THE DONA JUANA RODRIGUEZ ST. PROJECT

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I first heard this true-to-life ghost from my professor who ran out o f lessons  to teach one sleepy afternoon. It was about this saleslady- let’s call her Mrs.  Santos  -during  the Seventies who was into  direct-selling  Tupperware products, sometimes new  in the kitchenware market at the time.  At the end of the demonstration she conducted  in Laguna, a middle-aged  gentleman, who looked  like an  important businessman-sort of like a Jaime Zobel de Ayala or a John Robert Sobrepena-approached her.

The guy -let’s call him Mr. Cruz-invited her to do another demonstration in a house along Dona  Juana Rodriguez in New Manila, Quezon City.  Charmed  by the man’s  courtly demeanor, the saleslady accepted the invitation and went  the following week to the  address given. It was at an old Hispanic  mansion with century-old  trees  and an ancient garden surrounding it. It was a lazy Saturday midafternoon and very  few vehicles were passing by in  front of the mansion.  In the front yard stood an old,  balding man in a white undershirt, sweeping  away the dead leaves. When he saw her,  the old man, who was probably the caretaker,  readily invited her inside.  The interior of the mansion exuded a certain Old World charm,  something seen in  period movies like The Sound of Music or Gone with the wind.  She was  ushered into the sala  and was told to wait for Mr.  Santos  proceeded to set out all the  tupperware items she had brought with her.  By the time she had finished, Mr Cruz still hadn’t  arrived. She decided to pass the  time by reading some of the magazines. Oddly  enough.  She couldn’t recognize any of the faces featured on the covers. Glancing  at the  dates, she saw  that they were all  dated in the 1930’s.  Suddenly,  she heard voices  coming from  upstairs -animated  conversation, punctuated by laughter here and there. When she  looked up, Mr. Cruz, together with several men and women similar to his age and bearing, were coming down the stairs. Mr Cruz introduced  her to his friends, who were all wearing gray suits. Some  of the men were in gray skirts and long  gowns.  Mrs.  Santos  didn’t  pay particular attention to their attires, surmising that perhaps it was a gathering of an upper-class club or organization and such “uniforms”were  required. Mrs. Santos introduced the Tupperware products and everybody seemed  excited and pledged to order some items.  After her demonstrations , someone turned on the  turntable and played old tunes, probably Bing Crosby classics. Then someone brought  out some food and  wind and a party began.  Mrs. Santos was invited to stay for the party  she declined,  saying it was already getting dark,  but did  drink a little of the wine.  Mrs. Santos went home happy and tipsy that day.  She stayed  the night with a  60-year old aunt who lived  in Malate. Mrs. Santos  told her aunt about  her rich,  elegant  but weird clients. The aunt was surprised when she  mentioned  the names  of Mr. Cruz  and his friends. Apparently, her aunt knew them all by name and reputation. Yes, they  were all celebreties and elegantly rich! Some of them were famous artists, musicians and socialities.  The only thing was, her aunt and  watched and read about  them during her college days, decades ago. As a matter of fact, these people had been  dead for a  long  time. Many of them didn’t survive the Second World War!

Mrs. Santos was too tunned to speak.  To think that she even danced a tune of  two with them and  tasted  some wine!

A few months after, Mrs. Santos decided to write about her experience and  have it published in the Sunday edition of the Daily Express. It came out in the second week of December 1972.

When my  professor  read the article, he tried to find out  the truth behind the  story. He asked  his students (at the  time, he   was teaching  the high school  students of San Beda College), to visit the mansion in New Manila with him- as a sort of adventure. So, together with a dozen of his students, my professor went to the house one Saturday morning. To their  surprise, an old man identical  to that described  in the Express story was there in front yard,  doing much the same thing that the old  man in the story was doing-sweeping away dead leaves.

My professor made some pretext about needing to enterview Mr. Cruz about  old houses.  The old man ushered them all inside them all inside,  and there they  found everything  as described in the 70’s article. Even the old  magazines were there,  bearing the same dates.  the old man told  them to wait as he climbed the long staircase to inform Mr. Cruz  about  the group didn’t wait around to find out as they sped out of the mansion as fast as  their feet could carry them.  When I asked  the professor whether the story was true  or not,  he dared  me to  find out  for myself. He gave me the exact location of the house. which was some blocks away from  the Broadway Centrum. So one Sunday morning,  I decided  to see for myself. Trudging up Dona Juan Rodriquez Street.  I noticed  some old houses  but saw no sign of the old man. Reporting back to my professor, I suggested that after 20 years, somebody  might have bought the property and turned it into one of those townhouse  complexes.  Probably, he said. He didn’t  because after the  horrifying  incident he never  went back there. Even at  the height of traffic in the area, he always  made it a  point  to avoid  the street.  As for myself, I can only  report this strange incident that happened after  I visited  the street: One  Monday morning  I checked out the National  Library for old  copies of the Sunday Daily Express Magazines. To my surprise, I discovered that all the  copies  of the December 1972 issues were there- except  for the issue that came out  on the second  week. The librarian, who was has been working there for decades, was also  puzzied.  Coincidence? Somehow, I think not.

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