Ah, Baguio. Known for its cool weather, its fresh strawberries, and its haunted houses.
Baguio is like the SM of ghost sightings. They’ve got it all for you: from the Philippine Military Academy to Loakan Road to Teachers Camp to Hyatt Terraces Hotel to Casa Vallejo to Diplomat Hotel.
But if want to pay for a haunted encounter in (what is reputed to be) the most haunted house in all of Baguio, then look no further than down the stretch of Leonard Wood Road. House Number 14. Also known as the Laperal house. Also known as…
The White House…
(…Because “The Light Yellow/Beige House,” which was its original color, just doesn’t have as much gravitas. The house was repainted white in 2001).
For those of us who visited Baguio in our (pre-Instagram, pre-cellphone, pre-pager) youth, this once-decrepit and (what we assumed was) abandoned residence along an otherwise busy street did give off a slightly creepy vibe that made your heart skip a beat and made your pubic hair uncurl (especially when you caught a glimpse of the espiritistas gathering outside of the house to light candles on the eve of All Saints Day).
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The stories about the house made you want to floor the accelerator so you wouldn’t hear the angry voices emanating from the house or spot the woman staring at you from the window of the second floor. But what made the house even creepier was that mumus weren’t afraid to leave the house and spill out into the streets.
Unfortunately, that means it didn’t matter if you were speeding past the once Light Yellow/Beige House in your car — there was still the distinct possibility that a White Lady might hitch a ride in your backseat if you were drawn to look in your rearview mirror (and God help you if she wanted to hitch a ride all the way back to Balete Drive).
But many years later, when my pubic hair finally curled up again, I thought it was about time to revisit the haunted house of my youth. And let me tell you, my fellow ‘80s babies: If you want to get a good cardiovascular exercise without physical activity, if you want to become whiter without spending on glutathione, if you want your testicles to retract to the pit of your stomachs without getting your video scandal posted online, then the White House is the place to be!
The White House was build in the early ‘30s by Don Roberto Laperal as a rest house for his family. Although this American colonial/Victorian-style residence has since been refurbished, the house still bears the scars of a bloodstained period in our country’s history. During World War II, the house was forcibly overtaken from the Laperals by Japanese forces who transformed it into a garrison where women were raped in the bedrooms while alleged spies for the Americans were interrogated, tortured and killed in the sala.
On top of the war horrors that visited this formerly idyllic residence, it has also seen its share of personal tragedy. According to some sources, some of the Laperal siblings were among those who were caught and tortured in their own rest house while another one was run over while crossing the street to the other side of Leonard Wood Road. Not even Don Roberto could escape the house’s tragedy: shortly after the war, he accidentally slipped on the stairs in front of this house and suffered a life-threatening head injury. He succumbed to his injury a week later after seeking treatment in Manila.
Mediums are dumbfounded by the sheer number of presences they have “seen” in and around the house. There are stories of a double suicide right outside the residence and a child who drowned in the outdoor pool. There are stories of the spirits of lolos and children and kasambahays who met their unfortunate demise inside No. 14 Leonard Wood. It’s almost as though the house became a magnet for tragedy.
After 35 years of shunning the morbidly curious public, the secrets of the most haunted house in this region have been unveiled in a most public manner — not as a call center, not as a restaurant, not even as a disco (I miss you, Spirits) — but as an art gallery.
For P50 — an entrance fee that is cheaper that the now-defunct Pasay City Scream Manila or Star City’s Gabi Ng Lagim attractions (and a helluva lot more authentic, I’d wager) — you get both an aesthetic experience and a paranormal encounter (paranormal activity may vary based on the size of your third eye and diameter of your testicles).
During a family vacation, my two siblings and their spouses braved the White House to exorcise (or, rather unfortunately, confirm) our childhood fears. As we entered the house, we were welcomed by Ed Manda, the former NAIA general manager and current head of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation.
Ed related to us that Lucio Tan’s Tan Yan Kee foundation, the new owner of the Laperal property, loaned their (in)famous acquisition to the Bamboo Foundation for “The White House Gallery: An Exhibit of Ifugao Bamboo Art.” The bamboo exhibit, however, was only limited to the ground floor. The supernatural exhibits were reserved for the upper floors (although it does not preclude the supernatural making a guest appearance on the ground floor).
“(The purpose of the) bamboo art museum is to bring to the attention of the public the increasing importance of bamboo in the preservation of arts and culture of the Cordilleras, prevention of landslides, soil erosion and pollution control.” explained Ed.
I was trying to absorb everything that Ed was sharing, but it was quite challenging when the part of your brain that controls your bladder function is screaming, “There are a hundred freaking ghosts in this house! And if you think about them, they will make their presence felt and you don’t have the benefit of extra underwear.”
“Actually, meron naman talagang (mga multo) dito.” confided Ed. “Sanay lang kami.” He shrugged. “Sometimes you feel somebody holding you. Sometimes (you feel) something manifesting upstairs.”
