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The Ghost Dressed in White




   By Rodney Pygoya  Chang

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Juan Magadangdang finally started up the old, Army surplus jeep from the 1940’s. He was the younger brother-in-law of Federico Espirito who was inside the house.  It was 1972 and they lived in Bacarra, a small town in Ilocos Norte province on Luzon, an island located at the northern end of the Philippines island chain.



Cecilia, Federico’s pregnant wife, felt her water bag burst at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m. in the morning. The closest hospital was in Laoag City, ten miles away.



“O.K., ‘Old Faithful’ is ready out front,” said Juan as he hurried back into the house to assist in any way possible. The rattling of the “MacArthur” jeep’s rickety framework and its noisy motor – that hollered for a new muffler that never would come – drowned out the chirping of the army of crickets that occupied their small plot of farmland.



“Great, we’re almost ready; I have to grab a couple more things and we’ll be ready to go,” said Federico. “Juan, go fetch some towels and a blanket for your sister. It’s going to be a cold ride this late at night.” The jeep’s sides were open to the elements.



 “Hurry, Cecilia, we’re ready to head out to the hospital.” The woman came into the living room from the bedroom, where she was resting.



“The sooner the better. I’m not feeling well.  The contractions are coming faster,” she lamented.  She didn’t look good, supporting herself by leaning on a chair.  One hand was gently rubbing her swollen abdomen.




The two men rushed to the pregnant woman to assist her.



“Here, let us support you,” said her husband. “Juan, hold up your sister from the other side and I’ll do the same from this side.”



Together the two men helped Cecilia out of the shanty, down the porch stairs and into the backseat of the open jeep. Before she sat, Juan placed a couple towels on the seat.  After bending and climbing to finally seat in the rear, the woman in labor moaned as she placed her hands upon her stomach area.



“Patience, little one,” she pleaded, as her abdomen underwent undulating motions.



“Juan, now where is the blanket?”



“Oh, Sorry.” The young brother scampered back in and was back in a jiffy with what he had forgotten during the stressful situation.  When he returned, he covered his sister with the blanket.



“Thank you, brother.” The thick cover stopped the little shivering that had already begun.



It was dark outside, except for the harsh beam of the headlights. The two men jumped into the front seats and the jeep rumbled down the dirt country road fronting their homestead.  It had lots of potholes.



“Ouch!” Cecilia cried from the back as the jeep was bounced upwards and then slammed back down.



“Careful!” ordered her husband to Juan who was the driver. “Slow it down for now.  Don’t forget your sister’s fragile condition.”



“I haven’t; but I also am trying to get us to the hospital as soon as possible,” answered Juan.  “I have to hurry; my sister’s in a bad way.”  The driver continued to cautiously negotiate, as best as he could, around the muddied holes.



The ride became smoother once they reached the paved asphalt road that led to Laoag City. At the hospital, night staff waited for their arrival, as Federico had called to notify them that they were on their way from Bacarra.



It was a long ride along mostly dark stretches of highway. Only occasionally would there be some lights when they sped pass small villages.  Most of the way consisted of open farmland, pastures or wilderness, all concealed by the pitch blackness of night, except for the bordering cultivated land and uninhabited jungle that were illuminated by the beams, directed at the road ahead.  There was no moon out that evening.  Fields of rice, tobacco, and garlic whizzed by at 45 M.P.H. as the workhorse past its prime rumbled towards the city.  For the most part, the passengers only saw the barren road ahead.  Air rushed against their faces and bodies as they rode in the jeep, open on the sides.



It was now 2:30 a.m. and not a soul or creature was in sight. In the houses, all were peacefully at sleep.  Frederico occasionally spoke to twenty-year old Juan to make sure he stayed awake at the wheel.   Cecilia let out an occasional groan.



It was a clear night. Stars sparkled in the blackness above, void of any moon glow.  There were no other sound except for the loud motor and the wind current rushing through the open vehicle.  The radio had long ago ceased to function.  Like the muffler, it was a luxury the family couldn’t afford to repair.



As the jeep advanced on its frantic way to the hospital, suddenly, in the distance, the men spotted a lone figure. As they drove closer, they recognized the individual to be a woman with long hair that was dressed in a long white dress.  Because she wore white, they could spot her further in the distance along the straightaway that they were now driving on.



When they were close enough, they saw the woman waving a hand with the fingers extended downwards. This was the sign of requesting a ride in the Philippines, similar in request as an American pedestrian thumbing for a ride.



“Shall we pick her up?” Juan loudly asked Frederico, to be heard over the turbulent current. “The poor woman is in the middle of nowhere and at this ungodly hour.”  There was a vacant seat in the back.



“Don’t!” cried out Cecilia from the back. She too had to shout because of the strong gusts rushing through the car.



