Thursday, March 08, 2007


I took this picture in Intramuros a while back, but didn’t get the name of this church or any historical information associated with it. It must have been because I was engaged in some interesting conversation with a fellow photography enthusiast who was with me at that time.

Anyway, I was simply enchanted by this church. It reminds me of the one in our barrio in Subic, though not as grand and majestic. Perhaps, it is because of this structure’s austere façade, which is evocative of the ghost story I've associated with our barrio church while growing up.

Part of the allure of Subic back then was its lack of electricity. Six in the evening was usually the time in which everyone would have finished up with their business of the day. And from that moment on, at my aunt's house, the kitchen and dining table would be illuminated by a single light source — a portable stainless steel Coleman-like lantern powered by kerosene or something. And wherever that portable lantern would be placed after dinner, that would be where the adults would congregate as well until they retire for the night.

The kids, on the other hand, would huddle somewhere in the living room that would get a trickle of light from that same light source. Without any television or sufficient light to sustain any kind of table game, we would just amuse ourselves with storytelling. The older cousins who lived in the barrio would always fill us with ghost stories, though they tend to be mere repetitions. Nonetheless, there were some good ones that never ceased to scare us out of our wits even after hearing them a hundred times.

Foremost of which was the headless priest who would appear in front of the barrio church around midnight — pacing back and forth while holding an open book. Supposedly, many local folks claimed to have seen it and would readily attest to its occurrence.

I believed this story; that is, until I reached early adulthood in New York, when I started going on bike tours around Long Island. The youth hostels where we sometimes stayed overnight were at the youth centers of the local churches. It was common to socialize with these local youths at the center during the evenings. After tiring of ping pong and billiards, we’d usually end up sitting at the front steps to trade stories. And almost always, these talks would segue to ghost stories.

One night, this lanky kid began to tell us about the ghost of a headless priest that haunted the church grounds. I sat there agape; realizing that our barrio couldn’t claim exclusive copyright for such apparition, for this headless priest turned out to be a universal phenomenon after all.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:22 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! Eric, you should have contributed your own ghost stories as well to amaze those kids! Yung mga Pinoy style stories ba..

Are you feeling any better now? :)

March 08, 2007 9:16 AM  

Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Eric,

Were you able to find out where the guy came from? Maybe he's from Subic, too. =)


March 08, 2007 9:38 AM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

telling stories is much more fun. did you and your cousins ever eavesdrop on the older people? hehehe =)

March 08, 2007 9:52 AM  

Blogger Rey said...

When you're young and you believe in ghosts and engkantos,you did got scared but life seems to be more colourful. I guess those colours don't last though, as were our innocence.

March 08, 2007 10:47 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, I should have, Rhoda! And peppered them with stories about manananggal and kapre and all that ... hehehe! But I was still somewhat of a quiet kid back then.

I'm up and about now, but tire easily still so I pace myself. Thanks for asking :)

March 08, 2007 11:51 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

All kidding aside, hb00, that lanky kid might have been from Subic after all.

Our barrio also boasted a real nice river at that time, and in the afternoons you'd find kids of all kinds over there -- many were offsprings of the Americans (whites and blacks) and their Filipina wives.

So you got a point ... hmmmm.

March 08, 2007 11:54 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ghosts, eh?

i'm going to return to Corregidor (went there 3 years ago) on wednesday for an inspection for company team building/outing

opportunity for me to take pics
should the event really push through there, I'm inviting my officemates for a ghosthunting expedition

scary, isn't it?
actually i'm not afraid of ghosts if they really bother us.

I'm more afraid of the living :(

March 08, 2007 11:55 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Ah, yes, Carla ... one of my fondest preoccupation when young was listen in wonder as the elders exchange stories of times during peacetime and war. It was just as captivating listening to them as watching television!

March 08, 2007 11:56 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Right, Rey, and a tinge of sadness seems to always accompany the loss of those colors. Letting go of childhood innocence can be a bummer, indeed.

March 08, 2007 12:01 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Tito!

Some friends who recently came back from overnight shootout in Corregidor ame back with ghost stories!

