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Unusual ghost stories in Baguio

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—All Saints’ Day brings a bit of Hollywood-inspired glitz to Baguio, a city built a century ago by the American colonial government, as tourists return for the eerie atmosphere and the ghost stories during the day of the dead.

But for Baguio’s first people, the Ibaloy, the real ghost stories are legends about ancestral heroes and family members who never leave their side.

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Ibaloy in Baguio City and in Benguet province bury their dead beneath their homes or next to their houses. Ibaloy believe that their ancestral spirits influence their descendants’ destinies, according to many accounts, and keeping their elders happy ensures harmony between the living and the dead.

The remains of some of these Ibaloy ancestors are in the Baguio cemetery. Others, however, need to be rediscovered, and present day Ibaloy have taken that task to heart hoping to keep their stories meaningful to their children.

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For example, an Ibaloy named Piraso, whose bones used to be interred inside a cave in Trancoville village, was buried near the house of his descendants, the Camdas family, and with it his story which few Ibaloy even know about.

Luz Camdas, an agriculturist, said her ancestor’s name was ascribed as owner of lands annotated by American surveyors when they set to build Baguio in the early 1900s.

Some of these properties now lie within what is now Camp John Hay, Camdas said. Piraso, however, moved from place to place, and wherever he relocated, he acquired the land, she said.

Camdas lives on their ancestral land in Pinsao village, which Piraso used to own before the Americans moved to the plateau that became the summer capital.

Piraso’s bones were interred with two of his descendants, Salming Piraso and Cotiling Rosa Piraso. Cotiling Rosa was Camdas’ grandmother.

Retired government official Victor Carantes, a descendant of Agustina Carantes, said his ancestor was the last known Ibaloy to be accorded a 14-day wake, which required the family to butcher three animals in a day and to sacrifice a horse.

Carantes said another Ibaloy ancestor, Pura, was buried in what is now known as Camp John Hay while his brother, Apsan, was mummified in a process that took five months and a series of cañao (ritual feasts) and was interred in a cave at Quezon Hill.

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Stories passed on by elders said the cave also hosts the bones of Ibaloy hero, Amkidit, who fought Spanish troops in the little-known Battle of Tonglo, which prevented Spanish colonizers from moving toward Mt. Province, Carantes said.

Camdas said she heard many tales about the mysterious cave. “There was one time when [my] Uncle Juan went to the burial site of Amkidit. His bones were inside a coffin, which had a head board that featured a carved carabao head,” she said.

The cave, however, was bulldozed and the bones of Amkidit and other ancestors were excavated, Camdas said, citing old stories.

“There was a story that the mummies were stolen, but other people said the mummies simply disintegrated,” Carantes said.

Pinsao residents were not aware that Amkidit existed. “I don’t know why our parents never told us [about the ancestors]. Even about those bones. Why they neglected them,” Camdas said.

The Baguio cemetery has been home to other Ibaloy ancestors. The remains of Quidno Carantes and his mother, Elaine Lubos Kelly, are entombed there.

Their remains used to lie beneath the Carantes ancestral house in New Lucban village. But when Quidno’s wife, Kensha, died in 1965, all of them were relocated to the Baguio cemetery.

Kensha’s parents—Tadaka and Lubos Bajeteng—are buried in a lot in Atab, Suello Village, along Marcos Highway.

Kensha’s brother, Wakat Suello, was the first town mayor of Tuba in Benguet.

Remedios Pidazo, 89, Suello’s daughter, said her father’s remains used to be in the Cariño family mausoleum but they transferred his bones to Suello Village.

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TAGS: All Saints Day, Baguio City, Benguet province, Ghost Stories, Ibaloy, Trancoville village
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