If there’s one thing that Filipinos are absolutely fascinated by, it’s ghosts and spirituality. Three hundred years of Spanish occupation, Catholic and indigenous beliefs about death and the spirit, and a bloody history of Japanese occupation in World War II all come together to form a distinct awareness and fascination with the paranormal in the Philippine psyche. Add the fondness for talking and sharing stories about people or places into the mix, and you have a healthy list of possible paranormal hotspots in the Philippines.
With a long weekend coming up ahead and everyone’s heads fixed on ghosts and spirits thanks to All Saints and All Souls Day, we’ve put together the names of a few of the most haunted spots in the country. See if you can squeeze in a visit or spot some paranormal visitors within the next few days!
- Balete Drive
If you grew up in Metro Manila and liked to trade ghost stories with your cousins during the holidays, then it’s almost impossible not to hear about the famous (or infamous) Balete Drive. Balete Drive is a long street in a residential area in New Manila, Quezon City that runs perpendicular to E. Rodriguez Avenue and comes to a stop at N. Domingo.
It’s named for the huge balete trees that used to line the avenue, and is purportedly the haunting spot of the most famous ‘white lady’ in the Philippines. The balete trees lining the road used to block out the light of the streetlamps, making the atmosphere in the area especially spooky to motorists. According to this piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the white lady is said to be the victim of a hit-and-run, and hitchhikes with motorists for the length of the street before disappearing suddenly. Balete trees are also said to be the homes of spirits in Philippine folklore, which may explain why people are so fascinated with this area.
- Manila Film Center
Another famous spot in the Philippines is also the site of a terrible tragedy. The Manila Film Center is a building within the complex of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and began construction in 1981 to serve as the venue for the first Manila International Film Festival (MIFF) in 1982. The CCP was the pet project of Imelda Marcos, wife of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who at the time was President of the Philippines.
The rush to prepare the building in time for the MIFF unfortunately had terrible consequences. As this feature by Rogue explains, construction was only started three months before the actual film festival, and at one point over 1,000 workers were hired to complete the lobby of the Film Center within only 72 hours. On November 17, 1981, parts of the scaffolding collapsed, causing 169 workers to fall and drown in quick-drying cement and rubble. The Marcos administration kept the media away, and official rescue teams were only allowed into the site of the accident a full nine hours later. A news blackout meant that reports of the collapse only came out in mass media in 1986, after the EDSA Revolution. Imelda Marcos allegedly had the building exorcised multiple times, but people say the spirits of the fallen workers continue to haunt the Film Center, waiting for justice.
- Dominican Hill Retreat House
In the Philippines, any religious place can be seen imbued with spiritual energy, and the Dominican Hill Retreat House in Baguio City is no exception. The retreat house currently sits abandoned on Dominican Hill, and its former reputation as a place of spirituality and retreat for the Dominican Order has been completely overtaken by its tragic and bloody history.
The retreat house was originally constructed in 1911 as a vacation house for Dominican priests and nuns. During World War II, citizens feeling Japanese forces took refuge within its walls. However, the Japanese soldiers took over the property and turned it into their headquarters. The Kempeitai, or secret police, are said to have tortured, raped, and decapitated refugees, nuns, and priests during the period of occupation. When the Americans returned to liberate the Philippines, Japanese soldiers committed suicide on the property, which makes it no wonder that this place is considered the most haunted place in Baguio.
- Clark Air Base Hospital
Clark Air Base was first built in 1903 and was under operation of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) until 1991. Now, it is under the use of the Philippine Air Force, although in 2012 the Philippines agreed to the return of American military forces to Clark due to pressure from Chinese claims on Philippine territories.
As the air base was quite large for its time, in 1941 the U.S. Military sent lots of aircraft to Clark in preparation for a war with Japan. Unfortunately, most of those aircraft were lost during an air raid that happened a mere 9 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The base was soon overrun by Japanese forces, and became the hub of operations for Japan’s air force. The air base was also along the route of the Bataan Death March, and the base hospital was the last place of refuge for dying American soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War. There have been numerous alleged sightings of ghosts and paranormal activity at Clark Air Base, and Ghost Hunters International even called it, “one of the most haunted places in the world.”
- Silliman University
Further south in the archipelago is another famously haunted place, this time a university. Silliman University in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental is a famous private research university, and currently comprises ten colleges, five schools, and three institutes, with over 9,000 Philippine and international students. It is also purportedly one of the most haunted places in the Visayas, due to a bloody history during World War II.
Silliman University was used as a garrison for Japanese forces in 1942 up to 1945, and one of its buildings, Channon Hall, was the headquarters of the Kempeitai. Many Filipinos were tortured and killed in Channon Hall, and Katipunan Hall, formerly the Dumaguete Mission Hospital, also reports its share of hauntings. The proximity of Dumaguete to the island-province of Siquijor, which is commonly considered to have mystic and arcane traditions, could also be a reason for the perception of Silliman as a paranormal hotspot.
Although we’ve tried to narrow the list down as much as possible, anyone will tell you that the Philippines has an abundance of haunted places. If you decide to visit any of these spots, let us know!
If you liked this article, consider checking out our other work on Daydreaming in Paradise.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.