Seeing a spirit

Once there was a teacher named Henry, who was once stationed at Kin-iway, Besao, some 8 kilometers away from his home in Sagada. Henry had a small 90cc Honda motorcycle that he used to go to Kin-iway and to go back home.

Like many other males in his profession, and like many males who worked in offices in the early 1970s, Henry had a particular liking for alcoholic drinks, whether it be the home-brewed tapey or basi, or the store-bought Ginebra San Miguel or Tanduay rhum, or any other brand that intoxicates.

As it was, the different male office workers in Kin-iway got together almost daily to partake of whatever drink was available, and to nibble whatever pulutan (finger foods that Filipinos eat while drinking) they could cook or purchase. It thus happened that Henry often had to go home in the evening, probably after the last drop of liquor was drunk.

Because he also hailed from Besao, he sometimes chose to stay the night there, probably when he judged himself too drunk to drive. Sometimes he judged wrong.

The mixture of liquor and motorcycles was proven many times to be a potent and dangerous mix, for Henry figured in several accidents going home to Sagada after indulging in spirits. Several times he drove his motorbike off the road, and it is surprising that he survived these ordeals with only the scars on his legs, and the worry of his family and friends who had to go look for him whenever he failed to arrive home.

One time, Henry’s friends in Kin-iway dared him to take his bike to Sagada in under 10 minutes. They wagered a bottle of gin that he could not do it. He took the dare, though he was already quite intoxicated (perhaps he took the dare because he was). Using the primitive phone system that was in operation then, the police in Kin-iway informed their counterparts in Sagada that Henry would be going there, and that the Sagada police should confirm the time of his arrival and so determine who won the bet.

Henry took 17 minutes to go to Sagada and back to Kin-iway. His friends made good their bet, and they proceeded in their merry alcoholic indulgence, the policemen included.

Now the feat of biking 16 kilometers in 17 minutes may seem unremarkable to some, but for those who know the conditions of the road at that time, it was suicidal, specially since Henry was in his normal drunken state.

Perhaps indulging in alcoholic spirits tends to boost the spirits of drinkers, and indeed foolhardy decisions are regular fare for drinkers. But Henry had another experience where he came into contact with spirits of the supernatural kind as well.

Whenever his motorbike was unavailable (often after it fell off the road), Henry relied on his friend John every once in a while to fetch him from Kin-iway and bring him home to Sagada. John was among the very few who had motor vehicles then, and he drove a Willys jeep. John himself was not averse to drinking, joining the other spirited Igorots as they paid homage to Bacchus.

This he did one time when he fetched Henry; they first shared with other spirit-guzzling males in Kin-iway several bottles of firewater.

It was close to midnight when they finally started for home.

There is a watering hole between Kin-iway and Sagada called “Inuman” (literally, “drinking place”). As they were at Inuman, Henry saw somebody in the middle of the road ahead of them, waving like he wanted a ride. Henry was wondering why John was not slowing down, and in fact was heading directly towards the person in the middle of the road. Henry yelled for John to stop, that they will run over the person, but John said that there was nobody there, and continued on, and in Henry’s eyes the jeep run over the person.

He again yelled for John to stop, and when the jeep stopped, Henry told John that they run over somebody. So they went back in the pitch darkness with flashlights looking for whoever it was they run over. There was no sign of anybody at all. They checked the jeep, looking for signs of the accident, checked under it looking for the victim, but could not find anything.

They finally agreed that it was a waking nightmare, and proceeded on to Sagada. After several minutes, they both noticed that they were back at the same bend of the road at Inuman, like they somehow drove around in a circle (an impossibility).

Again, Henry saw the same human figure in the middle of the road waving them to stop. When he told John about it, John said he does not see anybody ahead of them, going on as before and seemingly running over the person again.

For the second time they stopped and looked for the “victim,” and not finding any sign. They realized at this moment that perhaps the spirits were fooling with them. Something definitely was out of place, since they had to go past Inuman two times, apart from Henry’s vision of somebody on the road.

In the vernacular, “nabanig da“, or the spirits kept them in the place, though they had the illusion of movement. Such phenomena was not uncommon at the time, though most of those who experienced it were walking and not riding.

The people of Sagada and Besao are not unfamiliar with spirits and the tricks they play on the the beings of this world. John and Henry decided to sit down and get their wits back, and as was customary, lighted cigarettes and offered the spirits the tobacco while imploring them to leave them be.

After some minutes, they got back on the jeep and went to Sagada without any other incident. The experience might have cleared their heads of the effect of alcohol, but they were silent and somber all the same, contemplating what they went through.

Such unusual occurrences are normally talked about, and the seers and mediums at the time were consulted, though the exact significance of the occurrence in Inuman was not ascertained immediately after.

It was one year to the day of the Inuman incident that John died. The seers then said that what happened at Inuman was an omen, John’s spirit prematurely bidding goodbye to Henry.


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