First section

Various Spirits Fucking with Me Through the Years:

A retelling of related and unrelated events

Vivienne Salcedo

Unknown.

2001. Less than a year old.

My aunt found me below the open window of the second-floor bedroom. She had left me cooing and babbling in the crib to go to the bathroom. When she came back, the door was locked, and the room was silent.

She said I was nearly stolen. My grandfather had to break the hinges to get to me, and by the time he was able to, they could see a shadow was moving past the window. She didn’t know who or what tried to take me, but some neighbors said they saw something fly away from the second-floor window. Others said it jumped. The only thing they agreed on is that they were sure they saw a long tongue.

They all say that it was either a TikTik or a Manananggal. I was nearly taken by either a jumping spirit that tiktiktiked loudly while it was far away but tiktiktiked quietly when it was near. Or a woman who detached her lower half and sprouted batwings to fly around with her intestines hanging out.  

I don’t think it matters to know which it really was, because both do the same thing: they eat babies. I wasn’t nearly stolen. I was nearly eaten. Fucking eaten.

I wasn’t allowed back in my grandfather’s house until I turned six. They nailed a stingray’s tail to the front door when I came, to use as a ward and whip against the spirits and creatures. Nobody has tried to steal me since then.

Duwende.

2008. Seven years old

Nay Soling was the local manghihilot, a healer with blessed hands. She was getting a headache while she rubbed my feet to pull the fever out through my toes. I was counting how many times she burped, but I lost count after 30. She said I had a lot of air in my body and a lot of spirits looking at me. I had thought it was a good thing. I didn’t realize there was a difference between looking at me and looking out for me.

I left the hut with my nanny after Nay Soling rubbed her spit on my stomach and pinned ginger to my shirt. We were walking home when I tripped and lodged my knee into a mound of dirt. I didn’t know why my nanny was so worried even though I wasn’t wounded.

Then I found out why, three days later, when I couldn’t stand. My knee was ugly and bruised, swollen with red and purple dots all over. It didn’t hurt. I couldn’t feel it hurt, because it felt like the leg wasn’t there at all.

My nanny carried me to the hut to see Nay Soling. She told me I knocked over a Duwende’s house – spirits of the earth small enough to live inside mounds of dirt. Then she spat on my knee and told me toapologize to the homeowner I made homeless.

I placed a plain rice cake, absolutely no salt or sugar, as Nay Soling instructed, on the Duwende’s home– a now nearly flat dirt mound. I knelt and bowed until my forehead touched the ground.

“Sorry,mang Duwende. Indi ko hungod.” Sorry,elder dwarf. I did not mean to.

WhenI walked to Nay Soling the next day with a less ugly knee that could hold my weight, the dirt mound looked freshly made and the rice cake was gone. I bowed when I passed and said a phrase, one I now say nearly every day:

“Tabitabi, po.” Excuse me, sir.

Unnamed Bathroom Ghost.

2010. 10 years old.

I was locked in the second stall of the bathroom by the stairwell. I just wanted to pee in peace, so I went to the ‘quiet’ bathroom, which was quiet because nobody ever used it. Nobody ever used it because it was more often called the ‘haunted bathroom by the stairwell,’ but haunted bathroom rumors are pretty staple in every Catholic School alongside Pugot, the cut, aptly named because they’re nuns and priests whose heads were cut off. I didn’t think much of the haunted bathroom rumor until I was locked inside.  

I heard the toilet in the other stall flush, but I didn’t hear any doors open, any stalls shut, or any footsteps enter. I wanted to get the fuck out. But I couldn’t.  

The latch was stuck. The hinges wouldn’t snap. The door wouldn’t move.  

The door had a significant space between its bottom and the floor, and while it was a privacy concern most of the time, I didn’t care much in that moment. What I cared about was that it was large enough for me to crawl under.  

I remember ducking down and muttering “Fudge,” because God forbid that I curse out loud, when I saw a pair of shoes outside the cubicle, to the right of my head.

