Halloween is here again, and the rainy, chilly Michigan weather made somber by thick, black clouds hanging low in the sky looks like a natural prop for the observance of All Souls’ Day.
This kind of dreary weather in a desolate landscape causes a sense of dread, similar to the horror one felt when reading Edgar Allan Poe’s story entitled, “House of Usher.”
And in the “bad spirit” of Halloween, I am relating two Philippine horror stories.
These “tales of the undead” were apparently based on true happenings and were told and retold by words of mouth through generations.
One such story was related to me by my mother when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was about a dreaded creature that took a grotesque human form similar to that of Freddy Krueger, the inscrutable character in the movie, “Friday the 13th.”
Called “Kaibaan” in Ilocano (the main dialect in Northern Luzon), this creature from the realm of the evil spirits turned into a woman and roamed around rural villages in the dead of night.
My mother told me that the family of her great-great grandmother (my great-great-great grandma) had encountered Kaibaan. This prompted me to surmise that the incident might have taken place in the mid-1800.
At about midnight with a three-quarter moon in the sky, this nocturnal creature “visited” the family.
They were roused from sleep by a loud, crashing sound caused by the fall of a big GI (galvanized iron) pail under the house. This was followed by the agitated meowing of the family’s cat as it ran away. The dogs barked in panic as they fled, leaving some puppies crying.
My great-great-great grandfather peeped through a gap on the floor (made of bamboo flitches) and was horrified by what he saw: A dark creature that looked like a tall woman wearing black clothes and a black, round hat.
He noticed that it had big feet that were both left and curved like scythes. The creature was snatching one or two of the puppies and putting them in the fold of a black cloth wrapped around its waist.
Trembling in fear, he summoned enough courage and shouted, “Kaibaan, saan mo nga alaen dagita uken, kaasiam ida (Kaibaan, don’t take those puppies away, have pity on them).”
When the creature looked up, he saw it had an ugly, contorted face with large popping eyes that seemed to be emitting flames. Moments later, he and the other family members heard footsteps going away.
In the morning, they found out that one of the puppies was missing. Later, they saw the puppy’s gutted body on the side of a pathway not far from the house. Inspecting it, they noticed that the liver was missing.
Another story related to me when I was a child was about the “Batibat,” a tiny, ghoulish creature as big as the index finger. It would come out at night and attack people who had disturbed it or stepped on it.
Batibat was supposedly hiding in a big hole of the wooden post in one’s house. This dwarf-like creature was said to have lived in such a hole in one post of my aunt’s house.
One dark night, it came out and choked my aunt’s father while he was sleeping. Batibat was supposed to have stuffed his nose with thin, almost invisible white pieces of cloth that quickly turned into mucus-like substances, causing him to choke and die.
One day about two or three years after the death of my aunt’s pa, I visited my aunt. She showed to me the hole in the post, which was a big “madre de cacao” log. The black hole in which Batibat was supposed to be hiding was located at a spot about one foot above the floor.
Seeing the hole for the first time, I felt a chilling sensation crept down my spine. At that time, it was stuffed with black clothes. The purpose, my aunt told me, was to prevent Batibat from coming out to kill another victim.
I stayed overnight in my aunt’s house, and I could not sleep as I feared that Batibat might come out and harm me.
When I was already grown up, I entertained doubts about the existence of Batibat as well as the cause of the death of my aunt’s pa. I suspected that he had died of heart attack or a kind of serious allergy. This, I believe, is similar to the sleep death called “bangungot” in Tagalog.