Words by Angela Casco and Kevin Rebultan
The walled city of Intramuros is one of the oldest districts in Manila. It was once the Spaniards’ seat of power during their 300-year rule in the archipelago. Today, the area still houses some of the historic establishments in the country including the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, and Manila Bulletin—the Philippines’ second oldest newspaper.
Just like any other old building, Manila Bulletin holds so much history. Formerly the Recoletos Church and Convent, the establishment was first built in 1614 and later had to be rebuilt in the 17th century due to a typhoon and earthquake. Having endured the test of time for more than 100 years, spooky stories have inevitably been chronicled.
In commemoration of All Souls’ Day, here are some of the haunting narratives we heard about Manila Bulletin:
Voices from the grave
Being called by his first name is normal for the company cafe’s new barista, Mark. Serving coffee and pastries means getting to know the customers and vice versa. When the clock strikes five in the afternoon, however, sinister acts start to unfold. “May tumatawag sa akin,” he says. “Minsan babae. Minsan lalaki, pero kapag lalabas kami sa counter, wala namang tao.” It’s happened more than once, but he’s always chosen to shrug off the fear. “Lalabas na lang ako kapag nilakasan na ‘yung tawag, pero kung mahina lang, hindi ko na pinapansin,” he says.
Ralph’s experience is somewhat similar. Working as a social media staff in the newsroom from 6PM to 2AM, returning his laptop to a locker room after his duty is a routine. On one particular instance, though, he heard a whisper out of nowhere. It said, “Hoy,” so clearly that whoever or whatever made the sound seemed as if it was just right beside him. “‘Yun talaga, kinilabutan na ‘ko,” he says. “Talagang kumaripas na ako ng takbo.”
Former occupants revisit
Ralph’s story doesn’t end there. On his first day of work, he was welcomed with fright: he heard tapping sounds on the keyboard, he saw a lady in white passing by right in front of him, and something unseen bumped into his chair. All of this happened while he was alone in the editorial department. “Nung may narinig na naman ako—this time tunog ng tawanan—tumingin muna ako sa likod,” he recalls. “Pagharap ko, nakita kong may madre na naka-all white, parang ‘yung damit nila nung unang panahon pa.” This doesn’t come as a surprise as the building was once the refuge of the Augustinian order.
He adds that about four or five children were running and circling the nun.
Children at play
And the children continue to play.
Hear it from a security officer who’s been with Manila Bulletin for 16 years. Before manning the lobby, Abundio was previously assigned to guard the mezzanine formerly located at the first floor of the building. There, he used to hear footsteps despite his solitude. “Kapag gabi, may maririnig kang mga batang parang naglalaro, nagtatakbuhan. Minsan, parang dumadaan-daan pa sa tabi mo,” he shares.
Abundio says that while he never saw an actual apparition, the spine-chilling moments where he felt their presence were enough to make him believe that these supernatural beings exist. “Hindi ako nakakakita pero nararamdaman ko. Halimbawang pupunta ako sa CR, kinakabahan ako kasi parang may nakatingin sa akin, kaya hindi na ako lumilingon,” he adds.
Workers beyond office hours
Another employee who’s had a fair share of eerie encounter is graphic artist Stong, who’s been with MB since 2002. In his early years in the company, primarily working on magazine layout, he usually had to stay overnight. One evening, waking up from a typing keyboard sound in a nearby cubicle, he remembers how he called out the name of his colleague, assuming that it was one, only to receive no response.
“Nagising ako mga quarter to 3, akala ko may dumating. Sabi ko pa, ‘Uy, pare, ang aga mo naman.’ Pagpunta ko sa cubicle niya, walang tao,” Stong says.
Stong also shares an instance where books from a shelf fell without anyone pushing them, as he was alone when it happened. “May katabi ako noon na maraming art books. Ako lang mag-isa that time, then bumagsak lahat ng libro, sabay-sabay,” he says.
Having encountered several unfathomable experiences, Stong has also been a witness of paranormal expert visitations. But among the many times when the visits happened, one scenario remains clear to memory.
“Nagpaakyat na ng espiritista diyan sa taas. Pagpasok niya sa office namin (Support Services department in the third floor), bigla siyang (paranormal expert) nag-make sound. Ukhh-kuhh-kkuh-uhk. Ganyan,” Stong states with reenactment.
Asked about what the sound meant, Stong says, almost in a whisper, that it was the spirits of the dead attempting to possess the visitor. The slurping-and-almost-choking-like sound was his way of blocking the possession, he explains.
Also from the Support Services department, assistant graphics supervisor Jepoy affirms the truth behind the typing keyboard sound, and the falling of books off the shelf. He mentions, too, about the collection of toys in his office. “Minsan at a glance, may makikita kang biglang parang may aabot or kukuha sa laruan,” he says.
Rumor has it that the toys displayed in every floor of the building are to purposely distract the playful spirits of dead children from disturbing the employees at work.
Jepoy also testifies to the frequent visitations of paranormal experts to conduct spiritual evaluation in the building. “Last month lang, nag-assist ako ng espiritista to observe the places na sinasabing pinamamahayan; pinakamaraming kwento ay sa second and a half floor, sa mezannine,” he shares.
Jepoy further specifies the office of Bulletin Progressive Union, and says that the hallway adjacent to it is some sort of a portal, according to hearsays. “Pinaramdam niya sa akin, actually. Isa raw sa mga indication na meron is kapag mas malamig sa isang area, in comparison to other parts of the same place.”
Other eerie encounters
Wilson is a newly-hired chef assistant when he experienced what he considers a hair-raising welcome. During the death anniversary of Emilio Yap Sr., Manila Bulletin’s former chairman, he says he’s had weird—and creepy—experiences in the company kitchen. Either the rice cooker was malfunctioning or every dish was half-cooked despite an ample amount of cooking time. That’s not the last of it. “Habang nagmamasa kami, bigla na lang tumumba ‘yung mop sa gilid,” he recalls. “Wala namang gumalaw na ibang tao.” He says that willfully ignoring the sudden commotion helped them accomplish the task at hand.
But tenured employees are not the only ones who have stories to tell. Fresh graduates Barbie and Marella, who were both hired late last year as video producers, have also heard accounts of creepy experience; one of which is the sighting of a headless man. “May nagkwento lang sa amin. Dati raw sa area na ‘to—former library and now the digital-editorial team area—may nakita raw na pugot na ulo,” the girls recall.
Meanwhile, if stories about ghosts and spirits are not your type of scary, maybe this one is. Other supernatural entities—or more likely mythical—reportedly haunting the building are dwarves. In fact, as told to us by another seasoned employee, these creatures currently reside at the small houses situated somewhere in the court. And they playfully call your name when you’re in there.
Whether or not these stories—just a few among many others—are only the mind’s work of wonder, one thing is certain: you don’t always have to see to believe.
Watch the video here:
Images by Madel Crudo