21 May 2012

The White Lady of the Tamarind Tree

There used to be, just to the west of where I live, this frighteningly tall tamarind tree that in the dark of the night seemed the perfect place to find a tikbalang perched on one of the branches puffing on its large cigar. But no, bulong-bulungan in the neighbourhood was that it was a white lady that had taken residence, instead; and that once in a while, if it took her fancy, the lady would show herself to those foolhardy enough to walk past the tree in the dead of the night.

Years passed; and one day the tamarind tree was taken down and a gas station was built on the piece of land on which it once stood. That, or so I thought, was the last not only of the tamarind tree but also of the white lady stories.

Until a couple of days ago...

I was in conversation with a couple of neighbours about the road widening project and one of them told me that he was with the group that cut down the tamarind tree in preparation for the construction of the gas station.

Both neighbours were not originally from these parts; and so just to keep the conversation going if nothing else, I told the two about the white lady that it was said used to be seen in the vicinity of the tree that was felled.

What one of the neighbours said took me by surprise. “Meron pa din daw hô,” he said.

My eyebrows immediately shot upwards. Truth be told, I had not even thought of the white lady for the longest time until the other neighbour mentioned the tamarind tree.

Upon my prompting, the neighbour went on that in recent months, there were a couple of motorcycle accidents near the area. When the accident victims were quizzed, they told the same story: that they had swerved to avoid a lady in white who suddenly crossed the road seemingly from out of nowhere.

Of course, each time, the mysterious lady in white just seemed to have disappeared into thin air moments after the accident.

Creepy...

To think that all these years, I thought that the stories had gone away. Apparently not...

These white ladies, they are so part and parcel of Filipino folklore. They are, as a matter of fact, quite ubiquitous; and are just as likely to be seen on the streets of a sprawling metropolis as the gravel-paved roads of an agrarian village.

Inside the Base where I grew up, there were stories of a white lady being seen in the barrio section by those coming home from working late. One was careful not to be too brazen by going biking in the area at night.

In Nasugbu, as kids we used to laugh to the death at an uncle who himself told this succeeding story. Having heard of a white lady having been seen on the very street where he lived, he was hurrying home one night after spending time with his friends.

Spooked, and probably not just a little inebriated, he kept raising his foot in the dark trying to step over the tarangkahan leading to his home. But he kept missing the tarangkahan; which was hardly surprising because his home was still a good few metres away.

It was probably more the alcohol and less the white lady, who probably thought my uncle was too drunk to bother with, anyway.

As I said, even the cities have their own share of white lady stories. In the Palanan district of Makati where I lived in college, it was likewise whispered that one such lady could be seen walking the streets in the dead of the night.

Thus, it became habitual for my eyes to scan the deserted streets for anything unusual whenever I waited along the sidewalk for the balut vendor to pass by. That said, I was as wary of thieves as I was of the alleged white lady.

The stories are always the same whenever and wherever these white ladies are purportedly seen. From a distance, one will look perfectly human.

If the flowing white gown does not as yet alarm the people she shows herself to that they are about to encounter someone not of this dimension, the fact that her feet do not touch the ground always does.

Cue then for everyone to break into sprints to get as far away from the place as possible. Ask them if they remember how the lady’s face looked like and they will all tell you that she did not seem to have one.

The stories are always told this way, with just little variations here and there.

What are these white ladies, anyway? It is not, of course, as though anyone was ever brave enough to actually linger and ask the lady a few questions if just to settle arguments.

That they are not ghosts most people will probably agree on. Elementals, perhaps? Or just figments of the imagination?

I wouldn’t really know. Neither would I know how I would react if, God forbid, I ever come across one. What I do know is that I have always been able to run fast when I need to.








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