A popular one is the playful child ghost. There was also the sounds of marching troops around midnight. Whoa!

Promise to share with us your findings, ok?

March 08, 2007 12:06 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Well, maybe like you, this headless priest was travelling around the world.

March 08, 2007 1:02 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

The Christian religion and its many physical representations are such an integral part of Philippine history. Churches are quite ubiquitous and appear to be among the few remnants of some ancient past times, since they typically are made of more durable and permanent structures and can thus, withstand the rigors and elements of time and weather.

Here in the provinces, churches are among the few landmarks that make up the local color and culture, and identity; and are thus consequently repositories of many stories from the past – both eerie and memorable. Most local tales are woven and revolved around these supposedly holy places.

March 08, 2007 2:21 PM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

no midnight trips for me, thank you very much! :D matatakutin po!

athough i have to admit, i love listening to ghost stories even if it scares me out of my wits. fortunately, i dont have the 3rd eye, so i never get see or hear them.

eric, did you ever see the headless priest-ghost?

March 08, 2007 3:43 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

lahat yata ng simbahan may ganyang kwento sama na natin ang mga eskwelahan :)

March 08, 2007 5:44 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's right, Sidney -- a travelling ghost ... compelled to follow me wherever I went ... hehehe!

March 08, 2007 8:36 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And if I may add, Amadeo, somehow even the most fantastic tale takes on an additional notch of believability factor if a holy place such as a church is used as its backdrop.

March 08, 2007 8:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm too scared of ghosts for ghosts to appear before me. Should something fatal happen to me on account of extreme fright, that's one more guilt trip they have to drag along with them ... hehehe.

But like you, Sheilamarie, I am drawn to ghost stories :)

March 08, 2007 8:43 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Tama ka, Melai. Ang mga eskwelahan ay isa pang mga lugar na pinupugaran daw ng mga multo. Ang lumang annex building ng dati kong eskwelahan, Bonifacio Elementary School, ay madami daw nagpaparamdam.

March 08, 2007 8:46 PM  

Blogger -= dave =- said...

Our university's headless priest jogs right outside the dorm window on third floor. There's also this feetless priest floating right in the middle of the school's grassy field. Then one building is said to be an inter-dimensional portal. Oh well, I can't see ghosts, so this would remain stories for me. We once did ghost-hunting sorties armed with a video camera, but I don't think ghosts would show themselves to 20 noisy dormers huddled together like sheep.

March 08, 2007 9:32 PM  

Blogger yusop said...

I don't believe this because in an area where we once stayed---when I was so young like 9 years old----there was a chapel situatedf near a wetland and there were stories that at midnight, sometrimes thge neighbors could hear chain links being dragged from the ground and they were tied to the foot of a headless priest who once became the main priest of the said chapel but had committed suicide. And the headless priest was also carrying a bible while walking. Some hairs at the back of my neck are actually standing as I recollect this story now. Gosh, sometimes when I go home so late in the evening at that time, after watching TV from a neighbo's house, I thought I had once seen that opriest hanging by the tree just at the back of our house, which can be seen easily since it was a very humongous tree. I shiver as I recall this.

maybe the headless priest is a unibversal phenomenon truly as you said.

March 08, 2007 11:29 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

The University of Santo Tomas campus and the "Headless Priest" that roamed around the Seminary grounds. The medical studies building "morgue" was a "dare to cross" challenge among us kids when we used to sneak into the campus on Saturday nights. Let's not forget the "Balete Drive Nymph in white" stories. I remember taxi drivers refusing to traverse Balete Drive from Aurora Blvd. to Espana Extension at midnight then because of the scary stories told about "Balete Drive" in Q.C.

March 09, 2007 12:06 AM  

Blogger Sebastiane said...

I would not refute that supernaturals don't exist; I'd rather say that I am uncertain. But I guess the thrill is there once in a while when we hear such stories especially when we are kids.


March 09, 2007 2:10 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

A jogging headless priest and a feetless priest -- now we're getting variants. Sheeesh! Nonetheless, I wouldn't roam around in your campus at night alone, Dave :)

I wonder, where there ever any video capture of any ghostly apparition?

