Urban legends will be retold when Pinoys meet for undas

•       Two ghost stories that have become urban legends in the metro – the lady at Balete Drive and the eerie air around the Film Center

•       La Loma Catholic Cemetery was opened in 1884 and the list of people buried there is a ‘who’s who’ of historical figures


Tradition to show remembrance and respect for the dead is buried deep in the lives of Pinoys who tried to beat the closure order on all cemeteries around the country from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 just to visit their dearly departed.

With the cemeteries closed, expect families to meet via zoom or other online apps to reminisce and strengthen the bond between siblings and relatives through stories told and retold during undas. Many families will just stay at home, light candles to remember the dead, and perhaps talk about old times.

Here are three stories that have been told and retold when family and friends used to gather for undas. Two are ghost stories that have become urban legends, one is about the oldest burial site in Caloocan.

The lady at Balete Drive

The lady of Balete Drive will be one of the stories that will be recalled during the days leading to Halloween and All Souls Day (Oct. 31 to Nov. 2) continuing the urban legend that has been told and retold for 72 years now.

The mystery behind the death of the "Lady of Balete Drive" has taken on many versions but one tale remains – the spirit of a young woman whose cause of death colors every version of the urban legend roams Baleta Drive in Quezon City, specifically haunting motorists – and so the stories say.

A man interviewed by a local broadcaster years ago had claimed that the ghost was his friend named “Leni” who had died in a car accident at that street in 1949!

It is not clear if Leni was the driver or passenger in a vehicle which hit a pile of gravel along
España Extension Boulevard near the Balete Drive one night in 1949. The impact of vehicle hitting a mound of gravel turned the vehicle upside-down, causing injuries to Leni. She was rushed to a nearby hospital but died the next day, her friend reportedly said.

But there’s also a story that says the young woman was a victim of a hit-and-run incident where the taxi driver had buried her under a balete tree that stood along the street named Balete Drive.

A Balete tree (Photo from unsplash)

Another story says that the young woman was a taxi passenger who was raped and killed by the taxi driver. Another tells of the ghost seeking revenge because she was killed by her own family but it is not clear if that family had lived along Balete Drive, or why they had killed her. But the story continues to tell of the times a ghost – usually in the form of a woman –was seen in many parts of the street.

Tales of the lady of Balete Drive say that she appears to motorists or passersby around midnight. There were people who said they had seen a white lady asking for help from passersby at the corner of Balete Drive.

There are times the lady would ride a taxi cab as a passenger, and then disappear along the way. Sometimes she will suddenly appear at the backseat, crying.

But one detail remains – the two-way street which leads to E. Rodriguez Avenue used to have a giant "balete" tree which was said to be the home of spirits and other elementals.

Horror at Manila Film Center

Manila Film Center (Manila Bulletin file photo)

The Manila Film Center has also taken urban legend fame.  Many tales about it have been told at about this time every year.

Located at the southwest end of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex in Pasay City, the structure stands with an eerie air, away from the busy areas around Sofitel Hotel and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Folk Arts Theater and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Stories say people who had worked there had reported hearing “cries for help” coming out of the walls while working there after the tragic incident which buried workers in a cement bed after a scaffolding collapsed. The incident happened in 1981, almost 40 years ago.  The film center opened in 1982.

According to the Manila Bulletin archives, Architect Froilan Hong designed the Manila Film Center that cost P170 million to build and required 4,000 to 7,000 people to work in three shifts for 170 days from August 1981 to January 18, 1982.

Despite the unfortunate accident, construction continued and the building opened as scheduled. The building was finished 15 minutes prior to its formal opening, reports said.

The horror tales were featured in television specials, newspapers, and magazines.

The most recent productions at the Film Center were staged by The Amazing Show which featured Asian production numbers, Broadway musicals, comedy acts, modern dances, and Filipino dances since 2001.

But in October 2020, The Amazing Show closed production due to the pandemic, its official website page said.

La Loma Catholic Cemetery

La Loma Catholic Cemetery (Photo from Kabs de Explorer)

La Loma Catholic Cemetery, the oldest in Caloocan which was opened in 1884. The list of the people who have been laid to rest there reads like a who’s who in history.

Archival Photo of La Loma Chapel (Manila Bulletin File photo)

Formerly known as Campo Santo De La Loma, the cemetery sprawls on Caloocan and Manila. A portion of its southern part is in the neighboring city of Manila, beside the Manila Chinese Cemetery.

La Loma Cemetery (Photo from Kabs de Explorer)

The prominent women who had contributed to history, culture and education were buried there. Here are a few of them:

•       Josefa Llanes Escoda, founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines(GSP), is said to be buried in an unnamed grave in La Loma cemetery although other historians say her remains were buried at the Manila Chinese Cemetery. Escoda was a social worker and civic leader, an advocate of the women’s right to vote, and a heroine in Filipino World War II. She died in 1945.

•       Librada Avelino who died in 1934 was an educator and one of the founders of Centro Escolar University, along with Carmen De Luna

•       Marcela Agoncillo, the fist seamstress of the Philippine flag is also buried in La Loma, according to Malacañang's official website(malacanang.gov.ph)

•       Maria Lorena Barros, founder of the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women)

•       Maria Carpena, the first Filipina recording artist

The cemetery is also the final resting place of two former chief justices –Cayetano Arellano, first chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, and Victorino Mapa, second chief justice of the SC.

A senior high school student who was buried there a few years ago is Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a victim of the administration’s war against illegal drugs who was shot by police officers in Caloocan. Kian’s story shook public opinion to the other realities of the drug war, and stopped the police operation to weed out drug dealers and users.