‘Even brave troops are afraid of ghosts!’
They may belong to one of the best fighting units in the world but they’re no match for troops that leave no trace and have no name nor face.
Philippine Army officers and enlisted personnel shared with the Inquirer their paranormal encounters with the unknown, though they’d rather not talk about them in public out of respect for the dead.
Said Col. Noel Detoyato, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command based at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac province: “Many soldiers have confided (such stories) to me, repeatedly and consistently, so I think these (ghosts) must be for real. But maybe only people gifted with a ‘third eye’ can really see or feel them. Personally, I have not seen any,” Detoyato said.
When he was assigned at the Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, one of his staff known in military circles as having a third eye would always ask about the man in his office.
“She’d say that sometimes the man would put his arm around me when I was seated. But I don’t feel anything nor see anyone,” Detoyato said.
When he was Army spokesperson at Fort Bonifacio, Detoyato said he had also heard ghost stories from soldiers patrolling Libingan ng mga Bayani past midnight. Guards on duty begin their rounds of the heroes’ cemetery as night falls to remind visitors that they should get going as the cemetery isn’t lighted at all.
“The soldiers would tell me, ‘Sir, there are people walking inside the cemetery—some of them in shorts, others in uniform. But you can’t see their faces because it is dark,” Detoyato recalled, adding that the ghost sightings happen from midnight to 2 a.m.
“And the soldiers often express surprise: ‘How did these people manage to sneak in? None of them passed through the gate.’ They used to run off in fear, but no longer. Anyway, these [ghosts] don’t hurt or harm anyone,” he said.
Before it became Bonifacio Global City, Fort Bonifacio had a curfew at 10 pm. Despite that, soldiers on patrol would talk of seeing Japanese soldiers marching near the American cemetery at midnight.
These horror stories won’t be complete without the kapre (troll) in the Army’s balete tree making an appearance.
But the tall creature known to smoke a fat cigar has proven to be shy, Detoyato said. “I wait around (the area) but never see anything, while others keep talking about this big man with long arms and legs whose face is obscured by the balete tree. Could it be a tikbalang (a horse-man, according to local folklore)? But of course everybody’s too scared to get close enough to tell.”
Afraid of ghosts
He added with a laugh: “Well, even brave troops are afraid of ghosts!”
Just like the White Lady of Balete Drive in Quezon City, this specter manifests as a lady in white on the road going to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City, according to retired Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Maligalig, a former PMA superintendent.
Most cab drivers were afraid to bring passengers to the PMA because the lady, it’s been said, would sometimes be seen seated at the back of their vehicle whenever they passed Loakan road. Inside the academy, stories abound about shotput being thrown in the barracks, sabers falling, doors being slammed shut repeatedly at the Melchor Hall, or a “faceless cadet” making unscheduled rounds at night.
One night, Maligalig said he was awakened by the distant singing of a soprano, but saw no one. Once, his visiting nephews told him they could not sleep because of doors being slammed shut at midnight even when there was no one around.
“So now my nephews don’t visit anymore,” he said.
As a cadet in the ’70s, Maligalig recalled seeing a “cadet in full dress” just before Taps (which was at 10 p.m.). There was a massive blackout at the academy because of a typhoon when he suddenly heard someone knocking on their door. When they opened the door, they found what seemed to be a “faceless cadet” who was not wearing a uniform. Then the image was gone.
“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in spirits because I experienced it when my sister died. The PMA apparitions I’ve learned to ignore. But looking back still makes my hair stand on end,” Maligalig said.
Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office said similar stories also haunt naval camps that he visited across the country as spokesperson of the Philippine Marines.
In 2009, Arevalo recalled being unable to sleep in the mansion built for then visiting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi because of squeaky noises and of doors slamming shut although there was no one around. The mansion was located inside the Navy Western Mindanao compound in Zamboanga City
“I had goosebumps,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t see anything but the place was full of mirrors, it was dark, the air smelled of mothballs and I was alone in this big bed. Then suddenly, there were thumps and noises. I could not sleep.”
He continued: “They told me, ‘If you feel anything, it’s for real. So my mantra is to always pay respect. Everytime I visit naval camps where I have to sleep, I say aloud: “Makikitulog po. Pasensiya na po kung naabala ko kayo (Please allow me to sleep here. Sorry for the bother).”
Used to it
Master Sgt. Arnold Panganiban, first sergeant of the CRS-7th Civil Relations Group (CRG), said he has learned to live with the sound and sight of computers turning themselves on at midnight even when they’ve already been turned off and unplugged.
“I’ve gotten used to it,” Panganiban quoted other guards on duty. After all, their office used to be the AFP mortuary.
As a member of the 4th Scout Rangers Batallion in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, in 2010, Panganiban said they would always hear of Japanese soldiers counting off while marching in their outposts at midnight. “We were told (this) used to be a Japanese camp,” he said, quoting a family living in the lone nipa hut outside the Scout Rangers’ fence.
“And that’s why they transferred to an opposite area, the family said. They could not sleep because of the noises they hear at midnight even when there’s nobody around,” he added.
Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, chief of the CRG, said he would hear stories of troops running in circles during combat operations in the jungles and the hinterlands.
Patria said he himself experienced this as a platoon leader in the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province from 1995 to 2002.
He remembered how his men wanted to wear their shirts or uniforms inside out whenever they got lost, in accordance with a local belief that doing so would turn things around.
“The troops would say, ‘Sir, we’ve been going around in circles. We’re being spooked. We won’t be able to get out of here unless we turn our clothes inside out,” he said.
“But I said, no. Of course, as platoon leader, I would be too embarrassed to allow them to do that. I just told them, ‘Well, admit it, we’re lost,’” he said with a laugh. TVJ
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