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wilfrido david
wilfrido david OTHER THAN your boss, your mother-in-law, or the bill collector, or your girlfriend's husband, who is your favorite spook? Or ghoulie, monster, or any supernatural being that makes your hair stand on end upon the mere hint of it behind your back, following you wherever you go? Amazingly, here we are, with our minds conditioned to be afraid of something that we do not actually see, feel or smell, but that is actually just a product of our childish imagination, and that American enterpreneurial savvy capitalized on. During the "scare season" the stores overflow with all kinds of "scary" costumes---from scarecrows to witches, skeletons, zombies, to just plain white sheets, and much more. Plus, these items now come with the appropriate sound to match the costume you'll have to spend extra for on batteries.

Halloween is a much anticipated day in this part of the world, second only to Thanksgiving Day. It means such great fun to kids, and lately, to adults as well. Halloween is also the day that children can accumulate candies to last them until the next Halloween. Households prepare for it way ahead buying candy from the grocery store to dole out to trick-or-treaters, who knock on doors whispering, of course, "Trick or Treat!?" So far, I still have to see a kid actually do a trick to earn the treat, usually a few pieces of chocolates. I sort of wonder what trick they can do, except maybe pull their pants down, or do a little singing or dancing---but they sure are ready with their candy bags nonetheless.

It used to be that children were let alone to go around the neighborhood to celebrate the day. But due to the stark reality of the times, the parents have to go along as well. Kids aged from two to pre-teen years just love to go around parading in their weird costumes, while the candy is now just considered a traditional handout. Who can eat all that candy, anyway?

Working in an office environment in America, you can expect to see the most outrageous of Halloween outfits come October 31. Even the lady boss comes in wearing a costume that you wouldn't believe---sometimes as Marilyn Monroe with newspaper padding in her bra, blonde wig, but, of course, she wouldn't go as far as imitating the iconic hip-swaying walk and thus risk losing the respect of her staff. The CEO might come in with a white stiff collar and black coat, greeting everyone with priestly gestures; or his secretary, in a nun's habit with padding in her behind; the department manager, in Superman getup, etc. That's the fun of it---adults living out their fantasies in their costumes.

As an Asian, and certainly not used to this kind of revelry, it is against my better judgment to participate. But somehow I manage to win a prize for something I did not attempt in the least to compete in---usually the best and scariest mask (I am not even wearing one!). I feel guilty accepting the prize (a Chinese-made quartz watch), but then they probably decided I deserved it. Hhmmnn....

Halloween, unquestionably, is the American equivalent of All Saint's day in the old country, where similarly scary tales are being told and retold just to get into the right atmosphere. As kids, didn't you find it odd that we loved to be scared or frightened? Our next door neighbor, an uncle of mine in his seventies, was a fabulous storyteller. Be it fairy tale or in the Friday-the-Thirteenth genre or just plain made up or even tall tales, the way he told them left us enraptured, as if we were in the story ourselves. We were willing to part with 10 centavos out of our allowance just to have the privilege of being in his "audience." What he earned, he called "nga-nga" money---what with his ubiquitous luyos, api, and samat leaves which he combined and pounded on his pestle. After being scared with his All Saints' Day stories, it would be a relief for us to watch him put the compound in his mouth, chew on it until he spat blood---figuratively anyway. The next night he would regale us with happy "and-they-lived-happily-ever-after" fairy tales, and this time it was a freebee. That, of course, was the precursor of what we now know as a "promo." We kept coming back for more and we were more than willing to pay for it.

I guess every country has its own spooks---in America and Europe, they have vampires, werewolves, monsters, fire-spewing dragons, and Frankensteins. Ireland's favorite is the leprechaun, which is probably first cousin to our "nuno-sa-punso." We can match our own "aswangs," "magkukutud," "kapres" or "tikbalangs" against theirs! When I was a boy and just beginning to notice those lovely creatures in skirts, what scared me most was when my mother learned that I played hookey and she had her slipper ready! Or when my father found out that I messed up our car's stick shift transmission by trying to drive it. Not so much with ghosts and other supernatural beings--- I just pretended to be scared because I could always run to my pretty Visayan yaya for TLC. It was more of an instinct than anyting else, I suppose.

Pinoys are fanatical about visiting their dead, probably out of a sense of duty rather than tradition. Overseas Pinoys would rather time their balikbayan visits to coincide with All Saints' Day because it is the perfect time for family reunions without having to play Santa Claus. Local Pinoys will fight tooth and nail scrambling for an available seat on the bus just to make it to the old province on time. Who cares about the coming typhoon, they have to catch the ferry or even an obviously overloaded boat to their destination. It's almost like Holy Week---we look forward to taking Wednesday afternoon off with the holidays lasting up to the rest of the week.

You might have your own spook---your grandfather's ghost haunting you, the scent of flowers when you talk about a loved one, if you have goose pimples when a breeze blows against the curtains, your teacher threatening to fail you if you don't brush up in math, and, of course, the sight of the dentist (what could be scarier?).

We all grew up with our "favorite" spook. My sister would always recall the night she "saw" a "kapre" stradling a sampaloc tree, with smoke coming out of his mouth and smelling like an Indian in summer, with eyes a-glimmer like tiny Christmas lights. My brother swears he once heard wings flapping, and as he looked upwards there a "magkukutud" or "manananggal," with only the upper torso showing. Nowadays "mananaggals" are not so active, afraid to leave their lower half---what with the spate of gang rapes, etc. Besides, they can only found in the Visayas---so my brother had his spooks mixed up! As for aswangs, they were the most common. You could have one in your own household without knowing it!

If you believe in the spiritual and not-from-this-earth beings and are deathly afraid of them, you are not alone. But if there is something or somebody that you should really fear ---it's the guy sitting next to you. He could be a bag snatcher or a pickpocket. He should be your spook, anytime of the year!

Pardon me while I go trick or treating. I hope you enjoy your holiday as well!

[About the author. Wilfrido David first retired as Computer-Analyst from the Ayala Group of Companies. He immigrated to the US in 1985, worked there for another 25 years in the Medical Field (Medical Lab Tech), until he retired for the second time. Sometime ago, he was involved with FAANM (Filipino-American Association of New Mexico) as correspondent-contributor-writer-editor, publisher—all rolled into one. He says about that stint, "I ran out of energy, patience, and money but kept on with my duties until the next set of association officers were voted in." The earliest writing he did was for his high school paper in Holy Angel University. His present writing derives from the perspective of a Filipino expat in the US who faithfully keeps up with what's happening in the home country, as gleaned from his Filipino channels on DirecTV, aside from CNN and HLN.]

-Posted: 1:32 PM 10/31/2009 | More of this author on eK!