Two weeks from now, All Soul's Day rolls out in the calendar. During this time of the year, it's inevitable to ignore the scare fest that frightens our busy mortal world. Halloween parties are eventually to mushroom. Television channels will be filled with gore and eerie movies. Gargantuan malls will be overhauled with haunted decors. For whatever the price we pay or do to observe or enjoy the hype on All Soul's day, nothing could be more haunting but to scare ourselves with pondering on our greatest fears, filling in chit chat with ghost stories, and scaring ourselves out through venturing into phobia-busting activities.
I am deviating. Allow me to be a bit sentimental.
Growing up, during the 1990s, apart from offering prayer to the departed, watching Magandang Gabi Bayan's Halloween Special was one of the must-to-do activities among kids on days prior to the onset of All Souls day. In our street alone, we would run from one house to another house to get a sneak peak of the upcoming episode of Magandang Gabi Bayan. With eyes as wide as the full moon, everyone would walk away from the television and wonder on what stories would eventually account for the neighbors loudest scream.
On the day actual day of airing Magandang Gabi Bayan, my friends and I agreed and would gather in one house. Usually, the one fright night was in our house. All of us would bring chips, chocolates and drinks. And before everyone starts eating, minutes before the showing, one would be asked to switch off the living room lights. It will be followed by the lighting of one candle. We will also move closer to the light. The screaming, pushing and all the childish chaos would fly in the dark ceiling.
The deep tone of Ex-VP turned New Anchor Noli De Castro's in narrating the stories was an unforgettable element in each episode. Supported by trademark re-enactments and scary visuals (the basis is the white lady with blood on her face and some demonic entities who normally appear elsewhere), De Castro was just convincing in frightening the weakling and gullible within us.
Apart from De Castro's ala-Verum Est delivery, Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloweeb Special was a trendsetter in depicting ghoulish drama in Philippine Television. Reality TV format was not yet the trend then and so the show made impact through its iconic set-up in cemeteries, smoke, and disturbing sound effects. Seriously, whenever the white lady, Duwende, Diablo or Kapre would appear, there's always a sound that played to throw surprise.
As a kid, the visuals shown in Magandang Gabi Bayan was enough for me to get some sleepless nights and late night detour to my parent's bedroom to sleep over. The most unforgettable entities for me was the white lady in the window, the dead man at the back of the door, and the Duwende in the garden.
For my friends, watching Magandang Gabi was a practice to collect topics to talk about in the street especially on staying late at night. With a flickering light of the street lamp post, some abandoned house in the neighborhood and the howling sound, opening a can of horror stories that are picked up in TV shows is the perfect ingredient to totally enjoy street fun.
Apparently, as years passed and my friends and I grew up, we started to distance ourselves in watching Magandang Gabi Bayan. As different horror shows and movies waltzed in, our preferences were influenced and changed. Although we still anticipate the airing of MGB's stories, slowly, we shifted in digesting different narratives that slowly sent spine-chilling touch to our senses - something that's real and on our own.
While I had been accustomed to watching horror flicks which absolutely made me scream, nothing was more scary than to face the truth that I had to grow up. The days walked fast. The hands of the clock moved uncontrollably. The kid in me shrank and there's the word "teen" suffixed with my age. The changes were not easily thrown by sleeping overnight. It's a lifetime transformation that is intertwined with complexity.
One of the most challenging parts of growing up was finding oneself and establishing that uniqueness. It's the reason why some teens experiment. Worse, some rebel. Mine was soft and subtle.
From elementary to highschool, my greatest fear was to be accepted of who I am. I was the typical fat boy who prefers to be seated somewhere and consume breaks in munching chips while talking with friends. I didn't escape discriminating stares and banters. For a time the experience silenced me but with a very positive and fun personality, I managed to stand up for myself by getting my voice out. Apart from the talent in singing, I stood out with my quirkiness and wit.
Another fear walked in right after graduating highschool. Where would I study? Thankfully, I got in at UP. Studying at UP was not a walk in the park. Apart from budgetting my school allowance to photocopy tons of reading materials, I had to study (hard!). On the side, learning didn't end in the classroom. From attending film showings, catching stage plays, listening to conferences, participating in college-based activities and witnessing the march toward greater education subsidy, I widened my perspective and experiences.
At UP, I learned a lot from interacting with my new friends, acquaintances and professors who eventually became my friends. Truth be told, my stay at UP was the best years of my life. Just like a pencil, I was sharpened to my finest. Soon, I graduated from UP.
Then there's another fear; where will I work? Luckily, I got in at ABS-CBN. I started as a PA and eventually became a producer/writer. It was in ABS-CBN that I had my unforgettable The-Devil-Wears-Prada experience (sssss). Despite all the tiring work, I learned a lot - from writing, shooting, editing, marketing, and the list goes on. On top of that, the two years of my Kapamilya stint led me to develop my skills in broadcast media.
After years of broadcast media work at ABS-CBN, the biggest fear came in my life. Suddenly, my mom died in 2006.
The death of my mom was a turning point in my life. Devastated and at a lost, I drowned myself with questions that no one could answer. It was the lowest point of my life. As much as I wanted to turn back time and say all the things that I wanted to say to my mom, I couldn't. Time was selfish. That's just it. I had to move forward.
Slowly, I stood up and faced my life again. I moved and worked in another broadcast company, ABC5 (now TV5) and coped up with a feeling of loss.
One day, I got tired of too much thinking. The string of thoughts was just endless. So, I surrendered all my fears, pain and what ifs to God. I was answered.
In his perfect time, as I was pleading to him to bring me to a place where I can heal, he brought me to Brunei Darussalam. In this new environment, I slowly healed and found peace.
Although there have been nights that I deeply miss my Mom, especially her sweeteness, the process of coping in a foreign environment helps me to once again rebuild my strength and find my cheerful self.
It has been more than three years now since I came to the abode of peace. Through exposure, I've appreciated Islam practices; my taste buds have been used to Brunenian cuisine; my self is secured with comfort. And in those years, I've grown as a professional and as a person. I even finished my MA in two years. Along these changes, my fears in life have also evolved.
Before, my only fear was to survive alone; the question were: will I be able to endure homesickness? Will I be able to adjust with my co-workers? Will I have an understanding boss? Will work be gentle or harrasing? God has never abandoned me. I am blessed; one of it is that I've gained a lot of friends and acquaintances who eventually have become my family.
I am now at a crossroad of my life. I want to try this, do that, go for this, get that. Perhaps, it's the advantage of being young and single. With the energy and availability, you can do anything you want!
To stop dreaming or exploring is what I fear the most right now; because everything is given; because one's life is just laid back.
I know sooner or later, I have to make a decision; whether I stay here and venture into a new field or move somewhere. What's important now is that I'm wide awake. With the pains that give me gains and the tears that shun the fears, I just want to break free from the discomfort in too much comfort. I strongly believe, God is with me on this.
This picture is not photoshopped. The ghost was really there. Shot in December 2004 during the At Home Ka Dito's Christmas Party. Awoooooooo!