Fuck that.

My eyes were fixed on the exit as I squirmed, crawled, and ran left. I did not want to meet the bathroom ghost.

I started peeing in the bathroom on the opposite side of the building. The not haunted bathroom by the stairwell.  

Kapre and Engkanto.

2013. 13 years old.  

The dermatologists didn’t know what was wrong with me. I looked like the opposite of a Dalmatian with large white spots all over my dark skin. I didn’t itch or feel pain. I didn’t have a temperature, nor was I responding to creams or pills. They thought I simply had a harmless pigmentation issue.

The albularyo said I was going to die.

Albularyos are herbal healers, and while I knew that they diagnosed ailments, I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with death. I didn’t fully understand how I was going to die, and I didn’t have time to think about it. I was naked and standing in the middle of a basin while the albularyo, covered in beaded necklaces and gold bracelets, scrubbed my skin raw with a rag that felt like sandpaper.

I thought she was trying to rub the white away, but she was doing something entirely different. She was coating me in tree sap. It was sticky and the rag was rough. It felt like my skin was coming off, but the sap kept me together.

I began to sweat sticks and stones, and I remember thinking sticks and stones may break my bones and now they’re coming out of me. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel my pores stretch. I wasn’t bleeding. But they were there, and they covered the bottom of the basin. It almost felt like I was standing in a garden.

The albularyo said there were two spirits who were upset with me.  

First was a Kapre. They’re giants that sit in trees, smoke cigars, and occasionally kidnap girls – turns out we had one taking residence in the mango tree in our yard. Second was an Engkanto, a nature spirit. A little one was living in my mother’s flowers. She said they filled me with sticks and stones to get back at me for ignoring them. I didn’t realise I was interacting with any spirits at that time.

I did play outside a lot as a child. I stopped when school started demanding more of me. Spirits like watching children, and I suppose that’s what Nay Soling meant when she said I had a lot of spirits looking at me.

The spots on my skin were nearly scrubbed out, but they only really disappeared after a week of burning salt at sunset and sitting in the smoke for an hour. The spots never came back. I started studying outside.

Puti na Espiritu.

2016. 16 years old.

I saw someone peeking through my windows one night. My mother built a house near my grandfather’s, and my room had windows that started at the floor and went up to the ceiling. The white woven blinds didn’t fully cover them. The curtain rods were hung a foot or so lower than normal so that moonlight could come in even with the blinds drawn.

Something else tried to get in, too. It was a girl, and she would have been pretty if her eyes weren’t so beady and her face so gaunt. She was upside-down, and I wondered if this was the girl my niece told me about – her friend in the ceiling.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t panic. I sighed, and she stared. She didn’t seem scared of me, nor was I of her. I was tired and I wanted to sleep, and I did. Well, I tried. Sleeping is hard when someone’s staring at you.

She stared the whole night.

In the morning, I asked my mom to raise the curtain rods higher, high enough to cover the window, and she did.  

I didn’t see the girl anymore, but I could hear quiet taptaptaps on the glass. So, I wore headphones to bed. When I started hearing quiet footsteps that echoed my own, I started wearing them around the house too.

After a week of window-tapping and following footsteps, my mother took notice of my exhaustion. I told her about the girl in the window who wouldn’t leave me alone. The next day, a man with six dots on his forehead came inside our home with a bag of raw chicken hearts. He said they were halad, offerings for our ‘friend.’  

He rubbed them on our windows and doors to mark them with blood, and he pressed one to my forehead while he prayed over me. He said that the girl was nothing more than a Puti na Espiritu, a White Spirit – pure and innocent – and that she was harmless, just curious.

He told me I should get used to visitors.

Itom na Espiritu.

2021. 21 years old.

For the first time since I was a child, I stayed over at my grandfather’s house. I shared a room with my siblings, and we planned to wake at five to drive to the beach and catch the sunrise.

