Monday, April 30, 2007
Ghost Stories And Strange Tales
In my desire to impress my mother with the wonders of web and the internet, i recently convinced her to have a website where she can post her personal collection of ghost stories for people to read and appreciate. After months of jitters and getting the help of the professionals at Yehey.com, her website was finally launched - -www.mimighoststories.com.ph - - her stories of ghosts and strange encounters, mostly myths, legends and folk tales from the island of western visayas, where my mother grew up and the central home of my clan - the Illenberger.
Reading her collection is like taking a trip to the world of story telling. I am amazed of the depth and understanding my mother has on local folk tales and her imagination in weaving stories inspired by actual events or taken from bits and pieces of myths handed down from generations ago. I also discovered, that some were stories coming from our family clan including her personal experiences when she travelled in Europe.
Here's one story that i like best :
Of Dreams and Undying Love
By Mimi Illenberger-Mapa
Memory is the dream we all
carry about with us…..Oscar Wilde
I dream of my grandmother whenever I am terribly upset. My dream is always the same- my beloved lola with her favorite shawl wrapped around her frail shoulders, her smiling face radiant in the soft flickering light of vesper candles. The vision is ethereal and it never fails to bring comfort and peace to me. Over the years, I learned to look forward to this dream although I can never will it to happen no matter how hard I try.
My sister too had this dream which continues to puzzle her. As a child she would dream of a church and a churchyard - and her entering it. It would be just that, the same church - old, intimidating and awesome with its moss covered façade. The same dream came twice or thrice a year and always during siesta time. This went on for years until one day, as a young professional she accompanied my mother on a vacation to Valladolid, Negros Occidental. There she saw the church of her dreams for the first time ! The dream after having blended with reality , stopped coming.
Through the years, friends and office mates have offered explanations, none of which has been acceptable to my sister. She especially hates to think she has seen the place in another lifetime. She deplores the theory of reincarnation, of her soul being someone else's too. My sister simply hates the idea of her soul not being hers alone.
But there must be some rational or scientific explanation to these haunting dreams specially when it takes a bizarre twist as in the case of Freddie F. But to appreciate the story, we need to go back to the time when it all began - -.
Elena was the youngest child in the family and the only daughter. She was a pampered, strong-willed lass who openly rebelled against her conservative upbringing. She was not quite nineteen when she got herself pregnant by an much older man - a good looking balladeer in a nearby night club. The guy simply vanished from her life when she told him of her predicament.
Fearing her parents' wrath and the consequent scandal of her out-of-wedlock motherhood, she left school and went into hiding in an obscure fishing village somewhere in the outskirts of Davao. There she peacefully awaited the arrival of her child in the company of two gentle septuagenarians, grandparents of the lady security guard she had befriended in school. She gave birth sans medical attention and died a few weeks later from postpartum complications. She left a son whom she named Michael.
Freddie did not like what his younger sibling begged him to do. But how could he say no to her dying request? The grieving brother left the baby with the elderly couple and took his sister's body home for burial. Ten months later, he was back and soon after he was on his way to Europe with a baby boy in his arms.
" This is my son," he proudly told the stewardess who helped him with the baby's formula. The years rolled by.
It took a little more than a decade before he sent for his parents to visit him in England. This was their first trip abroad but they somehow knew their son was well off as evidenced by the expensive gifts and generous allowance he regularly sent them. But nothing prepared them for what laid ahead.
The sight of Freddie waiting for them in the airport - so tall, so trim, and looking every bit like an Englishman in his business suit made the old matriarch gasp with surprise. She began to weep as she embraced her bemused son, " I'd forgotten how handsome you are."
His mother was still crying when the limousine slowly pulled into the driveway of a large, turn-of-the-century mansion. The vast estate was abloom with the flowers of spring and it reminded her of a postcard she had recently received. Both spouses were so overwhelmed with the opulence of their surroundings they failed to notice the strapping boy with light brown hair and pale gray eyes seated beside the grand piano observing them with open curiosity.
