Dateline: Eight years ago...
It was summer and we had just finished a building project. My boss commented on the amount of work that got done and kindly let me and some of my co-workers have a few weeks off. I decided to spend my vacation in the provinces with my friend, Carl.
I've known Carl for years at that time. He lived about two blocks from my house, but we don't connect much anymore as he has since immigrated to Canada. He was very active in civic work (medical missions and all that), and would often go with civic organization groups when they went out of town. I was feeling adventurous and a few weeks away from the hustle and bustle of the city appealed to me, so I readily accepted when Carl invited me to tag along. I wasn't a member of their group but the group leader let me tag along on the condition that I pay for my own expenses.
As part of the deal with the local government in that province, our group was given an old ancestral house to stay in while we were there. (If you want to know what one looks like just Google images of "Philippine ancestral house," and good samples will be shown.)
My first impression upon seeing the house was that it was BIG. It was obviously the property of very rich people. The mayor said that the original owners had passed away and the descendants (I don't remember if the mayor said grandchildren or great-grandchildren) had half-loaned it to the town for whatever use they saw fit, as long as they kept things properly maintained and in order.
There was an old caretaker who welcomed us when we got there. He then took our bags and directed us to our rooms - there were seven of us and there were four rooms available. The group agreed to pair up, two persons per room, while I, being the "outsider" was given a room all to myself. (Of course.) We had arrived late afternoon so we only had a few minutes to look around before dinner. Several things I noticed that first day there:
Except for the caretaker, all the workers left by five pm. This was confirmed the next day and again the day after that. I asked one of them why they didn't stay in but the old lady was taciturn and just shrugged my question off.
As I mentioned, the house was big. Most of the rooms were on the second floor and outside the rooms there was a common area used as a combination sitting room/library. The ground floor had lots of storage spaces and some areas were inaccessible due to piles of unwanted junk. I call them junk for lack of a better word; the others said they were antiques.
The house was surrounded on three sides by big mango trees. I remember one of the groups, who was a photographer, commenting on taking some photos of the shades and shadows cast by the trees. He, along with nearly half the group, also commented on how eerie everything looked, even in the daytime.
A week passed without incident and most of the group was focused on their civic work. On the eighth day something happened. It was about eleven at night and almost everyone had gone to bed. I couldn't sleep so I decided to just sit up and read. I made my way to the sitting room/library and found Carl there. He couldn't sleep either and like me, was looking for something to read and pass the time. I joked about him not being a heavy reader and we bantered back and forth about looking for coloring books and fairy tales to match each others' IQ. I found a collection of old newspaper clippings and made my way back to my room. Half and hour later I heard Carl scream.
I rushed out into the hallway and made my way to the library. Carl's group members were awakened and were there ahead of me. They were crowding near where Carl was. He was curled up on the sofa and was breathing hard. We saw that he had vomited and he was shaking like he was freezing. He kept pointing to the big window where there was one of those big mango trees.
The caretaker came up with glass of water and tried to calm my friend down. After a few minutes Carl had calmed down enough to tell us what scared him:
After we had said our good nights, he plopped down on the sofa with his chosen book and began to read. The big window was on his left. Soon he began to feel as though he were being watched. He looked up and out the window and saw a very beautiful girl looking in at him. She was wearing a long white dress and was smiling shyly (his words). Carl was somewhat shy around girls so he at first refused to look at her but after a few moments he began to smile back. He got up to open the window and ask the girl what she was doing out there at that time of night when he realized that what he was seeing was impossible. We had walked around the house earlier and we saw no balconies on the west side, where the library was. The girl was floating on air! The realization that he was flirting with a ghost made him scream. He said he wanted to run inside his room but somehow hit the sofa when he turned and couldn't move anymore after he fell down.
The group got scared and decided to cut short their stay in the ancestral home. When morning came we packed our bags and went into the town proper to look for less frightening lodgings. The caretaker meanwhile was expecting Carl to say that he saw a Kapre or Tikbalang. He was surprised to learn that it was a girl in a white dress, as there had been no manifestations of the like before. He said the trees around the house were "inhabited" but didn't elaborate further.
Being Filipinos, we understood what he said. What Carl saw would probably explain why the workers left everyday by five pm.