Tales Of The Supernatural In Ilog Baliwag, Nueva Ecija
Choose Philippines | October 10, 2019
Story and photos by Joanna Tacason
Located in eastern Nueva Ecija, a 3rd class municipality called Santo Domingo is known for its simplicity and fancy scenery. In the 17th century, natives from Ilocos Region and Bulacan were believed to have migrated to the vicinity and founded a settlement among the Buri palms of the river. Locals called the area Pulong Buli which later became a town. In 1903, however, Pulong Buli was demoted to a mere barangay that was part of the town of Talavera in Nueva Ecija. Later, it reverted into its status as a municipio. During the invasion of Japanese in 1942 until 1945, local guerrillas fought alongside the Filipino Soldiers at Santo Domingo.
Today, Santo Domingo is subdivided into 24 barangays. It continues to emerge as one of the simplest towns in Nueva Ecija, known for its products of buri palms and palay. The small municipio also became the talk of the town because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding one of its barangays. Residents in Barangay Ilog Baliwag testify that the presence of unknown spirits such as maligno, engkanto, dwende, and sirena still haunt the area, particularly the river surrounding the barangay.
Vilma Balacano, a widow, recounts the tale of her husband's sudden death on July 10, 2014. A week before his death, Vilma said her husband, Mang Carlos, caught several kilos of big fish on the river. Because of its quantity, residents and fishermen couldn’t believe what he just caught. “Ang dami niyang nakuhang isda na malalaki; hindi kasya sa tricycle sa dami ng nakuha niya (He caught a lot of big fish; they were too many to fit into the tricycle),” Vilma relates, “Doon kami nagtaka, kasi wala namang nakakabingwit ng ganun karami sa ilog, kasi pang-ulam lang iyon (We were puzzled because no one has ever caught that many fish from the river, usually caught just enough for a single meal).”
Some say it was a gift from the sirena who happens to be the maiden of the river. Still hesitant about the folklore, Vilma couldn’t grasp any of it, until her husband suddenly died. Doctors in the hospital said he had a heart attack. But local witch doctor or albularyo said that Mang Carlos made a promise to the maiden of the river to be with her in exchange for the fish he caught but failed to fulfill his promise. Another old woman known to be an albularyo saw Mang Carlos’ body and was stunned to see that his lower legs were full of scales. “Hindi ako naniniwala noon kasi nag parang wala naman alo nakitang kaliskis (I didn’t believe it at first because I didn’t see the scales),” Vilma shares, “Pero hindi lang isa ang nagsabi na may kaliskis siya sa katadan, iyon ibang matatanda rin (But, there was more than one person who saw the fish scales, even some older folks).”
Elder residents believed he was held captive by the sirena without Mang Carlos knowing. They believed it was the maiden’s wrath and punishment for disobeying her. “Unti-unti na akong naniniwala, pero siyempre nagdadasal pa din ako (I slowly started to believe it but I also prayed as well),” Vilma shares, adding that she later offered prayers and food to the maiden and asked for her indulgence.
Older residents also believe that the river is a home for supernatural creatures. Another 89-year old witch doctor from Ilog Baliwag, name withheld upon request, tells more old tales and myths surrounding the river. According to her, elves and fairies casually play with residents, depicting themselves as fishes and butterflies. They sing lullabies and cradle songs to lure fishermen along the river to fall asleep until dusk to lead them astray from their families. Residents also believe that the river is inhabited by fairies. Some testify that they saw a maiden with long shining hair, sitting on a big rock, singing melodies. They believe that to pass the fairy’s charm, one must pay respect before crossing the river.
The local parishioner said residents should not dwell on folklores and unknown spirits and advises them to strengthen their faith. Fr. Christian Magtalas, Apo San Geronomio Church’s parish priest, said residents should ask for forgiveness and pray for the souls of the departed. Prayers offered by the living can help free the dead from the sins that would separate them from God in the life to come.