Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 9, 2022

Alma 2022

We must be fair in addressing the Filipino plantation workers as well.

Generations of Filipino families are here in the islands today because of the hard work of their forefathers. As a result, many Filipino foods have become part of our staple diet. In fact, chicken long rice is now part of the Hawaiian food plate whenever it is ordered at any local eatery. It's also not unusual to see men wearing barong-style shirts for formal occasions. Filipino superstitions, ghosts, spirits, and creatures have also become part of our local culture. Again, my stories take us back to a time in my life when things were at the tail end of the plantation era.

Most of us walked to and from school; unless you had your own car, you were the coolest. The time was the mid-70s' to 1980, and yes, there were factions back then. You knew who the shop guys were as well as the athletes and so on and so forth. The Filipino girls who were the fashionistas hung out in front of the office near the principal's window. They were lively and fun and seemed to have snacks with them all the time. One girl was a new arrival from the Philippines and was one of the students in my math class. She was a pretty girl who tried to converse with the other Filipino girls in the class, but they did not seem to want anything to do with her. So, she was mostly alone. Even the most brutal Filipino boys in the school wouldn't bother her or say anything to her except for one person. His name was Fred Magsayo, the girl's cousin. It turns out that they were intended to marry after graduation, which explains why she was brought to Waipahu from the Philippines. Her name was Alma, and that's the most anyone knew. The only incident that ever came out of Alma's time at my old high school was when one of the Filipino boys named Desmond, who hung out near the science quad, saw Alma walking by and decided to talk to her. The boy's girlfriend, Merla, witnessed this and lost her mind, immediately eviscerating Desmond and slapping him about the head. The ranting and raving were entirely in Tagalog, so only those who spoke the language could tell what was happening. Alma was brilliant; she kept walking and minded her own business. The following day, Merla and her little enclave cornered Alma near the soda machines, where Merla gave Alma a warning, "You fucking bitch, you better stay away from my Desmond, do you understand me? I don't give a shit if you're from Sequijor or not!"

"If you know I'm from Sequijor, then you better get your hand off of me before you regret it," Alma said calmly.

Merla ignored her and walked off with her group but not before pushing Alma really hard into the soda machine. After that, no one saw Merla at school for a while. Eventually, Desmond would reveal that Merla was transferred to Pearl City High School and that soon, he, too, would be following her there. There was not one mention of why the transfer happened except that a rumor began circulating that Merla was assaulted by a strange winged creature in her bedroom one night. Even Merla's friends could not say precisely what happened because they had only heard bits and pieces of the incident. After that, no one bothered Alma, and life in a high school in Hawai'i in an old plantation town became easy until graduation. It wasn't until I met Lane Wilcken years later that he verified that the Sequijor province of the Philippines is where all the witches came from and where the Aswang came from.

Who's to say? I am not Filipino myself. Therefore, I cannot speak as an authority on the subject. But I know this is not some old wives' tale or a morsel of folklore. The Aswang are is very much alive in the Hawaiian islands. I've heard its cry. I've seen its shadow in the monkey pod trees along Renton Road and at the bachelor's quarters Hawaii plantation village. The beauty of this is that the ghosts, spirits, and creatures of other cultures are also very much alive in Hawaii, giving us a long list of stories to come. As for Fred and Alma? They have a more prominent family with lots of kids and grandkids. I've caught glimpses of them at the golf courses or having dinner at Formaggio's. They live a good full life which is how it should be for most of us. Every two years, the entire family makes its annual trip to the Philippines, where they stay with Alma's parents and extended family. And every year, they come back more prosperous than before they left.

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