That night, I wrote this note on my phone:

I just woke up. Somebody held my ankles and wrists. I thought it was morning and Achi was trying to wake me up. It felt like someone was blowing in my ear and when I tried to speak a hand came upon my face. I couldn’t open my eyes and my body refused to move. There was a weight on my chest like somebody sitting on me. It started to hurt. It felt real. It felt like somebody was pushing me down. I snapped my head to the left so fast my neck cracked. It’s 3:37 now as I write this. I don’t want to sleep yet.

I remember sitting up and staring at my siblings. I sat and stared until alarms started blaring, the sounds pounding into my eardrums as everyone started waking up to get ready for the beach.

I told them I had a rough night and showed them the note. I was always my grandfather’s favourite, they said, and because nothing has ever happened to me, they thought it was gone. Then they told me about what it did to the others.

About six people have died in my grandfather’s house. All of them passed in their sleep, and all of them were, at one point, my grandfather’s ‘favourite’. One was his gardener, who he considered a close friend. I wasn’t alive when he died, but I was told that he was found with eyes wide open. One was a driver who accompanied my grandfather to events. He was found lying on his stomach with his face flat against his pillow.

They told me that they believe that it was someone in the house that liked my grandfather a lot and disliked those close to him. Itom na Espiritu, they called it. A jealous spirit, an angry one.

Fuck that.

We got ready to leave, but each step closer to the door felt heavier than the last. My body felt stiff and rigid as I walked, as if it was disagreeing with me. A voice that sounded almost like my own told me to stay, stay, stay.

I stopped sleeping at my grandfather’s house after that.

First section

There are two spirits illustrated in black and red. In the front of the image is a large, gorilla-like creature, a kapre, sitting on a branch. It has a large belly and claw-like hands. It is smoking a cigar, which emits red smoke. Its eyes are red. It has shoulder-length hair, which is slicked back over its head.
Floating behind the kapre is a Manananggal, a humanoid creature with long hair and large bat wings She has long, flowing hair which surrounds her head. Her long, red, tongue is sticking out of her mouth like a long whip, circling around in front of her face. Her wings are pointing upwards. They are black and veined. Her chest is bare, and her nipples are deep red. Her right hand is outstretched, fingers curling - the fingers end in long, sharp claws. The smoke from the kapre’s cigarette crosses the Mananggal’s hand. Her left hand is prone at her side.
The image appears as if the lower half of her torso has been cut off – her spinal cord and intestines hang loose next to her hands.

Various Spirits Fucking with Me Through the Years:

Various Spirits Fucking with Me Through the Years: A retelling of related and unrelated events

Vivienne Salcedo

Unknown.

2001. Less than a year old.

My aunt found me below the open window of the second-floor bedroom. She had left me cooing and babbling in the crib to go to the bathroom. When she came back, the door was locked, and the room was silent.

She said I was nearly stolen. My grandfather had to break the hinges to get to me, and by the time he was able to, they could see a shadow was moving past the window. She didn’t know who or what tried to take me, but some neighbors said they saw something fly away from the second-floor window. Others said it jumped. The only thing they agreed on is that they were sure they saw a long tongue.

They all say that it was either a TikTik or a Manananggal. I was nearly taken by either a jumping spirit that tiktiktiked loudly while it was far away but tiktiktiked quietly when it was near. Or a woman who detached her lower half and sprouted batwings to fly around with her intestines hanging out.  

I don’t think it matters to know which it really was, because both do the same thing: they eat babies. I wasn’t nearly stolen. I was nearly eaten. Fucking eaten.

I wasn’t allowed back in my grandfather’s house until I turned six. They nailed a stingray’s tail to the front door when I came, to use as a ward and whip against the spirits and creatures. Nobody has tried to steal me since then.

Duwende.

2008. Seven years old

Nay Soling was the local manghihilot, a healer with blessed hands. She was getting a headache while she rubbed my feet to pull the fever out through my toes. I was counting how many times she burped, but I lost count after 30. She said I had a lot of air in my body and a lot of spirits looking at me. I had thought it was a good thing. I didn’t realize there was a difference between looking at me and looking out for me.