As I felt something manifesting in my bowels, Ed brought us to the façade of the house and pointed out a fortune plant that had grown about two stories high by the corner of the house. “Doña Victorina, the wife of Don Roberto, was very fond of these fortune plants.” Mike shared. “If you try and cut those fortune plants, you will get sick. That’s what happened to one of our guards. Now nobody touches those fortune plants.”
“Maybe you should call them misfortune plants,” I quipped. Oh, no. My sense of humor was now becoming haunted as well. Then he led us back inside to a room where a wooden grandfather clock was on display. “This clock has been non-operational for many years,” Ed said, pointing to the clock face, “but when we meet in this room, the clock rings two or three times at odd hours of the day.”
Oh, please don’t ring, please don’t ring, I thought. Or else it will take years for my pubic hair to curl up again.
“Wait,” I said. My goosebumps felt particularly goosebumpy. “Why does this room feel particularly cold?”
“That’s another strange occurrence here. The temperature in this house is lower than the temperature outside.” Ed replied.
My inappropriate body parts suddenly reacted to the change in temperature as well.
“Sometimes you will see bright orbs that appear and move around when you take pictures (of the house) with a digital camera,” Ed continued. “The manifestations are more frequent during September, October and November.”
“I see, so the multos are seasonal.”
Ed passed us on to the decades-long caretaker of the house. “So have you experienced any multos out of season? Or even during public holidays?”
“Ewan ko, sir. Baka sanay lang ako,” she replied rather stoically. “Pero (may nararanasan) ang anak ko.”
“When I clean the house, my kids play inside the cabinet at the dining room with their ‘playmates.’ When a psychic came to visit, she said that the cabinet is the same place where the ghost children play. Do you want to look inside the cabinets?”
“I just saw the cabinets as I passed through the art exhibit. That’s okay, if I see what’s inside those cabinets, sayang naman lahat ng hair-loss prevention treatments ko.”
The caretaker then passed us on to Mike, our tour guide for the Shake, Rattle and Roll floors up above. “Just a little warning,” Mike cautioned. “There are those who are ‘sensitive’ who don’t even want to go up the stairs. Once they try, umaatras na sila.”
“I think I know what you mean. My pink parts are sensitive. Feeling ko umaatras na rin sila.”
We gripped each other’s hands tightly and ascended the staircase (wait muna… whose hands were holding on to my ankles…?) “Have you personally experienced anything supernatural in the house?” I asked Mike.
“Wala naman. Pero wala pa sa aming gustong matulog dito.”
And quite appropriately, Mike led us to the master’s bedroom. “Sir Ed has a standing offer of P1,000 for anybody who will sleep overnight in this bedroom,” Mike joked.
“I’m sure you can put that thousand pesos in a time deposit for several hundred years,” I replied.
We attempted to enter another room, but the door was locked. “This door wasn’t locked earlier,” Mike said. “But the doors over here have the habit of locking and unlocking themselves.”
Please don’t lock us inside the house, please, I told the presences that were trying to read my mind. My yaya is waiting for me right outside and she will exorcise you with Ilonggo vulgarities…
Mike brought us to the staircase leading to the attic and pointed towards the wall. “Sometimes you can see (something that resembles) shadows flying here and there. At night, you’ll see them. They almost (appear) like lights.”
We moved into each other more tightly so that we would have no multo could make singit in between us. “Have you experienced anything unusual in the attic?” I dared ask.
“Mejo, when it is night. Yung sa attic bihira naming binubuksan. May kakaiba sa attic.”
“Kakaiba? Like what? Interior design?”
“Kakaibang feelings kasi, eh. Personally may naexperience ako dyan eh.” Mike confided. Parang may matigas sa katawan mo and then may parang usok na sasalubong sa iyo.
“So do you all want to proceed?” he asked. “Mas-ok kapag marami.”
I turned to my brother and brother-in-law who smiled wickedly in approval. I looked at my wife, my sister and my sister-in-law who nodded their heads ever so slightly. So I guess I knew what the answer would be.
“Yes, we’ll be ready in a few decades when my balls have fully ripened. Can we go back down please? I think yaya is worried.“ I didn’t realize you could run down two flights of stairs in 2.5 seconds.
So, how was my overall experience at the house formerly known as Light Yellow/Beige? Well, the visit was not scary enough that I wouldn’t want to come back. But I wouldn’t want to earn an additional thousand pesos, either
Although I’m rather proud of the fact that — despite unripe testicles — I was able to have a picture taken of myself seated on the third step of the staircase leading the entrance to the house where supposedly the ghost of a little boy makes his presence visible to passersby.
But the bravest of them all in this White House visit? My brother-in-law, Simon. Imagine, he was brave enough to use the toilet at the ground floor of the White House. All. By. Himself.
Or so he believes.
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