A headless nun, a faceless cigar smoker, a mysterious white lady at the old tower—-these are among the spooky tales that itchy ghost hunters can pry into during a short stay in the coastal town of San Juan, La Union.
San Juan was a quiet fishing town of La Union province in the North before the Americans came. Most tales are said to have originated around this time and handed down to generations. It’s still a quiet town, but pompous cottages and mansions have popped along its shores.
Modernity has caught up among its very old Hispanic buildings, with a few shops and inns budding along the main highway. It is an 8-hour trek from Manila by bus or private car.
The eerie tales persist today, though in mumbled whispers by folks wistful for the past. The present generation would just shrug apathy on them. But now and then fleeting shadows are said to cast themselves on a chosen few—-perhaps just for a fun scare.
One of the myths goes that old historical ruins of a Spanish convent were burned by the Japanese and a nun was killed and beheaded. The old ruins of the covenant still stand. On some nights when an unfortunate vacationer happens to pass by on a full moon at midnight, some bell would toll spookily. It supposedly signals the approach of the nun from behind.
First it’s a cool, creepy breeze. Then wavy long hair brushing against the nape. Looking behind, the victim would discover the spooky tale for himself.
Another myth is that, before the war, youths around an abandoned man-hole used to smoke cigars at midnight. Once, a stranger came, face overshadowed by a straw hat, asking for light. When they lent a lit cigar, the man looked up to light his, showing a spine-chilling blank where a face should have been. The faceless man allegedly still shows up, though rarely, because he prefers unbranded, native tobacco to imported ones.
The pristine beach of San Juan attracts foreign fishers who brag on their big catches of sword fish and tuna or “bariles” from the sea, which is also ideal for surfing. Old historical ruins of red bricks still stand there. It used to be part of a watch tower in pre-Hispanic times. A look-out sentry was posted watching out for pirates from the China Sea.
One of the tales on it says, in an attack, the sentry alerted the whole town. A mural on this is painted on one of the walls of the town plaza.
In recent times, tales say a laughing white lady is said to have been showing herself periodically in the old historical ruins, especially to handsome young men who brave the seashore at midnight.
Spooky tales of ghostly nuns, faceless creatures, and laughing white ladies may sound absurd and kids-stuff, but there’s always a child in us that want to find out. Well, San Juan, La Union is the perfect town to go spook-busting while checking out its historical old ruins and immaculate azure waters.