Carlo Vergara tells two ghost stories

I am fortunate to have Visconde Carlo Vergara, one of the country’s most talented writer/ illustrators and author of One Night in Purgatory and Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, the latter one of my favorite graphic novels. Just just Filipino graphic novels, graphic novels, period.

Carlo Vergara

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah is about a gay man who comes a cross a mysterious stone that, when swallowed, turns him into a female superhero of Amazonian proportions.  She then sets out to rid her town of various monsters, which include, among other things, a giant frog, an alien queen and zombies. I particularly liked how Carlo married Philippine gay culture and the annihilation of the undead. The graphic novel has been turned into a successful musical and a not so successful movie. And Carlo, if you’re reading this, I can’t wait for the sequel.

Here are his answers:

Do you believe in ghosts/ elementals? If yes, have you seen one (or more)? Can you tell us about it?

Allow me to share two.

1) It happened the night before the funeral of my first cousin, who passed away because of a brain tumor. (I was in elementary school then.) I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a veiled shadow standing beside my bed. The room was dark, and the shadowy figure was backlit by a faint light streaming through the window. But I knew it was my cousin. Then Murphy’s Law kicked in: The moment you need a blanket to cover yourself is the same moment no blanket can be found. So I closed my eyes instead, hoping I was just imagining things. But no, she was still there. I repeated this process about twice or thrice, only to confirm that there was, indeed, someone beside my bed. Later, while my eyes were closed, I heard the door open and the light click on. It was my mom, telling me to get up and get ready for the funeral.

2) Another elementary school encounter, though this is the audio kind. I woke up in the middle of the night, dark room and all. I heard music being played right outside the bedroom window, and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It had a tinkly, flutey quality, and even at a young age, I knew that it was the kind of music that only duwendes (dwarves – ed.) could play. I wasn’t afraid–the music was so soothing that I couldn’t find it in me to be afraid. But I was prudent enough not to look outside the window. A couple of minutes later, the music stopped. I went back to sleep after trying to remember how it sounded. I couldn’t–it was as if it never happened. Until now, I wish I could hear it again.

What’s the scariest place you’ve been to? Why was it scary? Did you end up experiencing anything supernatural there? Do you plan to go back?

I generally feel anxious in places that have a “heavy” vibe, especially when I get the feeling that someone’s watching and not just passing by. Usually large, old houses. When I was working for Real Living magazine, I’ve had a share of goosebumps in a few of the houses we’ve shot.

What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve heard?

I forgot the details of the story, but it involved “something shaking the front gate, as if trying to get in.”

How has your supernatural experiences (even if they come in the form of secondhand stories) influenced your work?

If anything, supernatural experiences influence the way I explore possibilities in storycrafting. There are simply some things that happen, coming in from left field, that may or may not figure prominently in the plot, but happen nonetheless. But whether or not they affect the plot, they affect the story experience. Also, the supernatural experiences I’ve had opened me up more to the interconnectedness of things, or the causality that runs between the past and the present.

What advice would you give someone who comes face to face with a ghost/elemental?

Hmmm… welcome the fear. But be fascinated by the experience. Unless, well, said ghost/elemental is one nasty bugger, in which case you’re more than welcome to shriek and run.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.

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