THE DRESS

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 By:  Gianna Maniego

Elise  had never  been a  firm  believer  in ghost stories. When it  came to campouts or sleepovers,  friends would try their best  to scare  her by telling  the creepiest  tales.  But she  never bit.

Now that she was  working, she was  an even bigger  skeptic  than before . One day, she noticed their new  next door neighbor  moving in.  Being a  friendly  person,  she greeted the old woman  who was  supervising the movers.

“Good morning po. Kayo po ba ang  titira  sa tabi namin? Ako po si Elise ( Good  morning,  are you  the one moving in beside us?  My name is Elise) she stuck out her hand in a welcome gesture.

“Kumusta  ineng, Ako si Mrs.  Estanislao. Nanay Celia nalang  ang itawag mo sa akin. Oo,  dito na kami titira ng dalawa kong apo. Nasa States  ang mga magulang nila nagtratrabaho kaya ako ang nag-aalaga sa kanila (  How do you do? I’m Mrs. Estanislao, but you can  call me Nanay Celia.  Yes, I’m moving in with my two grandchildren. Their  parents are working in  the States so I’m taking care of them.), ” said  the  friendly  old woman.  Nanay Celia  invited  Elise to  come by  after they had settled into the house  and  Elise  agreed.

Two nights  later,  bringing a huge  platter of Spaghetti carbonara that her  mom had cooked, Elise  knocked on Nanay Celia’s  door.  “Hello  po, pinabibigay po  ng mommy ko ( Hello, my mom asked me to give you this), “Elise knocked  on Nanay Celia’s  door.  “Hello po,  pinabibigay po ng mommy ko  ( Hello, my mom asked me to give you  this), ” Elise  smiled, indicating the platter. “Naku ineng salamat ha, nag abala ka pa. Halika Kwentuhan mo ako  ( Thanks, you shouldn’t have bothered. Come in and chat),  Nanay Celia  said,  Elise felt right at home with Nanay Celia. She was a  kindly old woman who had lots  of stories  to tell.  In the next few days, they became  close and sometimes  Elise would  babysit Nanay Celia’s  two grandchildren, Bingbong and Lilit.  Bingbong was eight  years old, and  Lilit was a year younger. One day, as they were  having merienda, Bingbong blurted:

“Lola, sana  dito nalang tayo  forever,  para malapit  lang tayo  kay ate Elise palagi  (Lola, I wish  that we can live here forever so that we can stay close to  Ate Elise  all  the time).”

“Oo nga lola,  sana  hindi na tayo habulin dito. I hope they don’t  follow us  here ) Lilit dittoed.  Elise glanced  curiously at Nanay Celia,  who seemed to avoid  looking at her.  instead she diverted  the kids attention by shooing them into  the living room to watch TV.  “Pasensya kana, Madaldal masyado minsan yang mga yan ( My apologies,  sometimes they talk so much),” she said as she cleared away the table.  “Okay lang po’ yun. Bakit po, lagi po ba kayong palipat-lipat ng bahay ( That’s  okay. Have you been moving from place to place)” Elise  asked curiously. “Hay naku, mahabang kuwento (It’s  a long story),” Nanay Celia answered, as  she led  Elise to the veranda.   According to Nanay Celia, weird experience have dogged her and her  grandchildren for the past two years-ever since  her eldest granddaughter  got murdered. They were still living in Paranaque at the time.  The house  was pratically new  and her daughter Luisa  and Luisa’s husband Dante had bought it for a song.  The two  were working as nurses in the States and yearly, they would  spend  11 months abroad,  so they  asked  Nanay Celia to stay home  and take care of the kids.  The place was ideal in that  it was very near a school  where both Bingbong and Lilit  could study and it was  just a street away from  their paternal  uncle Ernie and his family . Their house was also very near a park where  yayas would often bring their charges in the afternoon, and teenagers would often hang out at night.  Eighteen-year-old  Tintin, the eldest,  was the same age as Laarni,  her cousin,  Both of them studied  in a university in Manila, so everyday, Tintin  would walk to her  uncle’s property. One day, Tintin didn’t  come home  at her usual  time. Nanay Celia  got worried  because rain or shine, Tintin would always be home  before 6:00 p.m. to catch her favorite soap opera on TV.

