By Alan Robles
originally published in Filglobe Nov 2007
Some years back, we had a housekeeper who said she was unable to sleep well in our house. The reason, she claimed, was there was a White Lady.
Now, in other countries, when you say "White Lady", people will probably think you're ordering an alcoholic concoction ("hey bartender, how about a couple of White Ladies for my friends here, huh?") But in the Philippines, those English words can only mean one thing: a ghost.
You don't need to say anything more than may white lady diyan -- "there's a white lady there" -- and everybody instantly knows the place is supposed to be haunted. Recently a horror movie was released with just those two words as a title.
Anybody who stays in this country even for a short time soon notices we Filipinos love the supernatural. They'll also notice that just about every hair-raising horror tale has someone going into a dark, spooky room or chamber... and what do you think they'll find? Not Elvis. Not the Cat in the Hat. That's right, the ever-popular White Lady. It's almost as if all our haunted houses have strict boarding requirements – they only accept SWF (spirit-type white females).
Don't ask me how this got started. Perhaps it's colonial mentality: Ruled first by the Spanish and then the Americans, Filipinos came to believe everything caucasian is superior. Perhaps a ghost simply isn't credible unless it's white. As for why it has to be a woman, I have no answer to that. Maybe it can be linked to many Filipinas' obsession with acquiring white skin. Skin whiteners are a big industry here and I'm surprised the White Lady hasn't been roped into doing product endorsements. Think of the possible slogans: "Drop Dead, Turn White", or "Use our cleanser, be hauntingly white."
All the same, it makes me wonder if there's some sort of color discrimination at work here. I have yet to hear horror tales featuring purple women, chartreuse teenagers or pink gentlemen. It also worries me: will I, a brown man, end up a white lady?
I have to say that despite our housekeeper's assertion, I haven't met any white ladies at home. I can only conclude they're shy. Or maybe there's just one of them in the entire country and she has a busy social schedule visiting all her haunts (so to speak). Perhaps meeting her is by appointment only.
At any rate, White Ladies have become so popular, I feel pretty sure the time will come when they'll have their own constituency. I can see how they could run to be sectoral representatives in Congress. Their platform would be to look after the interests of ghost projects, ghost employees, ghost payrolls and ghost voters. We certainly have a lot of those.