“ALL of a sudden, I remembered and realized that ‘the lady in white of Balete Drive’ had a hometown connection. My hometown. Calbayog, believe you me! Let me meaningfully meander awhile before I explain myself.
“Traditionally, the Balete tree possessed a mythical reputation of being host to myriad weird spirits. Balete Drive is an old undivided carriageway in Quezon City that runs from España Extension (now E. Rodriguez Ave.) cuts across Aurora Blvd. and onto N. Domingo. The thoroughfare was lined with Balete trees on both sides.
Since the very early 1950s, Balete Drive has been the supposed haunt of the ghostly “lady in white.”
“Incidentally, Balete tree belongs to the genus Ficus, somewhat related to but quite inferior to the gutta-percha rubber tree that produces industrial grade latex. There was another Balete tree-laden street in Metro Manila.
Until the very early 1950s, Mendiola Street upon which reside San Beda, Holy Ghost, La Consolacion and Centro Escolar, was alternately lined on each side with Balete and Sampaloc trees. They were all cut off to make way for the laying of water mains.
“One evening 72 years ago, there was a vehicular accident which resulted in the death of a comely teen age schoolgirl. “She was rushed to a hospital where she died the following day,” I was told. The sad mishap was in the vicinity of a Quezon City street that was lined with these mature Balete trees.
“A week after,” this friend recalls, “there were newspaper reports of sightings of a young lady dressed in white who hail a cab or private cars in Balete Drive, take the back seat and would mysteriously disappear.” “Many people believed this, including a Captain Babao of the QCPD, who was suspended for cowardice for refusing to patrol Balete Drive,” my friend reminisces.
“Thus began the cascade of tales. Here are some I gleaned from available cyber archives:
“The ghost is a teenage girl who was run over and killed by a taxi driver at night, then buried around a Balete tree in Balete Drive;” … “a lady residing in one of the old mansions along Balete Drive was killed by her own family and now, she flags every car to seek for help;” …. “Some say she was a real person killed in a hit-and-run case along Balete Drive;”….. “a student from the University of Philippines who was molested and murdered by a cab driver on her way home and her body thrown by the Balete tree;” ….. “a famous white lady called “Babae sa Balete Drive”, appears and haunts motorists starting at midnight, sometimes appears in the rearview mirror or sitting at the backseat of one’s car.
“There, too, was a horror flick by the late Peque Gallaga: “Hiwaga sa Balete Drive.”
“Who, indeed, was this mysterious lady?
“Thus, I reached out to that longtime friend from Calbayog remembering that he, Deo, was, himself, in that memorialized accident seven decades ago.
“Deo is Deogracias Tancinco Ortega now in retirement in Torrance, LA County, California. He’s a lawyer who served as Calbayog City Fiscal (Prosecutor) from 1967 to 1986 when he immigrated to the US.
Although a bit younger, Deo is a UP Sigma Rho fratman, vintage of Paeng Salas, Nacie Debuque, and Johnny Ponce Enrile, etc. Deo belonged to UP High School, Class of 1951, of which another Sigma Rhoan, Raul Daza, who also has Calbayog roots, was valedictorian. (To be continued)