I left the hut with my nanny after Nay Soling rubbed her spit on my stomach and pinned ginger to my shirt. We were walking home when I tripped and lodged my knee into a mound of dirt. I didn’t know why my nanny was so worried even though I wasn’t wounded.

Then I found out why, three days later, when I couldn’t stand. My knee was ugly and bruised, swollen with red and purple dots all over. It didn’t hurt. I couldn’t feel it hurt, because it felt like the leg wasn’t there at all.

My nanny carried me to the hut to see Nay Soling. She told me I knocked over a Duwende’s house – spirits of the earth small enough to live inside mounds of dirt. Then she spat on my knee and told me toapologize to the homeowner I made homeless.

I placed a plain rice cake, absolutely no salt or sugar, as Nay Soling instructed, on the Duwende’s home– a now nearly flat dirt mound. I knelt and bowed until my forehead touched the ground.

“Sorry,mang Duwende. Indi ko hungod.” Sorry,elder dwarf. I did not mean to.

WhenI walked to Nay Soling the next day with a less ugly knee that could hold my weight, the dirt mound looked freshly made and the rice cake was gone. I bowed when I passed and said a phrase, one I now say nearly every day:

“Tabitabi, po.” Excuse me, sir.

Unnamed Bathroom Ghost.

2010. 10 years old.

I was locked in the second stall of the bathroom by the stairwell. I just wanted to pee in peace, so I went to the ‘quiet’ bathroom, which was quiet because nobody ever used it. Nobody ever used it because it was more often called the ‘haunted bathroom by the stairwell,’ but haunted bathroom rumors are pretty staple in every Catholic School alongside Pugot, the cut, aptly named because they’re nuns and priests whose heads were cut off. I didn’t think much of the haunted bathroom rumor until I was locked inside.  

I heard the toilet in the other stall flush, but I didn’t hear any doors open, any stalls shut, or any footsteps enter. I wanted to get the fuck out. But I couldn’t.  

The latch was stuck. The hinges wouldn’t snap. The door wouldn’t move.  

The door had a significant space between its bottom and the floor, and while it was a privacy concern most of the time, I didn’t care much in that moment. What I cared about was that it was large enough for me to crawl under.  

I remember ducking down and muttering “Fudge,” because God forbid that I curse out loud, when I saw a pair of shoes outside the cubicle, to the right of my head.

Fuck that.

My eyes were fixed on the exit as I squirmed, crawled, and ran left. I did not want to meet the bathroom ghost.

I started peeing in the bathroom on the opposite side of the building. The not haunted bathroom by the stairwell.  

Kapre and Engkanto.

2013. 13 years old.  

The dermatologists didn’t know what was wrong with me. I looked like the opposite of a Dalmatian with large white spots all over my dark skin. I didn’t itch or feel pain. I didn’t have a temperature, nor was I responding to creams or pills. They thought I simply had a harmless pigmentation issue.

The albularyo said I was going to die.

Albularyos are herbal healers, and while I knew that they diagnosed ailments, I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with death. I didn’t fully understand how I was going to die, and I didn’t have time to think about it. I was naked and standing in the middle of a basin while the albularyo, covered in beaded necklaces and gold bracelets, scrubbed my skin raw with a rag that felt like sandpaper.

I thought she was trying to rub the white away, but she was doing something entirely different. She was coating me in tree sap. It was sticky and the rag was rough. It felt like my skin was coming off, but the sap kept me together.

I began to sweat sticks and stones, and I remember thinking sticks and stones may break my bones and now they’re coming out of me. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel my pores stretch. I wasn’t bleeding. But they were there, and they covered the bottom of the basin. It almost felt like I was standing in a garden.

The albularyo said there were two spirits who were upset with me.  

