Carlos Celdran’s Top 10 Scariest Spots in Manila
Which places creep out this activist-artist? The tour guide extraordinaire walks you through hair-raising spots in the metro and beyond.
(SPOT.ph) "Damaso"-wielding performance artist Carlos Celdran lives in Malate, shops in Quiapo, and hangs out on UN Avenue and in Ermita. As a tour guide in Manila, he undoubtedly knows his way around the city. SPOT.ph asked him to pick 10 spots in the country’s capital (plus a few other cities in the metro) that bring on the chills.
"I’d like to make it clear that I mean ’scary’ and not particularly ’haunted,’" he clarifies. "As a firm believer in science and all that can be explained, I am wont not to advocate the belief in anything that is invisible. But since I am also a firm believer of all that is mystical in this world, I can just assure you that these places will make your hair stand. It’s up to you to figure out why."
In no particular order, here is Carlos’ list of Manila’s spookiest spots.
This article was originally published on October 28, 2010.
1. St. Pancratius Chapel in La Loma Cemetery
The place: The chapel is "over 100 years old and located in Manila’s oldest cemetery in Santa Cruz," says Celdran. When SPOT.ph went to check it out, it was locked and the caretaker was nowhere to be found. Travel blogger Ivan Henares wrote in 2006 that the chapel was "decommissioned with the construction of a modern parish church near the new entrance." St. Pancratius is said to be a Christian martyr, who was beheaded at age 14 and buried in a cemetery that was later named after him.
Celdran says: "It looks like it dropped right out of a Filipino horror movie. The gates in front, which lead to nowhere, have skulls and crossbones carved on it. The lion statues that guard its gate do nothing to remove its overt ghostliness."
2. Fifth floor of the Philippine National Bank building on Roxas Boulevard
The place: Celdran says the building’s fifth floor was "apparently used as a morgue for the victims of the Regent Hotel fire back in the early ’80s." He adds, "Its ceiling is oddly much lower than all the other floors of the building."
Celdran says: "Tenants of the building say that the floor is so haunted that the number five has been removed from the elevator buttons, and word has it that an exorcism had to be done earlier this year."
3. The ruins of St. Ignatius Church at the former Ateneo de Manila in Intramuros
The place: Celdran says, "Destroyed during the Battle of Manila back in 1945, the ruins of St. Ignatius Church stand as a horrific memorial to over 60,000 people that perished in Intramuros during the Liberation of Manila at the end of World War II." Before that, it was almost burned down when a fire razed Ateneo buildings in 1932. Only the church and the nearby Mission House were saved "through the efforts of the Fathers and the firemen." St. Ignatius (born Ignacio Lopez de Loyola) is the founder of the Jesuits, a religious order that established and currently run Ateneo de Manila University.
Celdran says: "The Banyan tree that grows right by its rear entrance only emphasizes the eeriness of this former place of worship."
4. Manila Film Center
The place: Former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ "palace" is infamously known as the supposed resting place of hundreds of workers buried alive when its upper floor collapsed in 1981. At the time, the construction of the Parthenon-like building was being rushed for the 1982 Manila International Film Festival. Rumor has it that the First Lady had cement poured over the workers’ bodies. But in 2005, journalist Howie Severino wrote, "Not more than a dozen died (we heard figures as high as 169, which was based on an Inquirer account of a spirit questor expedition years ago), and NONE of them were left behind in the Manila Film Center." This was the "half-baked conclusion" of Severino and documentary show I-Witness, based on paper trail and interviews. However, spooky stories of the workers’ ghosts haunting the buildings have persisted to this day.
Celdran says: "The Manila Film Center looks like a creepy mausoleum docked along the shores of Manila Bay. Although the rumors of dead construction workers embedded in its walls have been debunked, the Drag Queen show that plays nightly currently add a surrealist element to the history of this building."