The following morning, Freddie decided it was time to tell his parents and Michael the secret he had faithfully kept to himself for many years. It was not easy. His mother promptly burst into hysterics accusing him of lying to the family, his father called him a cad. But all negative feelings were instantaneously forgotten when Michael was summoned and introduced to them. It was a touching moment and soon it was Freddie's turn to cry. He was so relieved and happy when his old mother turned and hugged him too, thanking him profusely for being such a good son and brother. " I am sorry, son. It must have been hard for you too."
The years his grand parents spent in England proved to be quite memorable for Michael who decided to be a concert pianist , thanks to influence of his grandma who was a retired music teacher. Freddie too rediscovered the joys of fishing and with his dad, decided to join a well known angler's club. It was an idyllic life until his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
The oldsters decided to return to their old country. When death finally claimed both spouses, Freddie and Michael were not able to return to the Philippines A few years later, Freddie also died and it was his wish to be buried beside his parents. This brought Michael back to his ancestral home.
In was during Freddie's wake when we heard Michael narrate the story of his uncle's haunting dreams and undying love. It is an unusual tale:
Freddie was a twenty two year old student in the College of Engineering when he met the lovely and articulate English professor. Ms. Sandra C was in her early thirties; the wife of an up and coming corporate lawyer and the mother of two hyper active boys. Their chance meeting came about when he approached her for a small donation to the university fund drive. As president of the university student council, he was spear heading a campaign to raise money for the ancient school chapel that had fallen into disrepair.
It did not take long for them to discover they had so many common interests. The age gap did not seem to matter when they were together. They shared the same views with life in general, laughed at similar jokes, subscribed to the same books and magazines and even enjoyed the same past time - fishing. They were extremely compatible, they could have been soul mates.
A few days before graduation, Freddie surprised Sandra with a ”going away" present. It was a small box wrapped in ordinary brown paper.
" Open the box when you get home. But please take care of it. Be sure you do not misplace it" The young man smiled as he pressed the tiny box into her hand. "I'll see you during graduation day." The young man was graduating with honors.
" What is it this time, something to last forever?" She joked. It was such a flippant remark but Freddie always managed to bring out the school girl in her. "Thanks Fred. See you."
Hurrying to her classroom, she absent mindedly placed the gift inside the large tote bag she always carried with her. She had gotten used to his little gifts of affection - a chocolate bar every now and then, a flower he picked up somewhere along the football field, a book marker he fancied. As a popular teacher, she was used to this kind of adulation from her students and thought nothing of it. All her friends, Freddie included, knew she was a happily married woman.
When the young man failed to show up on graduation day, the teacher was worried. It was so unlike him. It was only then when Sandra remembered his little gift. To her surprise it was a square cut stone the color of pine trees set in a wide gold band. She mistook it for a well-crafted costume jewelry until she read his note: this emerald ring belongs to my mother. She said I should give it to that special woman in my life."
Sandra was speechless. She knew she could not accept such a priceless heirloom. This was not meant for an ordinary lady friend like her but for his future bride. And besides, how will she explain the ring to her husband and children without giving them wild ideas?
A few weeks later, after discreetly asking around for his whereabouts, Sandra finally traced his forwarding address to an affluent section in Makati. To her consternation, she learned that Freddie had rushed home the afternoon before graduation day. He had been summoned by his sister.
" A pity Freddie didn't get to receive his medals on graduation day." his former landlady explained, " He hasn't returned for his personal belongings either.'
No none knew what exactly happened and there was no news from him either. The years flew. Sandra and her family migrated to the United States and yet there was not a single day Sandra didn't think of Freddie. And so the ring remained hidden among the silken folds of Sandra's jewelry box which she kept under lock and key until her sudden death at age of 55. Her husband found the ring among her collection of expensive pieces and decided to give it to their oldest son for "that special woman in your life."
