Ghosts in the Belfry: the Laguna Heritage Tour
“With a voice full of fear the bells sounded their sad supplication,
and in the brief pauses between the roars of the unchained elements tolled forth sorrowful peals, like plaintive groans.”
(Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere)
Belfries, those bell towers often attached to old stone churches, have played major roles in our literature and folklore. Images of ghost bell ringers are evoked upon hearing the Angelus, or the eight pm agonias meant for the dead. It is eerie, and for Filipinos who think the spiritworld is an adventure, it is exciting.
A special attraction of the Laguna Heritage Tour is the belfy exploration. The centuries-old bell towers in Pangil, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Majayjay and Pila serve as time machines that take us back to history, to a time when churches were centers of civilization and the sounds of the bells were orders coming from heaven.
The tour also includes storytelling of the ghosts of each belfry: tales of headless priests who roam at nights and sightings of floating ladies who mourn in agony at the foot of the bells. If ghosts don’t scare you, perhaps the living insects will – you don’t know what hides behind the think cobwebs. The climbs are steep; the staircases, having survived earthquakes and fires, are thrillingly weak. You need to speak in soft voices as anything louder than that will awaken the bats, and the echo will travel to the nooks and crannies of the tower where sleeping ghosts lie. You don’t want to awaken any of them.