Nanay Celia  called up  Laarni’s  house and  asked if Laarni had arrived  home.  Upon learning  that Laarni wasn’t  there yet,  her anxiety lessened a bit.  Maybe they were  just caught in traffic, she thought. But by 8:00 p.m.  Tintin still hadn’t arrived. Really worried now, she called  up Laarni’s house to  check.  Laarni herself answered the phone. ” Hi, Lola, what’s up? Kamusta nga po pala  si Tintin? Me  sakit po ba siya (How  is Tintin, is she sick)?” Laarni asked  gaily. “Bakit, hindi mo ba siya  kasama? (Why, isn’t  she with you)?”  Nanay Celia  asked,  panic  creeping  into her voice.  “Hindi po siya sumabay kaning umaga. Akala ko po me sakit  kaya absent  Wala pa po ba siya dyan?  ( She didn’t  hitch with us this morning. I thought  she was  sick, that’s  why she was  absent. Isn’t  she there yet?”  Laarni asked, worried  herself  now.  “Wala! kaninang  6:30 ng umaga pa siya umalis dito. Ang alam  namin,  sumabay sa inyo pumasok . Naku! Nasaan na ba ang batang yan ( She’s not here. She left this  morning at 6:30. We thought  she’d hitching a ride  with you as usual. Oh,   where could  that child  have gone)” said  Nanay  Celia.  Laarni  promised to call some  of their mutual friends  to see  whether  Tintin was with them. By  10 P.M. Nanay Celia was hysterical , Laarni called and said  Tintin  was not  with their  friends. Ernie began going door to door, asking the neighbors if they’d seen  Tintin. Some of them mentioned  they’d  seen her  that morning  cutting  through the park. A group was formed and they searched  the park.  Within the hour, they discovered Tintin’s broken body hidden under a  pile of  garbage at the far end of  the park She’d been raped and stabbed  to death!

The whole neighborhood mourned  the death of Tintin. Her parents rushed  home from  the States  and tried  to help with the funeral preparations, but  it fell  to Nanay  Celia  to arrange most of it.  A few  nights  after  she was  laid to  rest, the day after Dante and Luisa  flew back  to the  States,  Nanay Celia  decided  to go to bed  early.  “I was so tired, I immediately fell into  an exhausted  fell into  an exhausted  sleep.  But then I had  a strange  dream, or so I thought.”

At about  3:00 A.M. she heard  a knock  on the door. She got  up to  answer  the door,  and when  she opened it, Tintin was standing  in the  doorway wearing  the dress she was buried in.

Tintin said: “Lola, I’ve come home. I knew  you’d be worried. I’m home Lola”.  Nanay Celia  woke up  in tears. She thought her dream was  an offshoot of her  grief. She still  had to come  to terms with her  granddaughter’s death. The next morning,  she was  preparing  breakfast for Lilit and Bingbong, who  were only around 5 and 4 at the time.

Suddenly she heard  a loud  shriek and the two kids rushed out to her.  “Lola, Lola, ang damit  nasa cabinet ( the dress  is in the cabinet)!” they both shouted .

“What dress?” she asked  Bingbong explained that they were playing in  their sister’s room, and one  of  them opened  the closet. When they saw what  was hanging  in the closet, they rushed out. Not knowing  what they  were talking  about. Nanay Celia went  with them into  the room. There,  hanging  in the closet, was the  dress  that her  granddaughter  had been  buried  in a few  days before! The  same dress  Tintin was wearing  in her dream!  Spooked  by the incident, Nanay Celia  had the house blessed. But  the day after  it was blessed, when she opened  the closet, the dress  was there  again! Nanay Celia  said they decided to sell the  house and transfer  to another  place. The house held too many sad memories and,  it seemed, it  was determined  to constantly remind  them of it.  But the same  thing happened in the new place that they got, an apartment in Makati. After a few days  of quiet, Nanay Celia  opened the cabinet in Lilit’s  room to put away the clothes, and there, hanging in the closet  was Tintin’s burial dress!

They’ve transferred houses several times in the past two years, but the dress kept following them around.  At one point,  they tried to burn it, shred it, donate it to the poor,  have it  blessed… but the day after, the dress would be back on its hanger. They figured it was because Tintin’s murder hadn’t  been resolved  and her  restless spirit was reminding them to seek justice for her. But shortly before  they moved  to their  current house,  Ernie called and  said  one of the  carpenters  confessed to the  murder. He had been working on a house near Ernie’s  and had seen Tintin walk through the park everyday. On the day Tintin was killed, he was high on drugs and through he  could get  away with raping  Tintin , since she was always alone. But Tintin fought back  and he was forced  to hit her on the  head  with a stone. He left  her to bleed to death. After  hearing this,  Nanay Celia offered a short prayer that Tintin’s soul would be at peace.  Sure enough,  so far, in their current house, the dress hadn’t  made an  appearance yet.

At first Elise was skeptical  about  Nanay Celia’s  story. But the  old woman showed her the pictures that they took of the funeral. There were several  shots of Tintin in her coffin right before they closed it. She pointed out  a smudge  where the funeral  parlor assistants  stained  Tintin’s  white dress near the collar. The  morticians  put too much foundation on her neck, so when they dressed her,  there was a  ring of  makeup on  the collar.  Then she  showed  Elise another picture of the same  dress hanging in a closet. She pointed  out the same make up smudge on the collar!  Although she didn’t  want to  believe it, Tintin’s  story disturbed Elise. She didn’t  know why.  She was still thinking of Tintin as she left Nanay Celia’s house that night. As she  approached the gate,  she looked back at the house and  waved  to Nanay Celia,  who was still in the veranda. She could hear Bingbong and Lilit arguing over what to watch on TV. Then  something caught  her eye  and she  locked up. There in the second story window was a figure. A young  woman was smiling  and waving back at her.  She looked exactly  like Tintin, and she  was wearing the burial  dress.

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