Meanwhile, in far away England, Freddie had succeeded to curve a name for himself in the oil industry. He worked hard and played hard and like most party-loving singles, he was frequently seen escorting beautiful women.
This accomplished executive was the company's most elusive bachelor. Friends and office mates loved to tease him about it, wondering aloud how a successful hunk like him could remain unhitched. Unless of course he had unusual preferences. His peers found it strange how he could be contented living in such a magnificent estate with only a young boy and an old manservant to keep him company.
" Don't you ever long for a more female company?"
" Of course, I do, " He would readily counter. " And I have a woman here every now and then when my son is away on vacation. But marriage is not my cup of tea."
Did bachelor hood have something to do with the lady whose picture he kept in his private library? Did the red roses on the silver vase mean he still carried a torch for her? Who was she? How come he never talked about her when he was so obviously in love with her?
"What's wrong with you, Papa?" Michael stormed into his room one day. I am so tired of people insinuating you're gay. Why don't you tell us who your secret love is?"
His uncle's reply chilled Michael to the bones. " The day I tell you her name will be the day I walk out of this world. Remember that always." The boy never opened the topic again.
Freddie's recurring dreams began the day he turned fifty three. Every time he had a problem in the office or whenever he was stressed out, he would dream of her. It was always the same dream - she was seated on a large boulder by the river bank, her bare feet resting on a carpet of tiny flowers that had sprouted from the huge rock. Behind her the river flowed like pale silk and the sky shimmered with a pale incandescence. Dancing moonbeams gave her fair skin some sort of mystical glow as the evening breeze blew soft tendrils of hair across her lovely face. The entire vision was bathe in silver and as his heart raced in his effort to call out, he heard his name whispered in the gentle winds of his dream.." Freddie, oh Freddie…"
He had always been a health buff and had hardly ever been sick; his worst complaint had been a bothersome cold that had kept him indoors one wintry weekend. And so, when in the middle of a management meeting, he suddenly clutched his head screaming in pain, his colleagues were immobilized with shock.. In a matter of seconds, he was unconscious. The responding family physician immediately referred him to a neurologist. Freddie remained in the hospital for a week.
Freddie knew his days were numbered when the neurologist showed him the results of his x-rays, knew in his heart the inevitable hour was at hand. And so without much ado, he began putting his affairs in order. The welfare and security of Michael was foremost in his mind.
The doctors wanted him in the hospital a week before surgery for further tests. The day he moved into the large, sunny room in the east wing of the famous hospital , he brought only three things with him - his checkbook, a large family album and the picture of his mysterious lady friend which he promptly positioned by his bedside.
A few minutes after Freddie was finally wheeled out of surgery into his new quarters, an intensive care room only the rich and famous who wanted complete isolation and exclusive service can afford, the overwrought Michael decided to take a breather. As he passed by the nursing station which was just across his uncle's room, the young man waved at the nurse on duty signaling with his fingers he would be gone for only a hour or so.
" I'll just grab a bite to eat," he whispered. " I'm famished."
" It's okay. I'll keep an eye on him." The nurse gently reassured him. " He'll be sleeping for hours."
When the young man returned barely an hour later, he was shocked with what he saw. His uncle was already up and about , dressed in street clothes and ready to leave with a lady companion who reminded him of the actress Ingrid Bergman. The stranger was dressed in a diaphanous gown. And his uncle had never looked so happy and so vigorously alive. Who would have imagined he had just undergone a major brain surgery only hours before !
Holding each others hand, the pair walked…no, they floated towards him His uncle smiled fondly at Michael and touched his face ever so lightly, " Try not to miss me too much my son. Be happy for Sandra and me. "
Before the couple faded into the inky darkness that lay beyond the open window at the end of the corridor, Michael had already recognized the stranger. She was the mysterious woman in the picture.
Freddie F., CEO of Global Explorations, Inc. was only 55 years old when he died.