishes while Kuya Bong was serenading us with his guitar. He felt that it would help me sleep and calm my fears. He was so sweet and had such a great singing voice. He got up and started singing louder and my mother and I began to laugh, and that's when we heard it! This loud shriek, this painful scream... tt sounded like a woman, or it could've been an animal, we weren't sure. It sounded pretty close. I was so terrified with the sound that I held on to my mother real tight. Kuya Bong leaped for his bolo and a kerosene lamp and ran outside to investigate. I heard him frantically screaming at someone outside, so my mother and I came to the front door to see what was going on. It was pitch black and all we could see was Kuya Bong holding a lamp with one hand, and waiving his bolo in the other, screaming at someone or something in the woods. All my crying wouldn't pacify the fear I felt when two figures slowly moved forward and emerged from the woods. It was the girl and a young man who was dressed in a black shirt and black pants. They had blood on their hands and were standing deathly still as Kuya Bong ordered them to stay away from our house.

He told my mother to take me inside, which she did, and I immediately hid under my bed covering my ears. I heard the voice of my grandfather who was awakened my all the commotion. He stepped outside to see an exhausted and frightened Kuya Bong sitting on the steps. He told my grandfather what had happened: "They came from the woods... I kept on asking them who they were and what they wanted, but they wouldn't speak to me. They had blood on their hands! And they were just standing there... I yelled at them telling them to go away! But they just stood there! I asked them what they wanted and they just pointed at our house. I told them that if they stepped any closer that I would kill them!"

My grandfather rest his hand on Kuya Bong's shoulder and told him to calm down. None of us got any sleep. My mother kept me close to her telling me that it was just people who wanted to steal my grandfather's livestock. Kuya Bong kept a watchful eye and would walk around our house every 30 minutes, then he'd doze off for a few only to get up again to look around.

The next day we were asked by a relative to attend a special mass in town. Someone's son had gone missing. They said the boy was last seen playing near where we lived, and had been missing for three days now. After mass we went straight home and my grandfather cooked up the most delicious meal. After dinner he got up and simply told us he was going to talk to some people; he did not specify whom he was going to be talking to, or where he was going. He strapped his bolo to his side and headed out into the dark with his kerosene lamp.

Kuya Bong's nagging curiosity would not escape him, so he took his bolo and his lamp, and headed in the direction of where my grandfather went. My mother tried her best to make him stay and guard the house, but he was worried that my grandfather was unaccompanied. He had never taken off like this, ever. A nervous Kuya Bong followed a narrow trail for almost an hour that led him deep into the woods which eventually led to a river. There was a small man-made bridge he had never seen before which he crossed, and on the other side were huge trees and thick overgrown bushes that had a faint light glowing from within them. He turned off his lamp and slowly crept up towards the light. He could hear the faint voice of my grandfather who was speaking to someone in a very authoritative tone. He hid behind a fallen log and observed.

My grandfather was standing in front of a small hut that was built right next to the mouth of a cave, and he was talking to a man who was standing at the entrance of the hut. Kuya Bong couldn't make out everything my grandfather was saying, but he understood most of it. "I know what you did you bastard!", my Kuya Bong had never heard my grandfather swear before. "You stay away from my house and my family! That's my family! You tell your children that my granddaughter is not to be touched! If I see you or any of your children wandering by my home, I will kill all of you! Do you understand?!" The man didn't say a word and headed back into the hut. My Kuya Bong ran straight home to find me and my mother asleep in our bed. He patiently waited for my grandfather as he had so many questions to ask. They stayed up all night as my grandfather told him everything there was to know about the strange family that didn't live too far from us.

According to my grandfather he has known of their existence for many many years. He said that before he married my grandmother, he witnessed strange rituals that occurred in the cave. He says the family feasted on raw meat, organs of dead animals, and possibly even people. One day he was discovered spying at them, but they let him go. There have always been rumors in town about a family of aswang that lived close by, but for some reason my grandfather never mentioned what he saw. It was sort of like a simple unspoken agreement between my grandfather and the aswang. He left them alone, and they left him alone. My grandfather swears that they never seemed to age, and they are never seen in the company of other people from town. There have been many disappearances of young children around San Jose as long as my grandfather could remember.

The next day we left for Manila. I was so relieved. I had enough of strange provincial life and I was ready to come back to a busy city where spooky things only happened on television. I often received letters from Kuya Bong, and after three years he came to live with us in Pasig after my grandfather passed away. I often ask him if he ever saw the family of aswang again. He said he once tried to revisit the place where they had lived. But the hut was long gone, the cave was empty, except for strange markings on its walls, and small fragments of bones scattered all over the floor.


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4 comments:

Totoy Time Machine said...

Elena,
Thanks for sharing this story. I grew up on stories like this, shared by neighbors, families, and even close friends.
How did this experience impact you now as an adult?

Anonymous said...

That story is really scary because it is a firsthand account. It jives with a similar story told me by a businessman who also has psychic abilities, who visited a similar town in Iloilo. He actually stayed in the barangay which was entire comprised of "aswangs" and even took a photograph of a child which they had just "roasted" lechon-style. They even invited him to eat, but of course he refused.

Elena said...

totoy,

thanks for reading my story. it's funny because i now live in canada with my husband and three children, and this extraordinary experience of mine feels like it was from another lifetime. but whenever we celebrate my grandfather's death anniversary, everything comes back to me like it was just yesterday and i can't help but feel the same worries and fear.

happy halloween to everyone. :)

http://www.michaelbarcasliveonline.blogspot.com said...

Ma'am Elena,

Had heard some of this stories, also from our great grandfathers, It was true that there are aswangs. This piece of yours is chilling.

Our greatgrandfather told that in Capiz his native town, one couldn't wander in the dead of the night. All he can do when he was young is to pray and to get out of their province. Even in broad daylight, while the blistering heat of the sun punishes them in the fields farming,they can feel someone is snooping around them, but can't see who they are. And another day, it seems to be a normal occurrence that someone is missing for days and found brutally in disfigurement, all organs lost.

In that horror, it is sometimes forgotten, or forbidden to talk about aswang in Capiz even in whisphers, 'cause you could be the next victim.

Our great grandfather left Capiz not of seeking pastures at Modern Manila Post World War II but to forget the mystery that was and still of Aswangs.

Thanks Ma'am for sharing your story! It brings back the strength of our forefathers to our veins, that there is God, above all to protect us with our strong faith.

--Michael C. Barcas.



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