10 Haunted Heritage Houses And Sites In the Philippines
Ancestral houses and heritage buildings are unforgettable because of the architectural legacy and the history of these structures. But the sight of antique furniture, discarded artifacts, and abandoned rooms—along with the knowledge that people who once inhabited these places may already be dead—provide a potent setting for spine-tingling stories about restless spirits.
We may find these places mysterious and sometimes frightening, but our task is to remember the inspiring lessons of history from the artists and heroes who have lived and fought here.
1. The house that moved towns (spirits, too)
The Don Roman Santos House was once a filigreed landmark in Navotas. Built in 1917, the house has an eclectic mix of historic styles from tropical Baroque with stylized Art Nouveau elements to a blending of Neo-classical and Art Deco designs. Eighty-five years later, the next generation of Santoses transported their ancestral house piece-by-piece from flood-stricken Navotas to the safer hills of Antipolo.
The three-level-house’s original configurations were preserved. The second floor has spacious sala and dining areas used for entertaining. The torre is what the Santos family call the third floor that consists of bedrooms, and a balcony goes around it. In 1944, the Japanese used the house as garrison. The sala served as courtroom and the rooms in the torre as torture chambers.
It is said that a mysterious old woman haunts one of these bedrooms. According to the story, while one of Don Roman’s daughters was reading a book, she noticed the errand girl squatting next to her bed, brandishing a stick. When she asked what the errand girl was doing, the girl said she was waiting for the old woman under the bed who refused to leave.
READ: Modern Bayanihan – Moving A 99-year-old House
2. A resplendent mansion and her “lady”
It is through a window in the Pamintuan-Tablante mansion in the old quarter of Angeles, Pampanga where President Emilio Aguinaldo watched the grand parade that celebrated the first and only anniversary of his short-lived republic. The mansion also housed the Central Bank’s regional clearing office before it was converted into Museum of Philippine Social History.
Like the Aguinaldo House in Kawit (more on this later), this Neo-Renaissance bahay-na-bato has a similar feel of gloominess, as if scenes from the last century are replaying on another plane. It is also said that the floating ghost of a young lady in a nightgown haunts the tower room of the house.
1251 Miranda Street, Angeles City, Pampanga
3. The story of the murdered friar
The first friar order that made Filipinos into Catholics walked the ancient halls of San Agustin Church, the oldest Baroque church in the country. This writer felt, upon visiting the church one quiet morning, that he was being watched by an invisible presence upon entering the anteroom that connects the monastery to the choir loft (in photo above) or coro of the church.
Apparently, the anteroom of this choir loft served as a mortuary for Fray Vicente Sepulveda, who was murdered in the 1600s. His remains were laid in this chamber with the index finger of his corpse pointing at the door. The dead body was arranged in such a manner to identify the perpetrators by pointing towards the heart of each friar who came to pay his respect. The murderers were identified and sentenced to death by hanging within the walls of the same monastery.
The monastery also witnessed several tortures and murders during the Battle of Manila in World War II. It is said that the spiral staircase in the antesacristia or the old vestry was found drenched with the blood of rape victims. Try walking around the San Agustin Museum today and you may feel like you’re being watched. There must be truth to the old saying: “matulog ka na sa cementerio huwag lang sa simbahan.”
San Agustin Church, Gen. Luna St., Intramuros, Manila
4. An abandoned chapel in a really old cemetery
Philippine cemeteries become lively with people holding daylong vigils and picnics by the gravesides of departed loved ones during All Saints Day. On regular days, however, old cemeteries appear desolate and eerie.
The Campo Santo de La Loma was established during the Spanish Period, and served as an important battlefield during the Filipino-American War. During the Japanese Occupation, beheadings and tortures were performed right on the cemetery grounds. Many of the graves and mausoleums—ranging from Baroque and Gothic to Neoclassical and Art Deco—remain unscathed from the bombings of World War II, including the abandoned chapel of St. Pancratius (above). The ancient chapel still stands, covered with moss and overgrowth. When visiting the chapel, a chill sometimes comes through, even on a warm day.