“I’m in labor, in pain, and don’t want to be sitting next to a stranger.  Especially somebody who is standing out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.”



“Not only that,” added Federico, “dressed as she is makes her look like….a ghost.”



Hearing the word ghost (his brother-in-law actually said “al-lia,” the Ilocano word for ghost- they were conversing in Filipino), Juan’s mind was made up.  It did appear that the woman had a nice figure and he was searching for a girl friend. But fear of haunting spirits overrode his carnal desires.  Without taking a closer look at her face, Juan looked straight ahead and sped right past the woman, still standing there on the right side of the road, waving her hand for a ride.  After he did, he peered into the rear mirror and watched as the white figure receded into the distance, until it once more was swallowed up by the darkness.



“A woman, out there in the dark, miles from any village, this early in the morning, is so strange,” said Federico. His wife again began to moan in pain from the back.



“Hang on, honey, we making good progress.”



Being superstitious, Federico worried that the phenomenon might be an omen about the unborn child. Without his wife seeing, he did the sign of the cross.  Spotting this, Juan himself did so too.  Both men, still startled, remained quiet, preoccupied with their private thoughts.



Suddenly the jeep started to swerve!  Juan was freaking out because of what he now viewed just outside the windshield.



Federico saw it too and hollered with fright.



That startled Cecilia in the back.  Looking out at what had frightened the front passengers, she too joined in with her own screaming.  This stressful moment caused the baby to kick within.  Its mother cried out because of the sudden internal assault and the rolling contractions.  And what a time to hit a pothole!  Up went the jeep.  The vehicle was already swerving before hitting the bump in the road.  Juan fought hard to maintain control of the vehicle.



What brought about all this commotion within the cabin?



Up there, even after the pothole jolt, was the woman in white, sitting out on the driver-side front tire area of the hood!



Her hair flowed towards them as the jeep continued with its forward and swaying motion. Her head and face was turned towards the passengers, glaring sternly at Juan, apparently disappointed in the young man for having ignored her and having merely zoomed by.  The phantom then opened her mouth, revealing broken and sharp teeth, let out a hiss that they couldn’t hear (because of the nose of the motor and gushing wind), communicating to them that she was upset that they did not stop to offer her a ride.



Imagine if they had!



Juan managed to regain control of the erratic motion of the jeep, just when it threatened to go into a deadly spin. Regardless of the sharp turns of the jeep, the woman swayed along with the sideward forces as if she was secured to the hood.



Once more in control of the jeep, Juan started to brake and steer towards the roadside to bring the jeep to a halt.  The vehicle rode over the bumpy dirt shoulder, causing Cecilia to cry out in pain from the barrage of jerky motions that shook her womb.  This turned out to be a tough ride for a woman in labor!



When the jeep finally came to a halt, the outside was veiled by the dirt kicked up from Juan’s slamming of the brakes and the skidding along the road’s unpaved wayside.



The terrified threesome stared through the windshield as the dirt slowly cleared out of the air. All three were still breathing hard from the frenetic ride, but were relieved when visibility of the hood returned.  The phantom was gone.



Cecelia stayed seated because of her condition but the men jumped out, kneeled on the embankment and started to pray to their Lord, then finishing by making the sign of the cross. Then they made haste to get the heck out of there.  The jeep continued on, going as fast as it could to the hospital.



The pregnant woman made it to the hospital in time. Crisis over, Cecilia, now comfortable in a hospital bed, looked down proudly at her beautiful, newborn girl. It was time to name the child for the birth certificate.  At the house, they had several names in mind but hadn’t yet made a final decision.  For some odd reason, the name of Flordeliza inexplicably came from both of their mouths.  It wasn’t a name on their list of possibilities. Nevertheless, there was immediate consensus, which led to the name to be so inked on the legal document.  That was how Flordeliza Espirito came into the world.



When the pretty child had reached the age at which she had a say as to how she dressed, Flordeliza stubbornly demanded to wear only garments of white.



A month later after the delivery, Juan was driving the jeep on the same road to Laoag City. He needed to pick up some farm supplies in the city.  In the daylight, he noticed what was roadside at approximately the location where they had previously encountered the apparition.  It was a bright sunny afternoon and he felt safe and self assured.



Juan pulled over, got out of the jeep, and walked into the rural cemetery. The young man stopped and looked down at the first tombstone that was closest to the road.  The gravestone’s inscription had inscribed upon it, “Flordeliza Mabalot.” He read further:

胡安停下车,走下了去,走进了一个农村公墓。这个年轻人停了下来,低头看着第一个最靠近马路的墓碑。墓碑的碑文上写着,弗罗迪泽 马巴拉特。他继续读:


“Age 18.” “Hit & Run Victim.”




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