A mix of the historical
Manuel L. Quezon III
Monday, Jul. 5, 2004
WHEN people encounter “paranormal” problems with a house, or an office, they call in the Spirit Questors. Recently, I encountered an organization which was wrestling with the problem of its staff worried about ghosts on the premises. The Questors were going to be called in, and one skeptic asked me what I thought. I said I was all for it, because of the experience I had taking the Questors around the North Cemetery, courtesy of Araw Magazine.
We had visited the tombs of Magsaysay and Roxas, but there was one stop which was not dictated by fame, but by my aesthetic sense. All my life I have marveled at the beauty of a neglected tomb with a marble sculpture of a mourning angel. That day was the first time I actually went up to the tomb, located in a neglected plot covered with overgrown grasses. I found out that it was actually the final resting place of two people: Mercedes Johnson, 1900-1917, and E.H. Johnson, 1878-1916. The tomb was sculpted by the renowned firm of Luerssen y Oriol. Over the name of Mercedes was the Pi and Chi of Christian symbolism; over E.H.’s tomb, the compass and G of the Freemasons. It was at this tomb that the Spirit Questors had the most to say.
“I see a violent burial,” said one, in a whisper, “a great deal of mourning… A Filipina, standing over this tomb, angry over something that should have been given her.”
Another saw images of two men: one scheming; another profaning the tomb by urinating on it.
Still another said that one couldn’t avoid the impression that “the girl was buried alive.” Another emphasized that “there were many people at the funeral.”
Yet another Questor said that the two, probably father and daughter, were deeply attached to one another; that the daughter, who seemed to have Spanish features, was in love with a Filipino, but that there was some sort of conflict due to the girl’s coming from a Spanish family. Others said some sort of forbidden love haunted the life of the girl; one saw scenes of meetings in a garden, with the family home in the distance; the daughter, it seems, may have died of grief, her father having passed on ahead, due to an accident.
Someone mentioned foul play seemed to be involved. “I sense great anger, one of them still wants vengeance.”
Another Questor wandered away from the group, staring at a tombstone near the back of the plot, and when asked why he had wandered off, he shrugged: “there was an old Filipino watching me-I had to look.”
We proceeded to the shoddily repainted Mausoleum of the Veterans of the Revolution. Over the years, this has been one of the oldest and most striking of the structures in the cemetery. But it has been emptied of many of its famous dead; its noble architecture marred by slipshod paint jobs over the past few years.
We went inside. The Questors were suddenly all abuzz. They were looking at the floor.
The mausoleum is a box-like structure with a dome; beneath the dome is a patterned floor, much damaged, heavily scarred, very badly patched up with cheap cement. The Questors excitedly looked at the floor and called out to their mentor.
It seemed the structure was full of occult symbols, as was appropriate for one constructed at the turn of the century, when Freemasonry was still a potent force in the country, and many of whose members had been leaders of the Revolution.
The Questors pondered the “magic circle.” Their mentor walked to the center of it and they all talked of a strong sense of power. Tony Perez, standing in the middle of the circle, called me over.
“Look,” he said, softly, pointing to a small compass strapped to his wrist. “Look at the compass, and now look at the main entrance and the two other side entrances. They are oriented toward the cardinal directions.”
I was impressed.
“Now look,” he said, pointing at the dome. “You see the details at the corners of the dome, where the circle meets the square of the main structure?”
Yes, I replied.
“They are oriented at the points of the compass, too. They are triangles right? Notice how each one corresponds to a direction… North East, South East, South West…”
The Questors all agreed that this was a place built by people with a strong belief in the occult; in its rituals. They were nervous. Someone suggested they leave, they were not welcome; one added it was obvious that those who had built the mausoleum had cast a very strong spell on it-“this place has been ‘warded’ you see, there is a protective circle cast around it.”
“We are not wanted here,” one told me, as we hurried out.
From there, we walked some more until we reached the necropolis-there is no other word for such a well-ordered, beautifully designed, and extensive family burial ground-of the Nakpils. Each tomb is beautiful: those dating back to the pre-World War II period are extremely grand examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, in cement, marble and granite. Our objective was to visit the tomb-located in the main Art Nouveau pylon of the Nakpil family plot-of Gregoria de Jesus, widow of Andres Bonifacio, who had remarried a Nakpil.
One Questor had glimpses of her riding on a horse; another said it seemed that she loved her first husband more; a third said: “She is laughing.”
Laughing, I asked, quite incredulously.
“Yes, she is laughing. She knows that the truth is known and she has been vindicated.”
A reaction, perhaps, to the tragic circumstances of her husband’s death, I surmised.
All I know is, I’m glad I don’t have the psychic abilities the Questors have. It’s too terrific a burden to bear.
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