Halloween just went. In the Philippines, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, yesterday in the calendar was All Souls Day. Every Filipino family, or at least member, has been to the cemetery to visit the dead ones. Every Town, village and locality has a Fiesta day. This is Filipino tradition, Hispanic in origin. Filipinos brought or extended festival to the cemeteries. Halloween as fiesta for all cemeteries has now become national tradition of Filipinos. Because of complaints, many cemeteries have banned liquor and music by late generation, though. Marginalized indigenous Filipinos do not have Halloween season. After sending the dead off, Indigenous Filipinos simply regard burial grounds as all-time reverend.
Philippine Halloween Celebration is November 1 and 2, which are All Saints day and All Souls day respectively. In Hiligaynon, All Souls day is translated Tigkalalag or Tagkalalag [root Kalag, to unintangle/departed] translated: time of, for spirit, soul, or ghost. In Pilipino, the national language, the day is called Araw ng mga kaluluwa – literally Day of the spirits/souls/ghosts, and also Araw ng mga patay or Day of the departed /dead. Another word for All Souls day is Undas, whatever that word actually means as nobody can tell the origin and meaning.
The season is one of the heaviest in term of human traffic, of people going to and from urban centers and the provinces.
All soul’s day celebration is a mix of old tribal and Church customs thrown into one. Old Malay custom in the celebration, for example, is preparation of delicacies, mostly sweetened rice preparations, that is or are offered to the dead. Offering is usually done in some quiet corner of the house or in cemeteries. Originally, offering of food is done where spirit is or are believed to be, of no specific time or special day.
Burning of candles for offering is Church influence. Urban Filipinos have developed a weird practice of burning candles in front of homes and in sidewalks on All Souls day. Here in Payatas, many homes had it and everybody now is doing it. There was nothing like that in the place some ten or fifteen years ago. I guess many Filipinos who have migrated to urban areas have no opportunity to visit their dead because of social and or financial constraints, so they expressed it in, around the homes, and in the streets.
We do have western Trick or Treat that has gotten into our culture. I first encountered this in Marikina some twenty five years ago. I opened the door surprised to see some kids in ridiculous costumes demanding candies! I could not give them some sticky rice cake we did have in the house so I gave them the go-away-from-here threat 🙂
And, yes, Floral offerings. I remember, flowers used to be daily decoration of homes, schools, offices, churches. It is also given to special people. Philippine cemeteries are now full of them on All Souls day. A very lucrative business during the celebration. Flowers for the loved ones that’s how it is. The influence is western and modern in the country.
What a week. I mean it’s all been scary ghosts and Para normal movies dished out in TV everywhere I switched. I had settled for Flatliners starring Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and other familiar faces I know I can tell when I see their names flashed again.
It’s one movie I’ve seen before, actually, that I decided to see again because I could not remember very well what it was all about. The movie is about a group of medical students who secretly experimented with death experience. They took turns experiencing being dead. Death as defined by the movie is cessation of breathing, heart beat, and electrical activities in the body, as in real dead. By turns they put one of them to total sleep, or dead. Then the subject is stimulated back to life when it was at the limit where they can be brought back.
What the film showed of people while they were in their dead moments can never be real. What the subjects told after they were resurrected was their story, their nightmares, their Imaginations. Our characters were there dead on the experiment table. They were there being watched by their live peers ready to revive them when it is time. Subjects were there at the table all the time. That they were going places and meeting people while their body lay dead is but a dream and cannot be real. I guess nobody can really tell or impart what goes when a person has gone dead.
Now, that reminds me about nightmares. Nightmare, from people who have experienced them, is dream, scary dream, a product of the mind. Most people translate the word nightmare to Bangungot. Bangungot and nightmare are not the same. They may have similarities. Nightmare in Hiligaynon is Daman, scary dream, like when a person wakes up screaming running away from something not there.
I have experienced nightmares in my boyhood. I can no longer recall most of them except that they were usually associated with scary folklore, or dreams near those I saw in scary movies. From the experiences, I have learned ability to re-awaken myself. Like, ‘hey, I don’t like this; this is a dream’ so, I woke up. I have only one unforgettable nightmare. It was nothing to do with the metaphysical or supernatural world. Whew! I woke up really panting and to remember the nightmare all these past 25 years. What about? I was with wife and three toddlers in some crowded city street I did not know where. Suddenly they were not with me. I ran everywhere looking for them and asking strangers if they knew. I lost them! thanks God it’s just a dream.
Bangungot or Hupa the Killer Disease
People have died in their sleep. That’s Bangungot. It’s known as Hupa in Hiligaynon. Bangungot is also a Hiligaynon word. In there, bangungot and hupa are not the same. Bangungot in Hiligaynon means asphyxia or near-asphyxia like when one has a severe case of nasal congestion. Hupa or calm after [storm, rage, etc] is one major killer of Filipinos. I believe it killed more than many people think. The figure is around half of all natural deaths in the community where I have lived since 1984. Old people dying make no wonder. Young healthy people suddenly dead bring out many stirs.
The young actor Rico Yan died, as medico legal said, something of disorder of the pancreas during his sleep. A taxi driver neighbor died, blood oozing out his mouth and nose, while taking a short nap at a parking lot. He was diagnosed a cardiac arrest. Another neighbor living next door could not be awakened one morning. He was breathing but pale except for his lips that had darkened. Hospital declared him clinically dead of stroke. Yet another was dismissed by people as caused by his drinking habit and for going to bed drunk. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson might not be different from them.