5. The Former Silahis International Hotel
The place: The Silahis International Hotel that was turned into the Grand Boulevard Hotel has been closed for about two years. The Manila government took over the hotel in 2008 after its owners reportedly failed to pay P276 million in real property taxes. Celdran says, "Completed in the ’70s, the former Silahis Hotel now stands as an abandoned example of the architecture of mismanagement."
Celdran says: "Its round darkened windows now stare upon its neighbors like hundreds of dead eyes. A resident of North Syquia Apartments next door complained of frequently experiencing a hair-raising feeling that people were staring into her bedroom from the hotel."
6. Paco Park
The place: A popular wedding venue these days, Paco Park was actually a cemetery for the well-heeled crowd during the Spanish era. This is the resting place of the bones of National Hero Jose Rizal, as well as the victims of a cholera outbreak centuries ago, says Celdran. Martyred priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (GOMBURZA) were also buried here. Burials were disallowed in 1913, and the site was declared a national park in 1966.
Celdran says: "Its century-old Acacia trees loom over empty niches, giving the circular formation of this adobe structure an especially gothic vibe. Catch an opera recital of "Paco Park Presents" to complete the picture."
7. The Crypts of San Agustin Church
The place: Inside the oldest stone church in the Philippines, you’ll find crypts "housing the niches of folks like Juan Luna, 121 massacred friars during World War II and a smattering of McMickings, Hidalgos and Olbeses," Celdran says. The crypts were part of the Augustinian monastery’s refectory.
Celdran says: "With each of the walls looming at least 16 feet high over your head, one truly feels overwhelmed by the specter of death. Close the large wooden doors and light all the candles on the central rack to get that perfect emo vibe in which to write goth poetry by."
8. Mehan Garden
The place: According to Celdran, the Mehan Garden (formerly known as Jardin Botanico) was named after John C. Mehan, the park superintendent during the American era. "It’s more popularly known as the controversial propertythat heritage conservationists and then Mayor Lito Atienza battled over in the early 2000s."
Celdran says: "It’s one of those places where no matter how many lights you turn on, the place still seems dark. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that in 1603, this place witnessed the horrific massacre of over 24,000 Chinese people under the auspices of Gov. General Dasmarias. If you are thinking, ’Huh. Really? Mehan Garden?’ I tell you, go there after 10 p.m. If the ghosts don’t scare you, trust me, the living ones who sleep in the trees will."
9. Museo ng Maynila
The place: After "hibernating" for a few years, the former Army Navy Club reopened in 2007 with the unveiling of the exhibit, Maynila Noon: The Curt Teich Postcard Collection, 1922-1949.
Celdran says: "This creepy crumbling structure is begging to be restored to its former glory. But until enlightened forces in Manila City Hall get their act together, its grand staircases which lead to abandoned dormitories and a termite-eaten ballroom and theater will glare down Luneta through Banyan trees creeping out anyone who dares to go near it. The place is so scary it’s even been used as the set for a Chinese funeral in one of the Mano Po movies.
The allegedly haunted hospital of Corregidor
The place: While technically not in the metro, Celdran considers this historic site part of Manila "because of its heritage in World War II." At the time, the island’s "strategic location (at the entrance of Manila Bay) was vital in the defense of Manila," according to Corregidor’s official website. Celdran says it "hosted thousands of Japanese and American soldiers who died by bullet, sword, fire and suicide at the close of World War II." This Halloween, Sun Cruises offers a guided tour to spots like the inner laterals of Malinta Tunnel, in one of which Japanese soldiers bombed themselves before the island was recaptured by Americans.
Celdran says: "The hospital ruins amidst the forests between Middleside and Topside are an especially great place to listen to the rustling of leaves or to photograph orbs."
Photos by Laurice Peñamante (St. Pancratius Chapel, Museo ng Maynila, Philippine National Bank building, ruins of St. Ignatius Church and former Silahis Hotel), Kevin Sandiego (Manila Film Center), June Carlo Reyes (San Agustin Church), Carlos Celdran (Mehan Garden), and Alfred Mendoza