Whenever people ask me where I get ideas for my supernatural crime stories, one of my usual answers is: the Metro Section of our newspapers and the front pages of our tabloids. Fiction can’t get any stranger compared to what you see outside your window. My other source is, of course, like most Pinoys: other people’s supposed true stories.
Here are some of the stories that have come my way, either through research, or from my friends, or friends of friends, and for some reason, they keep coming up in conversations. That means, perhaps, they’re probably…true?
Every year, dead bodies are found dumped in the dimly lit corners of the city. They are usually stuffed in black garbage bags and all of them show signs of torture.
The victims are found with stab wounds, some with burn marks and gunshot wounds. Some show signs of strangulation, their faces wrapped in packaging tape.
Most of the victims are tattooed gang members and some have been found with handwritten signs declaring their crime: “HOLDAPER AKO!,” “KILABOT NG QUIAPO,” “DRUG PUSHER.”
Watching too many American police procedurals would make one suspect that this might the work of a serial killer. But at one crime scene, witnesses say they saw the body dumped from a van, thrown out by two men. This makes it sound like it’s a three-man or four-man crew, or more, doing these “summary executions” as most of the news networks classify these killings.
Are these executions done by a Manila Death Squad, a Punisher waging a one-man war against crime, or some strange cult secretly disguising their kills as “salvage victims?”
There is a prevailing theory that the Philippine society would not be able to produce a serial killer, mainly because even if you are a sociopath, your strong family ties would prevent you going to the deep end. That, and also because we’re “tsimoso” and “uzisero.” A serial killer would have a difficult time hiding the bodies without somebody asking, “Uy! Ano yan?”
But in 2008, 2009, and 2011 there was series of crimes where female bodies were found—all burnt to a crisp. Three were found in motel rooms, one along C-5. And although the victims seemed to have nothing in common, one can’t help but wonder why, or how, there’d be more than one person setting women on fire in motel rooms between that three-year period.
The term “Chop Chop Lady” became popular in 1993. It was how the press described remains of Elsa Castillo, the woman gruesomely killed by her lover Stephen Mark Whisenhun, assisted by his driver Demetrio Ravelo who got rid of the body parts along a stretch of the highway in Bataan.
But the first lady to suffer this fate was Lucila Lalu, who was murdered and mutilated back in 1967. The case began May of that year, when her legs were found wrapped in newspaper. A day after, her legless, headless torso was found in a vacant lot along EDSA. Her hands were still tied behind her back. The unfortunate woman’s head was never found and her legs, according to this newspaper clipping from 1967, felt like they came from a freezer. The police was able to identify the body through her fingerprints.
The suspects of the case included her 19-year-old lover, Florante Relos, Patrolman Aniano de Vera and Jose Luis Santiano, a 28-year-old dental student. Santiano confessed to the murder, but later retracted his statement. But as far as the police were concerned, they caught their killer.
In crime anthology Manila Noir, Eric Gamalinda contributes a fictional account of what might have happened during those humid nights of May in his story “Darling, You Can Count On Me.”
From 2009 to 2010, there were reported incidents of aborted fetuses found on church grounds. No note would be found with the disturbing packages. In one report, the fetus was placed in a bottle and then hidden in a basket of fruit or flowers. There was also a time that two were found on the same day. One at the Manila Cathedral and the other was left at the doorstep of the Church of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. Are these incidents somehow connected?
A literal dark secret of the city are these tunnels that were made during the 1930s and ‘40s. One of them is the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel, which was used by military to transport supplies. At a certain point, it became the hidden headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur. The other tunnel was accidentally discovered in 2011 by workers along EDSA and is supposed large enough to fit several trucks. Authorities believe this tunnel was created during the Japanese Occupation.
Satan Has Already Bought U!
Is this the hidden message of this drug? Makes me wonder which drug user, while in the middle of his preparation of said demonic substance, thought up of this acronym, and survived to spread the word about it. Well, it somehow reached the ears of Lourd de Veyra, who used it for his story in Manila Noir. Must be true, because that’s the Word of the Lourd!
One of the least popular conspiracy theories about the White Lady of Balete Drive was that it was a CIA operation conducted to distract the nation from more important things.
The other mundane theories about the secret origins of the White Lady also mention that it was the creation of college students who were conducting an exercise on how rumors are spread and there was also the urban legend that it was started by a radio station that wanted better ratings.
If you believe the supernatural explanation, it’s interesting to know that when a group of psychics went to Balete Drive in search of the restless ghost, they discovered a kingdom of enkanto instead, on that road, ruled by a diwata.
Victims claimed they were hypnotized by ladies and asked to give them all their money. According to the report, “one victim was hypnotized into going back to her residence in Quezon City to retrieve her cash and valuables and return to Binondo to turn them over to the thieves. Another victim even went to the bank to open her safe deposit boxes.” The thieves were reported a couple of times in 2008, finding their prey on the streets of Binondo.
Will we ever know the truth about these tales? I guess, only this femme fatale called Manila will ever truly know. As Jessica Hagedorn said in her introduction to Manila Noir, “I think of Manila as the ultimate femme fatale. Complicated and mysterious, with a tainted, painful past.”
What else does Manila keep away from prying eyes? Tell us about it in the comments section.