March 09, 2007 6:28 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'd probably give up watching TV from the neighbor's house altogether, Major Tom if I had to walk home alone at night with the possibility of that headless priest suddenly appearing on my path.

Is it anthropology that would trace the sources or attributions of various cultures' sets of beliefs and myths. It is really fascinating how certain legends or myths cross various cultures.

March 09, 2007 6:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The headless priest of UST campus I've never heard of, Noypetes, but am intrigued to know more about it.

Yes, that white lady of balete Drve is quite famous. Another friend that a similar "hitcher" appears in Subic's SBMA wherein you pass this certain road at night and when you look at your rear view mirror, you suddenly find a passenger at your back seat.

March 09, 2007 6:38 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

THat's right, Kyes! We may not believe those ghost stories, but we're certainly curious to hear about them, especially at night ... hehehe!

March 09, 2007 6:40 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in college, there was this ghost story that always frightened me.

Story goes like this (they say it's a true story):
At a ladies' residence hall in UP Diliman, a resident went down the basement to borrow a typewriter to use for her term paper. It was late at night. Unfortunately, when she was ascending the stairs as she carried the typerwriter, she slipped and bumped her head on the concrete with the typewriter falling on her face. She died right there. From then on, her ghost was believed to wander and visit every dorm in all UP campuses.

I was staying then at the UPBaguio Dorm, and whenever we, the dormers talked about this, we would all scream and it would scare me no end.

March 09, 2007 8:41 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hahaha! Was it one of those heavy portable typewriters that weigh a ton? All kidding aside, was there such an accident that happened there?

I love it! Your scary storytelling came complete with live screaming!

March 09, 2007 10:06 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

The "headless Priest" at the seminary grounds was concocted by the Central Seminary and Botanical Garden caretaker to scare us from raiding his cannabis sativa plants on the east side of the church grounds south of the high school building.

March 09, 2007 11:47 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to jog in the UST ground before the break of dawn during my college days, never seen any headless ghost. But walk around the campus at night and you will see some people bumping in the dark

March 09, 2007 12:21 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Aha! So the UST headless priest was nothing more than a scarecrow tactic against those neighborhood boys, huh, Noypetes?

I wonder if that caretaker has seen that comedy/thriller 1998 movie, "Homegrown?"

March 09, 2007 2:13 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

From what I was told, Albularyo, extra precaution must be taken at night inside the UST campus, for many incidences of snatching do occur at that time.

Beautiful campus, though, especially when all the water fountains and walkways are lit!

March 09, 2007 2:16 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't really find out if the typewriter accident really happened, Eric. But we all believed in it anyway.

I have so many ghostly memories from my dorm life in college, I want to blog about them but I'm not a very good storyteller like you. Hehehe.

Another one I couldn't forget was - my roommates and I hanged a black trench coat and placed a hat on the hook of the hanger - para magmukhang nakabitin na tao. We placed it strategically by the door, so when the attendance checker opened the door, (curfew time at 8:00 p.m.) it was the first thing she saw. And she was so frightened her screams filled the whole dorm and the other residents came rushing to find out. Our matron was so mad at us that she suspended our late night out privileges for a month. :(

March 09, 2007 4:37 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Naku! You guys were lucky she didn't have a heart attack and drop dead on the spot; otherwise, there would have been another addition to the alrady plentiful ghosts in your dorm.

If in case you want to try and write a post about those apparitions, do them during the daytime. You don't want any surprise editors showing up uninvited and messing with your thoughts... hehehe.

March 09, 2007 5:12 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting angle you've got here on this shot. Yeah, those ghost stories of headless priest have become somewhat of an archetype. hehe

March 09, 2007 10:54 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I bet if I were to go to some remote village in New Guinea someone would talk about a headless priest also, Ferdz ... hehehe.

Thanks, I was trying to show that the ground floor of the church is actually the second.

March 10, 2007 6:20 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hindi po church yan, likod po yan ng light and sounds museum ng buhay ni rizal sa intra. life size mga statue jan. try visit

August 04, 2010 6:09 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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