My family celebrates Undas with customary visits to the cemetery, preparation of atang for the departed souls and putting up candles around the house at night. When we were kids, my two older siblings and I loved seeing the entire house lighted by white candles and their pointed red-orange flame that sway easily with the slightest gush of wind. The chill of the ‘ber months’, the wary tales of ghostly encounters by my Lolo Narding and the tall, dark, irregular silhouettes created by the candles always made this event extra special and spooky to me.
My fascination with the supernatural started with Lolo Narding. As far back as I can recall, he would tell me stories of aswangs, engkantos and mangkukulams every afternoon to scare me to sleep. You see, I despised taking afternoon naps as a child. ‘Tsa Lumen, my nanny, would have to chase me around the house, drag me inside the house and forcibly lull me to sleep. But I never fall asleep; in fact all I do is cry and throw tamtrums. Sometimes, I would sneak out of the house and play in the backyard. People always warned me that afternoons or tanghaling tapat is the time when engkantos come out and play. To a four or five year old child, that means nothing especially if she is used to scare tactics such the bombay who takes away kids who do not sleep, the police who arrests the kids who do not sleep, or even the bad neighbor who kidnaps kids who do not sleep. I mean, really.
I started to get sick almost everyday during those times. I’ll have fever in the afternoons but will quickly resolve at night. It was puzzling how my fever never goes down even with intake of meds. More interesting was the fact that I only get sick when I play in the backyard at afternoons. At night and in the morning after, I was as healthy as anyone in the house.
Lolo Narding came to stay with us then. He is my great grandmother’s second husband from my mother’s side in Bacolod City. My mother tells me that he fights with evil mumus and aswangs back home but to me, he was feeble, thin and old, barely able to walk as steadily as I can. With both my siblings in school during afternoons, Lolo Narding would beckon me to stay inside the house to listen to his stories. At first, I never really paid him much attention until he told me that I was not alone in the backyard. I remembered looking around me, going behind the two huge coconut trees to the kamias and the bayabas trees just to see if there was anyone hiding there. He smiled at me then, seemingly amused that he finally got my attention.
May dwending puti, anak.
Now that really caught my attention. Its as clear to me now as it was then when he told me those exact words. I remember it as Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men said, crystal. And from then onwards, I filled my afternoons with Lolo Narding’s amazing supernatural stories. Nevermind that they never got me to sleep but at least they were able to make me stay put. It usually takes us the entire afternoon and often until bedtime to finish just one story since he cannot speak fluent tagalog. Instead of scaring the hell out of me, our afternoon sessions made me more curious and more determined to see those lamang lupa for myself. But as Lolo said, you never wish for things like that, especially out of curiosity.
Since then, I have always been drawn towards movies, series, stories, or just about anything with spook. When Lolo passed away, his usual bevy of scary stories was eventually replaced by watching Magandang Gabi Bayan (MGB) Undas Specials on Saturday night. Literally, everyone I know would have to come home just to watch this special segment. And sure enough, everyone at school talks about the program for almost one week after. You’d almost feel like a big loser if you missed out on this.
The old arbularyo in this segment reminds me so much of my Lolo. =(
MGB was taken off the air some years ago but the following are some of the vintage MGB Undas specials I found on Youtube.
Last Sunday, ABS-CBN attempted to ressurect a pseudo MGB Undas special, titled KABABALAGHAN in their slot for Sunday’s Best at 10:45pm. Sadly, to me at least, it was terrifyingly boring to death. After the SANIB segment of the show, I called it quits. There’s something about the old MGB UNDAS format that I sorely miss. Maybe the new one lacked the authencity, that gritty, unedited, raw, in your face vibe the former one had in abundance.
Still, Undas should be practiced to remember the dead, to offer prayers and to pay respects to the departed. Not just to play dress up to terrorize your whole neighborhood for sweets and apples.