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My sister has been working graveyard shifts – as call centers are known to operate – and just recently experienced what the witching hour truly meant.

During their break, my sister along with another co-worker trudged to their quarters (where bunk beds are provided for employees) to catch some much needed rest from their call center duties. Her companion almost instantly fell asleep as soon as she hit one of the beds. My sister, however, said she spent a few more minutes just sitting on the bed while exchanging text messages with her husband. She finally decided to lie on her side and catch some sleep. And that was when the nightmare began.

She remembers, as soon as her head touched her pillow something dark covered her like a blanket thrown over. The shroud-like darkness was bearing down on her making it difficult to move. She was shouting but no sound came from her mouth, she was struggling to move but it seemed like she had gone stiff all over. She started to pray, first the Our Father, and when it did not seem to work, she prayed the Apostles Creed. Through her struggle she could only hear the sound of laughter from many voices. It was taunting and jeering, like a group of bullies having their kind of fun on a helpless victim.

As she struggled and prayed, part of the darkness that covered her seemed to be pulled down, offering her a view of the room as if she was wide awake. What she saw were other employees sleeping soundly, but on the top of the bunk bed across her was a girl, dark as a silhouette, playing with a stuffed toy as dark as her – both of them faceless. My sister just continued to shout, pray and struggle and suddenly in a whoosh that seemed like it was pulled away from her gut, the dark veil disappeared, the laughter stopped.

My sister sat up, looked around, exhausted. Everyone in the room was fast asleep. Moments later she fell into a deep sleep. Her co-workers said it took them a good ten minutes of shaking her hard before she woke up.

She would learn later that her companion had experienced the very same thing, saw the very same girl, heard the very same laughter. In fact their story was no different from a bunch of others. Even at the male employee’s own quarters. The exact same story.

We hear a lot of tales like these – ghost sightings, lost souls, poltergeist, demons, malevolent spirits, elementals from our local folklore like the dwende (tiny men, dwarf-like) – that almost always prod us to recount our own experience with the supernatural.

I have several of my own and hope no more will be added to it.

One of my “favorites” involves a creature in our very own folklore. A tikbalang.Image from Commonly defined as a creature that is half-man half-horse like a local version of the centaur, only ours is the other way round. This creature is said to have the body of a man but with the head and limbs of a horse. But what I saw doesn’t exactly fit this description.

What I saw was just a horse. Pitch black but as tall as a tree.

This was in the late seventies, I was probably 7 or 8 years old. The highway going to the north seemed like a really long stretch of road in front of you. On either side were vast, empty rice fields, save for some tall trees several meters away from each other. We were on our way home from my lola’s house in Pampanga. It was late and back then the highway was dark, with no street lamps to light the road. But that particular night, cloudless and moonlit, only the big old trees appeared as shadows. I sat by the window at the back seat, my older brother in front, and we were both just gazing outside. And then we saw it. A tall horse, galloping out of nowhere, as tall as the trees and just as quickly disappearing into another tree. My brother and I, both momentarily astounded started to exclaim at the same time, “Nakita nyo yun?” (“Did you see that?”) “Tikbalang!” Unfortunately, it was just the two of us making a ruckus of the whole thing, apparently, just the two minors in the car. My brother and I are both adults now and we both remember that night vividly. Nobody would confirm it, but we both knew what we saw.

As an adult, I was constantly plagued by nightmares which started when my sister got married and moved to a new home. I was left in the room we used to share. I would often experience nightmares where I thought I was awake but couldn’t move, I would see my room in half closed eyes and in the background I would hear a child’s voice, sometimes laughing. Usually, I would be too bothered and scared to fall back to sleep so I would usually go to my mom and dad and sleep with them. I was in college then.

What I consider the scariest was a “nightmare” where I knew I was awake, I could see my room but I couldn’t get up because a dark hand, gnarly and with long sharp nails, was holding my head down. The hand was covering half of my face but I could see between it’s fingers which were wide open. I tried to lift my head and saw, jumping up and down my tummy was a dwende. I don’t remember how long I struggled to wake up. But the memory of that gnarled hand has stayed with me.

Much study is being done about the spirits and the spirit world and how they connect or relate to us. Jaime Licauco, one of the more renowned authorities on psychic phenomena and the paranormal in the Philippines (the other being Madam Auring, I guess) once said in his column Inner Awareness, that right-brained people, being more intuitive are “prone” to seeing or encountering spirits than left-brained people who are more likely to rationalize things therefore shutting out their “third eye”. But Licauco nevertheless advises that when seeing an apparition, pulling your blanket over your head wouldn’t help much as the image is still in your head which means you’ll continue seeing it. What you should do, according to Licauco, is do something physical, like jump up and down. If I remember right, doing such an activity helps get your consciousness into what you’re doing (physically) and getting your mind off the vision. (I’ve been trying to look for that specific article, but couldn’t. Found a blog though, that contains his previous articles since 2003. The blog’s name is Inner Awareness.)