I cramped myself into the empty cabinet out of desperation. It was my second night in Baguio without my family. My parents wanted me to be there two weeks before the opening of classes. They thought that this technique would help me adapt faster. Yes, I was not used to being away from my family. I had separation anxiety as a child and that did not improve even when I was 16 years old at that time.
I heard Andres knocking on my bedroom door. Andres was a high school student and a fellow boarder. He was probably worried because the last time that they saw me was lunchtime. The sound of his footsteps became faint. Then I heard him talking with Ate Miling, the caretaker.
He said that I was not in the room. Ate Miling could not believe because she did not see me leave the house. I got out of the cabinet and quickly went to my bed to pretend that I was sleeping. I heard a set of footsteps coming.
“Iris? Iris? Are you there? Can I open the door?” Ate Miling said.
She opened the door and found me “sleeping.” She reprimanded Andres for being careless. Andres answered back that he never saw me sleeping and the room was empty when he opened the door. They left the room and there I was, alone again and crying. I turned to my right side to face the large window. I saw a woman running, she resembled my mother! I cried again because I missed home so much.
The following day, Ate Cynthia, our landlady, asked me if I was okay. I just nodded my head. She must be not used to teenagers who had little words to say.
“Do you really speak a little?” she asked.
I nodded again.
“Anyway, there seems to be nothing that we can talk about. Would you like to tour the city with Johanne and Jake?” she asked with concern.
After dinner, Johanne, her son and Jake, a fellow boarder, asked me to get ready. I asked them if we could bring Andres with us. We passed by South Drive and Johanne asked me if I was familiar with Hyatt Hotel.
“I think I saw a white lady,” Jake said.
“Where?” Johanne asked.
I looked out of the window and tried to see what Jake was pointing to.
“Ah, the ghost of the 1990 earthquake casualties?” Andres asked.
We went inside Camp John Hay. Johanne was driving slowly so I was able to see the beauty of the landscape. Soon, fogs were covering the green grasses. It looked magical!
“You know, ghosts love foggy nights,” Jake said in a serious tone.
I did not reply.
“Let’s go to the cemetery, maybe we can see ghosts,” Johanne said.
Johanne parked the vehicle and all three of them got out of it to breathe the fresh and cold air. I stayed inside the vehicle out of fear. I hated cemeteries.
“Are you scared? It’s just a cemetery,” Johanne asked.
“I think I’m already sleepy,” I replied.
“What? It’s only 8:00 PM,” Jake said in jest.
It took me another two weeks to know that the cemetery in Camp John Hay was just Cemetery of Negativism, a tourist attraction. Belated thanks to Ate Cynthia, Johanne, Jake, Ate Miling and Andres for taking care of me while I was homesick and desperate.