Guest blogger: Arthur “Atox” Condes
This one will go to the pages of horror stories just in time for the All Saint’s Day.
Or maybe the script for a short horror flick.
September 29, 2017
It was my first time to be in Bacolod City in the Philippines. Known for its annually-held Masskara Festival, this beautiful city is located in the northwestern coast of Negros island.
Though I have spent many years in the neighbouring city of Iloilo, I have never taken any chance to visit the lovely, bustling Queen City of the South. I have heard stories about its glory and fame: with many sites and sights to behold, delicacies to enjoy and relish, experiences to enjoy. All too difficult to resist.
I woke up earlier than usual, around 3:00 am, although I was scheduled to leave at around 5:30 am for the airport. While waiting for the pick-up vehicle, I struggled hard to keep myself awake. It was a raining and for someone who slept late, the coolness of the dawn and the sound of the pouring rain was lulling me back to sleep, tempting me to stay in bed longer.
It was still raining when we left for the airport. That morning, the traffic was already slow but the good thing was that we were moving. We made it to the airport. Everything went well.
Though I have started to give up on my daily caffeine intake, I had no choice that time but to take a few sips of that sweet-smelling potion, once again, just to stay awake.
The trip from Manila was smooth, all the way to Silay City, where the airport is. A rainy afternoon welcomed me to Bacolod City. Not bad for my first visit.
The vast fields of green are refreshing to the eyes, especially my tired, sleepy eyes. The activities that afternoon went like a breeze. And then it was time for us to be brought to our hotel.
I settled in my room immediately, tired as I was. The room was quite large, with high ceiling, wide hallways and some dimly-lit corners.
The whole place was bustling with people and activities, as the whole City of Smiles was preparing for the famed Masskara Festival. The hotel was right in the downtown area and I know that it will see some action during the festivities. In one of its corners, on the second floor, a mannequin that was dressed up in a colorful carnival-inspired attire stares blankly at the hotel guests as they pass, with its fixed wide-mouth grin. It reminded me of the clown in the movie “IT”.
The hotel is not so new but still decent, and had some surprises for me that night.
I shared the room with the driver from the host office. He was out most of the time and it was I who had this ‘different experience’.
While doing some editing work on my mobile phone, I decided to sit on bed, with my back on the headboard. I was so absorbed with the thing I was doing and I never thought of anything extraordinary that will happen.
I could hear some noise next door. “Maybe the guests were just rearranging the furniture”, I thought. It sounded like they dragged some chairs on the floor. Unusual because it was quite late at night.
Having stayed in various hotels during my other travels both here and abroad, I am quite well-aware of the unusual ‘first-night-of-stay’ feeling that would keep most people awake or on the edge.
Not for me. I get at ease quite easily even in a new place. More than 30 minutes had passed and I still sat on the bed working.
Then I felt the bed shake! It lasted for a few seconds. I thought it was because I moved to reposition my back on the wall. It can’t be an earthquake.
This time, I tried to keep still to observe. The bed shook like someone was rocking it! Still, I didn’t mind it and kept working on my mobile phone. When I was done sending mails, I washed up and got myself ready to sleep.
Nothing unusual happened aside from that bed-shaking incident — and the occasional noise next door.
As I drifted off to sleep, I began to hear that dragging-on-the floor-noise again. It never stopped! It sounded like the whole crew of housekeepers were setting up a venue for a party and they couldn’t lift the chairs or tables so they just dragged them!
I tried to ignore the dragging sounds until eventually I was off to dreamland. Still, I could hear some noise next door. I heard the door open as my roommate came in.
I remembered waking up, it was well into the witching hours. Nothing strange but the sounds of furniture dragging was still there.
I was beginning to think that it was not normal. “How could these people be so sloppy in their jobs? What is taking them too long to finish their work, to the point of disturbing hotel guests?”
Many other questions are racing through my mind. “I must talk to the front desk staff. I need to know who could be staying next door.” It was part of my ‘to-do” list for the next day.
The next day came, like any other day. I got up before 6:00 AM. Got ready for breakfast. On my way out of the room, I met a hotel personnel in the hallway. He delivered something to the guests in another room. I asked him if room 323 was occupied. We were in 324.
“Indi ko sure, sir ba. Pero mamangkot ta sa front desk. Ngaa tani, sir haw?” (I am not sure, sir. But we can ask the front desk. Why do you want to know, sir?)
I told him about the noise which lasted the whole night. The sound of the chairs or tables being dragged on the floor. He smiled. A dry, uncomfortable smile. He tried to laugh but it was a nervous one.
I was beginning to have that weird feeling. Goosebumps! It started to creep from my hands all the way up to the few remaining strands of hair on my head!
As I felt light –headed, he said: “Ah. Nagpabatyag gali sa into, sir?” (Ah, so IT made you feel its presence, sir?”). I was with the driver and the other hotel guest and we were all dumbfounded, stumped. I was trying to rub the hair in my arms to keep them from standing.
The big reveal was quite potent, more than the morning mug of coffee that I always have.
