The Lady in white at Balete Drive. This could well be a title of a spooky movie shown during Halloween. But for Filipinos who have heard about this, it is a popular tale about midnight sightings of a ghost along Balete Drive located at an old residential enclave of the rich in Quezon City. This used to be a remote place but is now a highly urbanized city in greater Metro Manila.
The sightings, believed by many to be true was passed from one generation to another and now have many versions, but always the story has one common theme: a lady in white never fails to appear at the stroke of twelve midnight along the dark stretch of a long road named Balete Drive. The Balete (from the genus Ficus) tree is widely considered by Filipinos as enchanted, mystical or habitat of evil supernatural beings. The street was named as such because of the Balete trees planted alongside the road. So the trappings of a ghost story are all there: mystical trees, long stretch of an eerie, dark road with nary a passer-by and a neighbourhood of mansions built during the Spanish era. Even to this day, there is an abandoned house in the vicinity, which looks like the haunted houses one sees in horror or ghost movies. Movies which adapted the theme helped kept the tale alive.
Being a romantic at heart, the version I like the most tells about a love story between two young lovers.
As the story goes, there lived once in that big, now abandoned and haunted house, a young woman of immense beauty. Her family was of nobility and was very wealthy. This young lady was schooled inside a convent.
One summer, she went home to her ancestral house to vacation with her family during school break. It was at this time that she and the stable boy met and at first glance had fallen in love. Of course, there was great opposition from the girl’s family, especially the father, when they learned about the relationship of the two. The stable boy was driven away, and was never heard again. The girl upon instruction of the father was not allowed to step out of the house, not even in the gardens and was always under the watchful eye of a maidservant. She became a prisoner in her own home. Until one rainy night, in her long, white nightdress, she attempted to flee. It was pitched dark and she got as far as the balete tree on the road just outside the perimeter walls of their property. This was where her beau used to stand every dusk waiting to get a glimpse of her while she stood by her window. Her father caught up with her after the maidservant raised a ruckus soon as her absence was noticed. She was forced back inside the house and her room was locked from the outside.
Many years passed until the broken-hearted girl losing hope of getting free, ended her life by hanging. Since then, passers-by especially at night would see a lady in white crossing the street towards the century-old balete tree.
Urban legend or not, to-date, many motorists would rather take a longer route than pass through Balete Drive especially when night time falls. Would you?