Bangungot is something I think people know little about because apparently most victims of bangungot did not live to tell the experience. I have been searching for survivors but I saw only people who apparently say things that they have heard and not out of experience. There must be survivors or there won’t be many stories. Some of the stories are in fact very old like the folklore about the Aswang that I think is a product of bangungot. Bangungot is something physical and real but perceptions and imaginations, which are unreal, might have been added to them by survivors. I suspect some writers of scary movies have gone through the experience.
I happen to be one survivor. It first happened when I was around eighteen. The Tiktik is real. It is a nocturnal flying creature nobody can tell the look, but makes a sound that gave it its name. [It probably is a kind of bat, or irregular sound made by some of them] That when there is a Tiktik there is an Aswang or evil being not far behind. I was a stranger in a place. A nice couple had said that it was safe if I slept inside the house. People had died in the locality killed by aswang, they said. I belong to the generation that no longer believes in many old tales. In some places and times, I could have laughed the matter off as I always did. In fact earlier that evening I did.
A tiktik did make a pass later that night. It triggered bangungot in me. It must have been instinctive like, ‘hey, wake up, you have an appointment and you’re already late!’ only it said like ‘hey, danger around!’
Then I realized I could not move. I tried to scream for help but I realized I had no control. Odom or damned by evil spirit is what the folklore has said about that. I have no control of my body except perhaps my eyelids. Vision was hazy but yes, there was some control because I was able to shut any light coming in. It must have been instinctive not to want to see things. Consciousness, yes, which was exactly why it was most scary. I was in panic. I did not only feel my heartbeats, I thought I heard my heart pounding very fast and hard. There was loud ringing in my ears like a lingering aftershock of a powerful firecracker exploded too close . I suppose it was caused by sudden and extreme blood pressure. That the aswang was there and it was staring down at me [in the manner of the alien getting the smell of helpless Segourney Weaver] well, I did imagine it. I had almost felt the presence of some supernatural being. However, nothing touched me. I heard nothing except the snore of my sleeping companion, as I was not alone. I did not see a thing because vision was shut.
Have you ever tried lifting a truck? At least the truck lifted a little. The efforts, the emotion, the feeling, while under bangungot were more than that. All efforts are useless. I could have blown my heart attempting to move a finger or a toe. [How fast can the human heart go? Probably any figure is short. They are records from live subjects and do not include heartbeats that blew organs and killed people. I could have blown a lung, an ear, a pancreas, a brain cell, some weakest link, lucky I did not. Few more bouts happened in the months that followed. And then for nearly two decades I had none of them until it kept recurring again. About a dozen times in all, maybe, because it never came to me to record the count. Latest occurrence was about 9 years ago.
I remember the second experience was scary absurd, funny you might say. It was the Tiktik again! I thought I saw a human silhouette as my shutters opened that by second instinct I also closed as fast. “You cannot touch me, devil!” is all I can say in myself. This time I really felt it breathed down on my face. Nevertheless, no, I felt my hand was lifted and placed on its head! “No, you are not real, devil! This is a dream! I am sick! It is just my mind playing against myself! I have a disorder!”
Back to reality later, everything must have been a dream. My mind must have been mixed up or confused between reality and imaginations.
The latest was most interesting. It settled the last lingering doubts whether consciousness is real or not. It happened in daytime and not in the stillness of the nights when they usually occurred. Children were yelling and laughing in the street while I was in it. There was nothing to do but listened to them most of the time. They were there all right when I regained myself. I also happened to be facing where the wall clock was so I noted the time was not far different. The tiktik and the aswang were finished and gone long time ago. I think bangungot is too complicated to explain in brief.
To explain it in near medico terms, by some cause I must have been through temporary comatose state. A near death situation. Mind is helpless over the body. They have always been scary. Every time always seemed the end. One may regain oneself or one may not. In my experience, things went like these: 1 Struggle 2 Resignation 3 Calm 4 Blank [no idea how long or brief] 5 wake up [automatic]. In later experiences, struggle has been done away. That leaves 1 Resignation 2 Calm 3 Blank 4 either wake up, or back to normal sleep to summarize the experience later. I guess sad will be when blankness turns to final sleep. For most Bangungot cases, I suppose there were only struggle that ended in permanent sleep.
How does one regain the self in a very helpless situation? You cannot. You just regained. I guess I was lucky my mind was equipped enough to overcome the situation especially the first time it happened. The mind is all you have since body cannot be willed in such situation. Thinking is all the mind can do. And when it is clear that there is no way, mind started to wish. Wishing is praying, and praying is wishing… helpless resignation.
As taught by bangungot, prayers that I learned when I was a kid are mostly trash. Since then, I have archived almost all in some dark corner of my mind. Praying for Saint Cory will not help. Maybe, impromptu and direct ones are better. There is only one prayer valid at the end of the road that I will not even change a word. For me, guess what, it is the only prayer that makes sense. The Credo left only one sentence intact and valid. Well, what worked for one may not work for all, vice versa. The Absolute of people is variable, so mine here are no rules.
Bangungot is like driving a car to the max with its clutch down or its gears in neutral. Let us put it another way. Bangungot is as if my CPU just hung. I happened to be equipped with automatic restart or reboot. On second thought, maybe I was not. Just some finger simply decided to push Restart button for me and I was not time for the junk yard. 🙂
related post: [Mind over body]
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