Malacañang: The ultimate haunted house?
If the countless stories and urban legends are to be believed, President Benigno Aquino III is not the only president who lives in Malacañang Palace.
According to an article illustrated with photos on the Malacañang website, several dead presidents have been sighted by Palace employees and residents alike. The article was timed for Halloween and All Souls' Day.
The ghost of President Manuel L. Quezon is a regular in these stories, including an account by former President Ferdinand Marcos' daughter Imee, whose reported vision of Quezon in the presidential study supposedly prompted her father to consider a séance to seek Quezon’s advice. The Marcos family occupied Malacañang the longest.
Another ghost story featured in the article came from longtime Malacañang resident Raul Gonzales, whose father, former Malacañang engineer Arturo Gonzales, was roused from sleep one night, inexplicably drawn to the Palace garage, whereupon he heard a car door being opened and shut. The elder Gonzales later on learned that Quezon had died at exactly the same time as his garage visit.
But Quezon is not the only president who reportedly lurks in the Palace hallways. Househelp have claimed to have seen the ghosts of President Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay there as well, smoking cigars in the Aguinaldo state dining room.
According to the article, the ghost of Roxas spooked the Marcoses the most.
“Nick Joaquin relates how the Marcos children would avoid the State Dining Room, as this was where the body of President Roxas had reportedly lain in state. Imelda Marcos would insist that one of her children escort her to the bathroom whenever they ventured near the State Dining Room,” the article says, but is quick to add that Roxas was in fact lain in state in the Rizal Ceremonial Hall.
The article shares other supernatural stories involving not only presidential ghosts, but those of children, World War II victims, and an American chaplain named Father Brown. Then there is the cigar-chomping kapre said to live in the famous haunted balete tree near the Palace's state entrance.
Malacañang's current occupant, President Aquino, has related to others stories he's heard about pianos playing by themselves and mysterious footsteps heard in hallways, according to the article, but does not say whether the president himself believes in ghosts. However, Aquino chose to live in a part of the Palace compound away from these ghosts' usual stomping grounds.
“President Aquino himself—who resides in Bahay Pangarap—has commented on the ominous atmosphere of the Palace, and the years of related stories on hauntings, beginning with a looming balete tree in front of the state entrance.”
The Palace's rich history and its wealth of ghost stories passed down through the years make other famous haunted houses pale in comparison.
"The article was in response to popular demand," says Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, who heads the team responsible for Malacañang's web presence. "It was an exercise in gathering existing published sources as well as oral accounts."
Quezon is the grandson of President Quezon. He says via sms, "I grew up with these stories, not from family but from old folks who'd worked there. I believe that people seriously believe these tales... Lots of people get spooked."
Photos of ghosts
Believers cite photographs taken at the Palace that purportedly reveal apparitions, such as a famous one that shows a headless member of the Presidential Security Guard on duty by the Palace's state entrance. But like some of the other ghost stories, this one may have an un-supernatural origin:
"When asked if he had truly captured a specter on film, photographer Wig Tysmans offered a simple explanation: long exposure. The now-immortalized security personnel must have held his pose throughout the exposure, only to move his head before it ended." – Amanda Lago/ Howie Severino/KG, GMA News