The balete tree in Barangay Tabunok

THERE is a road in Barangay Tabunok, Talisay City that is said to be haunted.

Residents have shared stories of fairies and monsters that have been sighted in the area over the years.

It is also home to a giant balete tree, or rubber tree, which locals have long since associated with spirits and ghosts.

Emmanuel Ponce and his wife Melinda lived right across with their four children and housemaid.

What transpired inside their house on October 17, 2011, shocked the nation and may have cemented the area’s otherworldy reputation.

In the morning of that day, Emmanuel, a 55-year-old former overseas Filipino worker, shot his wife in the head with a .45 pistol.

He then proceeded to shoot their eldest daughter Elaine Grace, 26, their second daughter Heather Joy, 25, and their only son Emlin Bridge, 18.

He also shot the family’s helper, 30-year-old Anastacia Deniega.

Emmanuel then turned the gun on himself.

They all died save for the youngest daughter, Embrelaine, who was 13 at the time.

It was not clear why Emmanuel had spared her. Maybe she held a special place in his heart. But he did not spare her from having to tell the police about the gruesome details involving their deaths.

She also has to live with the knowledge that her father killed her mother and her siblings. And that she is alone.

Mario Villaro, 68, remembered the family and the events of that fateful day.

He was a barangay tanod back then and he was tasked to watch over the house after the murders.

One night, around 11 p.m., he said a taxi stopped in front of the Ponce gate. The passenger door suddenly opened but no one got out.

He recalled a cold gust of wind sending shivers up his spine and the curtains in the house moving.

“Mao nang niingon ko ato nga, ‘Oi, migo, ‘day Melinda. Kabalo man gyud ko nga kamo na pero ayaw intawon mo pagbinuang nagbantay ba ya ko aning inyong balay. Dayon taud-taud nawala ang maong hangin ug miundang ang pagkabya sa kurtina," he said.

(And so I said, “Friend, Melinda. I know that’s you so please don’t tease me I’m only here to guard your house.” Then the wind subsided and the curtains stopped moving.)

Several days later, Villaro said neighbors also reported seeing a taxi in the area with three women in white getting out and entering the Ponce house.

Over a decade has passed and Danilo Tabada sells fried chicken next to the house, oblivious to what happened to the family.

Tabada said he has heard many stories, of someone sweeping the road late at night or babies suddenly crying, but he shrugged them off.

However, he claimed having seen an agta, a gigantic demon-like creature that lives on top of trees, near the balete tree not once but several times.

In March this year, Raul Canarias, a 60-year-old tricycle driver from Barangay San Roque in the city, parked along the road to relieve himself and ended up urinating under the balete tree.

Several days later, he said, he noticed that he would get dizzy whenever he took a piss. He also felt a presence around him.

Canarias said he endured the sensations for several months until in August he went to consult a folk healer who told him he had offended some spirits.

He followed the folk healer’s advice and returned to the tree to seek the spirits’ forgiveness.

The sensations vanished.

Canarias never went near the tree again and has since found another place to relieve himself.

As for the Ponce house, it has long been abandoned. Its gate padlocked.

Embralaine, the lone witness to the massacre in the morning of October 17, 2011, lives in Metro Manila. She is 24 years old.