September 30, Saturday
The “experience” that previous night, which I now consider to be paranormal, did not end there. That morning, at the buffet table, I shared my tale with the other hotel staff.
“Well, we heard a lot of stories from the other hotel personnel”, one of them said. She went on, “Some staff dealt with guests who walked out of their room after having that nightmarish experience of hearing things falling with no one around, also the usual sound of furniture being moved and dragged on the floor.”
“You know, there were guests who opted to sleep at the lounge chairs at the front desk lobby just to be sure they are safe from the ‘annoying entity’ in their room,” one of the waitresses recounted.
A room boy shared that it gives him creeps when he passes through the cavernous hallway. “I don’t really believe the stories that much but when you are there walking alone, bringing food or anything to the guests during the unholy hours in the morning, you would really feel like somebody’s watching you or someone’s behind you! I try to run away, if possible.”
Another hotel staff revealed that other guests heard someone cleaning up the hallway, only to be shocked to know that there was no one there. The list can go on, I thought, if I ask all the others but what I heard was enough.
After their ‘expose’ or their version of ‘tales from the unknown”, I came to think about the past experiences I had with the unseen world, the different dimension, the spirit’s dwelling, whichever you may call it.
I believe that the spirit world exists. It is something we cannot shrug off, ignore or disregard. Our experiences, whether we believe they exist or not, will eventually lead to one conclusion: that these entities are real.
The book “The Filipino Spirit World” by Rodney L. Henry (1986, OMF Publishers), is an interesting read. I couldn’t agree more when he said, “A “conspiracy of silence” exists regarding certain religious practices of Filipinos.
The Church has ignored a spirit-world belief system held by most of its members. As a result, Filipinos take their unmet spiritual needs to the out-of-church spirit-world practitioners (faith healers, diviners, etc.)”.
Henry, in this book, “expounds the development of folk Christianity in the Philippines, the theological foundation of the spirit-world, including the angelic and the demonic, and the discernment of supernatural powers.”
It will not come as a surprise to know that the Filipino folklore is full of ‘characters’ from the other world: from tamawos or engkantos (fairy folks that can change features), dwendes (elves) and tiyanaks (vampires that imitate the form of a child), kapres (a tree giant often described as black, hairy and muscular), aswangs (monster with traits of a vampire or a ghoul) and others.
Some can be benign, others are vicious or mischievous. While others hide in the shadows, some spirits can make their presence felt in a lot of ways.
Our elders have their stories to tell as well. Maybe, back in those days, the ‘other-wordly’ beings were as real as the page you are reading, the phone you are holding and the chair you sit on.
Well, after having read that book, my understanding of the ‘spirit-world’ concept seem to have fallen into its place, established after the fact. I haven’t had the faintest idea about it at all, yet I already believed they were real.
Some spirits can move in the physical realm. They can move objects, cause them to fall or be destroyed or make them disappear. Such a case can be observed in homes where little things get ‘misplaced’ too often. They can choose to appear to some people or be captured in CCTV, standard or mobile phone cameras, in their various forms.
Still on Saturday, 30th of September
After the breakfast exchange, we were off to some other places. An activity-filled Saturday, I felt that it was one of those Saturdays that took longer than usual. We hopped from one place to another, not too far from Bacolod City, high into the mountains and forests and checked some nice places, with endless photo sessions despite the rain.
Towards the evening, all you can think of would be the nice, comfortable hotel bed, after a warm, refreshing shower. It’s an irresistible thing, after a tiring day.
That morning at the hotel, when the room boy confirmed the presence of “something” in that place, I uttered a prayer, in Jesus’s name, that we will not be disturbed by the “entity”. It makes a difference when you declare openly that you believe in a God “who is above all and over all”, both the physical and the spirit world.
True enough, not much was heard about the noise from my next door ‘occupant’ or the hallway that night until the next morning. I still slept late, doing something online but it was a quiet night.
The next day, a Sunday, I was awakened by my roommate’s alarm clock. He set it up quite early and loudly and I think it roused everyone within 10 meters of our room. Nothing unusual, though. I prepared to take a bath and my roommate left to prepare the vehicle because he will bring us to the airport that morning.
Halfway through my shower, I heard the alarm sounding off again. “He must have left the phone and he didn’t turn off the alarm!”, I muttered to myself. I had to turn the shower off to hear the sound. It was ringing alright, it must be in his bag.
Then I finished my business and get dressed to have breakfast.
I met my roommate at the buffet hall and I asked if he left his phone in the room. He said no. “I got it here.” I was a bit shocked. So, what was that noise from a cellphone alarm that sounded like his?
I shook the thought off that someone was still playing tricks on us during that last few hours of stay. It was not that scary, no goose bumps this time, because I understand what is happening.
We left Bacolod early for our 10 AM flight back to Manila. We all bid farewell to the hotel staff but I extended my hello, on the other hand, to their ‘resident entity’ or a poltergeist (noisy ghost) who gave us a “different experience.”
Arthur Condes is currently an executive assistant at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the Philippines based in Manila. Aside from writing feature stories, he loves to paint, take photos and reading.