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Words by Kristelle Bechayda and Jessica Pag-iwayan

Our country is rich in folklore and stories of different mythical creatures. From beautiful goddesses (diwata), viscera suckers (aswang) to haunted places, we have everything covered as far as the paranormal is concerned. This sometimes begs the question: How true are they? In observance of Halloween, Manila Bulletin partnered with the V2 Project, headed by professor Adam Reyes. We visited two roads in Metro Manila to unbox the mysteries behind the paranormal stories there.

Balete Drive, Quezon City

For decades, Balete Drive in Quezon City has been haunted by different versions of a beautiful lady in white. One says that she is seen hitching a ride on the side of a road while other accounts narrate her appearing and disappearing when drivers look in their rearview mirrors. Balete Drive has always been a subject of paranormal activities, making it a great spot for the V2 Project and our team to investigate.

Upon arriving in the area, the team split into three groups, each assigned to a different location. The first two teams use devices like EMF (electromagnetic field) meters, thermal scanners, and kinetic bells. “The first thing we do when we arrive on site is to check the electromagnetic field and the temperature of the area because when our devices start going haywire, it’s already something else.” Reyes reasons.

For the next fifteen minutes, the two teams monitored their respective areas for any signs of paranormal activity. After consulting with each other on their status over the walkie-talkie and double-checking to make sure nothing was missed, everyone gathered to discuss their findings.

“So far it’s negative,” says Hazel Tabalno, V2 paranormal expert. “Kung may spirit nga, dapat kanina pa nagparamdam ‘yan o kanina pa dapat nag-haywire ang mga gamit.”

Since the devices did not pick up anything paranormal, it was up to Reyes, who is in the third team, to use the Ouija board to coax the spirit out of hiding. He says that using the Ouija board is a good way of testing if there are ghosts lurking in the area, as they won’t miss the opportunity to communicate with the living.

The team gathered around the Ouija board and Reyes presided over calling the spirit but like the other devices, it did not also show any sign of paranormal activity. The whole team tried to coax any spirits out, waiting fifteen minutes for any sign of communication. This lasted long enough that Reyes ventured to the other side of the road and another paranormal expert of the V2 Project, Tulip Calizar, took over instead.

When it was clear that there was going to be no movement from the Ouija board, the other members started noticing Reyes, who was already joined by Calizar, studying the direction of where the smoke of their cigarettes were going. Only after puffing out more smoke and also checking the direction where the road dust settled, did the two of them join the rest of the team to share their conclusion.

One of the team’s explanation on the stories about the lady in white is rooted in the science of aerodynamics. “It is not paranormal. It is physics. There are different airflows in this particular midpoint section of the Balete Drive that causes vapor to hover at a certain point instead of going upward. It gets pushed downward toward the street, which looks like a white lady.” explains Reyes.

Tabalno, on the other hand, attributes the white lady’s existence to pareidolia, which is a situation when someone sees an image or a pattern that does not exist. With Balete Drive not as well-lit as it is today, drivers probably ended up seeing apparitions, especially when they get blinded by the oncoming light from passing cars.

“It is a healthy place,” Reyes adds. “If the lady of Balete Drive were malevolent, the trees in the area would not be as healthy and the animals here at night would be distraught. Plus, none of our devices moved, apart from the vibrations coming from the passing cars.”

13th Street, New Manila

The number 13 is associated with bad luck and evil spirits. This belief is the reason why our buildings don’t have a 13th floor, why we’re afraid of Friday the 13th, and why we avoid houses with the number as its address.

So it was no surprise to us when we heard the spooky story about 13th Street in New Manila, Quezon City. Tabalno personally experienced a ghostly encounter on the said street a few years ago.

“Being silly girls back then, nag-decide kami nga mga friends ko na maglakad dito ng mga two am and then, ang mga aso rito nag-alulungan. Tapos ‘yung mga ilaw ng poste biglang nag-flicker. So nagkatakutan kami at nagtakbuhan kami pabalik.,” she tells Manila Bulletin.

To verify her story, the whole team visited the area to investigate. With the use of their equipment, paranormal experts carefully studied the location’s temperature and the electromagnetic energy surrounding the place. We also interviewed some of the residents and security guards if, like Hazel, they have also had the same experience. But aside from the “alulong ng mga aso” every two am, they haven’t experienced nor seen anything paranormal along 13th Street.

After 30 minutes of conducting different tests, the V2 Project found that the Street has a downward slope and some of its parts have high electromagnetic energy because of the power transmitter present in some of the townhouses. These scientific findings are important factors that helped them to explain the ghostly experience that Tabalno once had.

“Yung mga tall buildings, they will amplify the sound waves and vibration, so it could also be understandable why some people, when they pass through, will feel jumpy or tumatass yung balahibo. It’s not because there’s something paranormal. It’s actually because of the sound waves bouncing left and right,” explains Reyes.

He also points out that because of pre-conditioned mindset about number 13, and the abundance of trees in the area, some people, especially children, tend to see and feel things because of the optical illusion. “What we have apparently on 13th Street is an amalgamation of different cultures and they already end up seeing creatures because they are already afraid to begin with,” says Reyes.

Mt. Cristobal, Laguna

While it’s no longer in Metro Manila and our team didn’t personally visit Mt. Cristobal, the stories about this mountain caught our attention. Also known as the “Devil’s Mountain,” its moniker indicates how notoriously haunted this place is. According to some locals, some brave hikers who trekked up the slope are still reportedly missing until today. They believe that there are supernatural creatures that reside in the area that lure and kill.

Fortunately, V2 Project has already conducted a paranormal investigation in Mt. Cristobal, and they generously shared their result. There is said to be a part in the mountain where hikers tend to get lost, but according to Reyes, what actually happens is these hikers inhale hallucinogenic spores in the area, making them think that they are adrift or they see unusual things.

Para kang humithit ng marijuana. You will get really high and when you continue climbing higher, you will start seeing things differently because you are already under the influence of the spores.” Reyes explains.

Conclusion

Unboxing the mysteries of these places with the help of paranormal experts give us a different perspective of things. Some of our perceptions are rooted in the traditions and beliefs we grew up with.

“It’s not just a single science. We use all that is known to man. We use philosophy, chemistry, zoology, culture, history, anthropology. We believe that each and every field of knowledge has a bit of the truth and when we combine them, we will have a better understanding.” Reyes explains.

Maybe the next time we feel something spooky, instead of jumping to conclusions that this is caused by the paranormal, we should try to evaluate other possibilities.

“The biggest lie in paranormal investigation is that only a psychic can sense anything out of ordinary. It is not based on feelings or anything else. It’s pure evidence. If there is anything paranormal, everyone and anyone has the capacity to experience it,” ends Reyes.

ERRATUM: V2 Project member Juliette’s correct name is TULIP TAMIKO CALIZAR.

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