First was a Kapre. They’re giants that sit in trees, smoke cigars, and occasionally kidnap girls – turns out we had one taking residence in the mango tree in our yard. Second was an Engkanto, a nature spirit. A little one was living in my mother’s flowers. She said they filled me with sticks and stones to get back at me for ignoring them. I didn’t realise I was interacting with any spirits at that time.

I did play outside a lot as a child. I stopped when school started demanding more of me. Spirits like watching children, and I suppose that’s what Nay Soling meant when she said I had a lot of spirits looking at me.

The spots on my skin were nearly scrubbed out, but they only really disappeared after a week of burning salt at sunset and sitting in the smoke for an hour. The spots never came back. I started studying outside.

Puti na Espiritu.

2016. 16 years old.

I saw someone peeking through my windows one night. My mother built a house near my grandfather’s, and my room had windows that started at the floor and went up to the ceiling. The white woven blinds didn’t fully cover them. The curtain rods were hung a foot or so lower than normal so that moonlight could come in even with the blinds drawn.

Something else tried to get in, too. It was a girl, and she would have been pretty if her eyes weren’t so beady and her face so gaunt. She was upside-down, and I wondered if this was the girl my niece told me about – her friend in the ceiling.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t panic. I sighed, and she stared. She didn’t seem scared of me, nor was I of her. I was tired and I wanted to sleep, and I did. Well, I tried. Sleeping is hard when someone’s staring at you.

She stared the whole night.

In the morning, I asked my mom to raise the curtain rods higher, high enough to cover the window, and she did.  

I didn’t see the girl anymore, but I could hear quiet taptaptaps on the glass. So, I wore headphones to bed. When I started hearing quiet footsteps that echoed my own, I started wearing them around the house too.

After a week of window-tapping and following footsteps, my mother took notice of my exhaustion. I told her about the girl in the window who wouldn’t leave me alone. The next day, a man with six dots on his forehead came inside our home with a bag of raw chicken hearts. He said they were halad, offerings for our ‘friend.’  

He rubbed them on our windows and doors to mark them with blood, and he pressed one to my forehead while he prayed over me. He said that the girl was nothing more than a Puti na Espiritu, a White Spirit – pure and innocent – and that she was harmless, just curious.

He told me I should get used to visitors.

Itom na Espiritu.

2021. 21 years old.

For the first time since I was a child, I stayed over at my grandfather’s house. I shared a room with my siblings, and we planned to wake at five to drive to the beach and catch the sunrise.

That night, I wrote this note on my phone:

I just woke up. Somebody held my ankles and wrists. I thought it was morning and Achi was trying to wake me up. It felt like someone was blowing in my ear and when I tried to speak a hand came upon my face. I couldn’t open my eyes and my body refused to move. There was a weight on my chest like somebody sitting on me. It started to hurt. It felt real. It felt like somebody was pushing me down. I snapped my head to the left so fast my neck cracked. It’s 3:37 now as I write this. I don’t want to sleep yet.

I remember sitting up and staring at my siblings. I sat and stared until alarms started blaring, the sounds pounding into my eardrums as everyone started waking up to get ready for the beach.

I told them I had a rough night and showed them the note. I was always my grandfather’s favourite, they said, and because nothing has ever happened to me, they thought it was gone. Then they told me about what it did to the others.

About six people have died in my grandfather’s house. All of them passed in their sleep, and all of them were, at one point, my grandfather’s ‘favourite’. One was his gardener, who he considered a close friend. I wasn’t alive when he died, but I was told that he was found with eyes wide open. One was a driver who accompanied my grandfather to events. He was found lying on his stomach with his face flat against his pillow.

They told me that they believe that it was someone in the house that liked my grandfather a lot and disliked those close to him. Itom na Espiritu, they called it. A jealous spirit, an angry one.

Fuck that.

We got ready to leave, but each step closer to the door felt heavier than the last. My body felt stiff and rigid as I walked, as if it was disagreeing with me. A voice that sounded almost like my own told me to stay, stay, stay.

I stopped sleeping at my grandfather’s house after that.