La Loma Catholic Cemetery, 1400 Rizal Ave. Ext., Grace Park West, Caloocan
5. A torture chamber in a school
War memorials and Death March markers dot the province of Bataan, and with a creative imagination, one can reconstruct wartime scenarios while reading the World War II inscriptions on the historical markers.
The Balanga Elementary School was a silent witness to the surrender of Bataan to the Japanese Army. Behind the Gabaldon-style school building is an elevated stone structure known as the Balanga Torture Chamber. Inside this small, hollow cell, their Japanese captors tortured both Filipinos and Americans. It has been left untouched to serve as a chilling reminder of war atrocities and is now a shrine for the war’s dead.
Balanga Elementary School, Jose Basa St., Balanga, Bataan
6. A war-wracked island
All the grand structures in Corregidor Island were blasted away during World War II. What remain today are the intact ruins that serve as monuments to a time in our history at its bloodiest.
Tour guides are so eager to retell the war’s historical timelines as well as their personal encounters with the war’s dead—the entire island of Corregidor is believed to be inhabited by restless spirits. You are likely to hear disembodied footsteps and faint voices while touring the Malinta Tunnel. Lucky ones have also caught a full-blown apparition of a headless soldier among the barracks and hospital ruins using their camera.
To get to Corregidor Island, there is a daily trip via Sun Cruises; for more info, click here.
7. Marita the theater actress
Ghosts that haunt theaters are said to be residual spirits. A famous one is “Marita,” who appears as a floating transparent figure during live performances at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in Palma Hall at the UP Diliman campus. According to legend, she was a former stage actress who committed suicide in the school building. Palma Hall has been known for numerous sightings of ghosts because of the number of suicides that took place in the building.
Palma Hall was designed by architect Cesar Concio (the same architect of the iconic Insular Life Building in Makati City) and was built in 1951. The building bears traces of Art Deco—characterized by sinuous curves and colonnaded facades—with lines transitioning into the minimalist and functional International style.
Roxas Ave., University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus, Quezon City
8. A President’s kapre
According to popular local myth, the Aguinaldo House in Kawit, Cavite has a resident kapre who dwells in one of the large fruit-bearing trees in the sprawling garden of the stately manor. Legend has it that Emilio Aguinaldo was said to commune with the kapre, and the President owed his protection and to the big, black, hairy creature.
Designed by Aguinaldo himself, a self-made architect, the Aguinaldo House was bequeathed to the Filipino people in 1963, and it became the Aguinaldo Shrine.
Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Kaingen, Kawit, Cavite
READ: 6 Things To Know About the Aguinaldo Shrine
9. Tales of the ghostly lighthouse keeper
A breathtaking view awaits those who climb to the top of the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, a Spanish-colonial-era lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Built in 1892, the lighthouse is still being used to this day, guiding sea vessels passing through the northern West Philippine Sea and onto the rugged coast of Cape Bojeador.
Before reaching the stairs to the lighthouse tower, visitors walk through a narrow corridor with side chambers. It is said that standing between walls in the hallway is the ghost of the old lighthouse keeper, and that those who can communicate with spirits say that he speaks in ancient Ilocano, and talks about the shipwrecks in the area.
Vigia de Nagparitan Hill, Burgos, Ilocos Norte
READ: A Beautiful Heritage Village That Is A Beachside Resort
10. The infamous Bahay na Pula
The Japanese Occupation left us with heritage houses that have inspired tales about diaphanous white ladies and angry ghosts. The elegant Ilusorio Mansion along the national highway in Bulacan is uninhabited and partly torn down, but the entire structure still bears the grandness of the hacienda lifestyle of a 19th century landlord.
Infamously known as the Bahay na Pula as the entire structure is painted blood-red, it is one of those houses used as a garrison by the Japanese Army where they reputedly held their torture and rape orgies. The savagery that took place in this house has inspired tales about restless spirits seeking revenge. One of the chilling stories is said to occur on windy nights. The locals say they could hear high-pitched screams and bellowing growls from the abandoned mansion.
Along the National Highway, San Ildelfonso, Bulacan
Glenn Martinez is a heritage enthusiast and a travel blogger. Follow him on his artistic and cultural adventures in his blog Traveler on Foot. To see Glenn’s house, click here.
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