LAST Wednesday, my only daughter, Maria Teresa Margarita ‘Cuchie’ Alcuaz y Ahorro’s, Maryknoll High School ’89 classmate, Caren Bayhon Yrastorza, messengered her an FB post of Cory Press Secretary and Hawaii/Honolulu Consul General Tomas ‘Buddy’ Gomez III’s ABS-CBN News/Opinion feature: "From Ghost Story to Urban Legend: Authenticating ‘the Lady in White of Balete Drive.”
Just like their father, my children enjoyed telling their friends and relatives ghost stories about our 1927 American country home in New Manila, Barangay Mariana, District IV, Quezon City.
Our house was dismantled in late 2015 and transferred and reassembled at the Casa de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.
The top story was the ‘White Lady of Balete Drive!’ There was also the ‘Kapre’ in our ‘Pahutan’ Mango tree, St. Elmo’s fire jumping around in our two hectares garden, the old lady in our twenty - foot mirror in our sala, the pretty young girl who opened our gate for us on dark rainy nights, the old lady in our veranda, the headless soldier in our boy’s bedroom and so forth and so on ... While there are no more Balete trees on Balete Drive, we still have balete and rubber trees in what remains of our garden.
Our garden was bounded by four streets: Espana Ext./E. Rodriguez Ave., Balete Drive and Campanilla , Sampaguita and Ilang Ilang Streets.
My parents bought the house and garden with a thousand ‘piedra tsina’ for P 50,000.00 in April 1941 from Louis Joseph Francisco and his wife, an Italian-American.
They were interned at UST during the Japanese Occupation. Their daughter, Pomponette, married my uncle, Luis de Alcuaz y Tuazon. The latter was a Chemistry Instructor and the assistant of a Dominican priest. My uncle used to smuggle food, medicines and other necessities to the Internees (Americans and other Nationalities.).
The White Lady used to live three houses south of our block. Next door across Sampaguita Street, corner Balete Drive and Hibiscus St., was the home of Don Vicente Madrigal, followed by the home of Eduardo ‘Endeng’ Cojuangco y Chichioco, Sr. (1902 – 1952 – died of kidney failure), and Josephine B. Murphy.
Behind them, on Hibiscus St., were the hideouts or safe houses of Presidents Manuel L. Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña. At the southern end of the block, on Bouganvilla St., was the house of the Rectos.
Senator Claro Recto y Mayo (1890 - 1960) had two wives, Angeles Silos y Jamora and Aurora Reyes. Atty./Assemblyman Rafael Recto y Reyes, was a younger son of Senator Claro Recto y Mayo and the father of Vice Governor Ricky and Senator Raffy and married to Elvira Arrastia y Reinares.
However, the occupants of the house were Tomasing (1907 – 1966, of Tigaon, Partida, Camarines Sur) Garchitorena y Topacio and his wife, Maria Clara ‘Nena’ Recto y Silos. They had a daughter named Maria Elena ‘Leny’ who was a student and the treasurer of her class.
The latter died in a car accident in 1949. She became one of the ‘White Lady (ies) of Balete Drive’. In the past ten years since ‘OpinYon’ was launched on August 22, 2010, I usually write about ghosts during the Chinese Ghost month of August and around the Catholic Feast of ‘Todos Los Santos’.
However, Tomas ‘Buddy’ Gomez, of Samar, is an old friend and I asked his permission to quote extensively from his article in ABS CBN News/Opinion:
"Talked about for many decades, she has remained nameless. Perhaps such prolonged anonymity has contributed much to the alluring mystique.
“There is a Philippine ghost story that has achieved the status of an urban legend that refuses to die! Variegated versions just keep cropping up, competing with earlier spawns.
“Ghost stories never have a dedicated season. Halloween in the Philippines is popularly known as ‘todos los santos.’ It is about celebrating the dead and not about ghosts. Ghost stories are almost always folkloric, mythical superstitions and urban legends. They fall under the journalistic genre of ‘human interest’ reportage. They are ever being retold and passed on. In fact, just the other day I came upon another one on the Internet: “Myths Surrounding Balete Drive” (May 19, 2021).
(To be continued)