(Published in Sunstar Davao, October 29, 2006 issue)
Time really flies fast, especially when you’re away from home. I woke up one morning and was surprised to notice cotton cobwebs behind ghosts, skulls and goblins displayed in grocery stores. It meant the approach of Halloween, (and it also meant that I’ve been here in this island for a year and 16 days to be exact) and I decided to use Halloween for my special feature for our anniversary issue.
Last night, I clipped a small advertisement from our previous issue of the newspaper before leaving for the “Wicked Warehouse” somewhere in Malakal, a few miles from my boarding house. I stopped by our office to get the thousand-dollar Canon camera we only use for rare occasions (the fear of breaking it and having it charged against my salary is not a welcome though) and prepared to be frightened out of my guts. Expecting to see a deserted warehouse and a few daring people, I was surprised to see cramped parking spaces and a long line of people extending all the way to the main road.
A yellow line (police lines) served to control the chaos. Alas, I forgot that this is Palau and nothing much happens so a little variation like this would surely draw in crowds from their homes. Shrugging off the notion of falling in line, I just went around taking photos of the crowd, mostly teenagers, waiting for their chance to enter the warehouse. Only about 10 are allowed at a time. Unexpectedly, one of the ghosts (whom I of course didn’t recognize because of his frightening mask) went out and saw me. That ghost served as our passport and in no time at all, I and my buddy Robert became one of the screaming victims inside the Wicked Warehouse. The warehouse was dark and smoky, each room creatively designed to really scare the wits out of people, complete with squeaking doors, coffins, skulls and masked ghosts who expectedly springs at us from dark corners. I know I was too old to be frightened but my concentration in taking photos was lost.
Then we entered a smoky cemetery. “Kamatayan” was standing in a crudely built stage holding his “karit” and waving it towards anyone who enters the door. Gravestones and empty liquor bottles were strewn everywhere. I read the inscriptions on the tombstones and understood that the producers were discouraging the young people to engage in drinking liquor. In fairness, the producers have created a magical and horrifying world from a crude warehouse, and I guess the youngsters got the message they wished to portray.
Halloween and my article is not finished yet. I’ve got to prepare for the Deadman’s Ball on the eve of October 31st. If I win a prize for the most frightening mask, that would hurt me because I’m planning to attend au naturel.