I must have been about four or five years old when I started feeling unusual things and seeing strange people which other members of my family can’t see. I remember that I had no desire to go to sleep early like ordinary kids do because the moment I close my eyes, I begin to see strange people and fear was like a knot in my stomach. I always see these people when I was in a half-awake, half-asleep state and I was confused if it all true or just a part of a dream.
The nightly visitors continued to haunt me even when I was already 9 years old, and new ones kept appearing. It felt like entering a world of terror that I would often ask my father to accompany me to the bathroom to get away from these visions but the moment I lay down and closed my eyes, they would be there again. I began to dread the evenings.
We lived in a small house beside my grandpa’s house in the sleepy town of Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur. My grandpa’s house is on the second floor while the first floor is a huge vacant area where we kids used. He lived with my two aunts (one widowed and one a spinster) and a cousin. My grandma died when I was not yet born, and I had no idea what she looked like. I remember climbing up to the big house often and sitting on my grandpa’s lap. He would tickle me until I turn black and blue, and stop just at the moment when I couldn’t seem to breathe anymore. He would then flip the mat on his bed open and let me choose coins from under the mat. I would always choose the five centavo coin and he would let me go.
Occasionally, my widowed aunt would ask me to sleep in the big house with them and I always do so, snuggling between my aunt and my cousin.
I couldn’t remember what woke me up one particular morning. It must have been about five o’clock, but it was still dark and chilly. My aunt and cousin were fast asleep. Even before I opened my eyes I felt a strong presence in the room, a foreboding sense that someone was looking at me. I was right. I opened my eyes and stared straight into the clear eyes of a woman wearing a set of clothes which I later saw was the fashion of the early 1960s. She had on a long white veil but I clearly saw her eyes. She was carrying a baby in her arms and she was looking straight at me. I was sure I was fully awake that time and was not just seeing things. I shut my eyes tight and opened them again to see if the woman had evaporated, but she was still there.
Fear engulfed me and I remember curling myself into a tight ball and squeezing in tighter between my two companions. I never told anyone about what I saw but I refused to sleep in the big house again. But I never forgot that woman.
Fast forward a couple of decades later, my younger brother confessed that he saw a woman when he slept in that same room years ago. He described the woman and I gulped, shocking him when I continued the description for him.
That same day, I was browsing through the collection old photos belonging to my parents hidden inside an old wooden box (baol). Old and faded photos of my father and mother, my aunts and uncles when they were kids, our kiddie photos until I picked a particular jaded photo and I went pale and stock still. It was the woman I saw in that room. Noticing my reaction, my brother came near me and had a look. His eyes grew big and he dropped the photo in shock. We looked at each other and understanding dawned on us.
My father told us later that his mother, our grandma died in that same room where saw her, at around five in the morning.