Riding in the truck–with the spirits
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Marjorita Cangmaong would feel that whiff of cold air every time she rode the truck given to her by the city government.
“Please don’t scare me,” she would plead to what she believed were spirits inside the Toyota Hilux pickup truck as she narrated the hair-raising moment.
Cangmaong, chair of the mountain village of Malubog in Cebu City, said her fears worsened upon learning about the story of the black truck with plate No. SKV 566, which she has been using as her service vehicle since
December 2013: It was inside the truck where the barangay captain of Mabini, Rey Oybenes, killed himself more than a year ago.
Oybenes, 38, was found dead inside the vehicle with a bullet wound in the chest about 6 p.m. on May 23, 2013, in Barangay Talamban, Cebu City.
The vehicle, then brand new when the city government bought it in 2012, was assigned to Oybenes, who was serving his third and last term as village chief of Mabini, 22 kilometers from the city proper.
Five hours before his body was found, he was seen dumping the body of Rohama Luage in a ravine along Transcentral Highway in Sitio Boli, Barangay Cansumoroy, Balamban town, also in Cebu.
‘Crime of passion’
Police, however, declared both deaths as a “crime of passion.” Luage, a City Hall employee, had an affair with Oybenes, who was married, for five years until she decided to end it to lead a peaceful life. The man refused to let go and he started threatening the woman through text messages.
About 7 a.m. on May 23, 2013, Oybenes picked up Luage from her home to bring her to City Hall in the Toyota Hilux, police said. She never made it to her office, however; her body was found in the ravine with a bullet wound in the heart.
The doors of the pickup truck were locked when it was found by bystanders. They saw a bloodied man inside.
Oybene’s brother, Reme, had to smash the window with a rock to open the vehicle. A .45-cal. pistol was found on the village leader’s lap.
After pieces of evidence were collected from the vehicle, the city’s government services office had it cleaned to remove the bloodstains and its broken window replaced. The vehicle was assigned to Cangmaong on Dec. 9, 2013, a week after she assumed office.
Cangmaong, a barangay councilor who won as chair in the October 2013 elections, said she and the driver, Remegio Camingawan, noticed something eerie with the Toyota Hilux.
“I would feel something strange when I was riding the pickup. There was something inside that I could not explain,” Cangmaong told the Inquirer.
While riding on the front seat and feeling the chill, she would keep an eye on the back. “I could not help but be scared especially that I know what happened to the previous owner,” she said.
Sometimes, they would hear “strange sounds” coming from the vehicle, which is parked near the barangay hall, she said. No one dared to check, she added.
Cangmaong said she had no choice but to use the Toyota Hilux because she did not have any other vehicle. Malubog, about 20 km from the city proper, has only two vehicles—a minibus for schoolchildren to use for field trips and other activities and a multicab to collect garbage.
The pickup is the only vehicle Cangmaong can use when she goes to the City Hall. It also transports patients to government-owned hospitals in the city during emergencies while the barangay ambulance is not yet repaired.
To appease the spirits, Cangmaong decided to have the vehicle blessed. Fr. Ciano Obod performed the ceremony on
Dec. 14, 2013, in time for the opening of Malubog’s new day-care center.
Village employees and officials lighted candles and surrounded the Hilux while Obod recited a prayer.
Since then, they stopped hearing the strange sounds. Though they could still feel the “restless” spirits, Cangmaong said they no longer bothered them.
On Wednesday, Cangmaong went to the cemetery in Barangay Babag to visit the graves of dead relatives. She also lighted candles for Oybenes and Luage, whom she described as a good friend.
“I believe every person has a soul. I hope they can rest in peace,” she said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.