Almost a month ago, a 21-year-old man committed suicide by hanging from a balete tree located in a compound where the Barangay 666 Hall is located.
Stories recounted by witnesses revealed that prior to the man's suicide, the man named "Angelito" used to talk every night to someone unseen, who allegedly lives underneath the small fig tree.
But in an interview with MB Research, "Diablo" just dismissed such stories as fictional, citing that "Angelito" had earlier been diagnosed with a mental disorder, which probably led to his self-murder. "Diablo" also doesn't believe in ghost stories, even if his village has long been synonymous with the mark of the devil.
"Diablo" is Felix "Mac" P. Macapagal, the incumbent chairman of Barangay 666, Zone 72 in Ermita, Manila. Macapagal has been fondly tagged "Mac Diablo" because he has long been serving as head of Barangay 666 since he was first elected in 1989.
He has lived in this residential community since the 1970s, during his growing-up years, and in his recollection, he has never experienced any frightening incidents in his bailiwick.
The number 666 is specifically mentioned in the Holy Bible's Book of Revelation as the mark of the beast. Chapter 13:18 of Revelation quotes: "a certain wisdom is needed here; with a little ingenuity, anyone can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a certain man. The man's number is six hundred sixty-six."
"It forced all men, small and great, rich and poor, slave and free, to accept a stamped image on their right hand or their forehead. Moreover, it did not allow a man to buy or sell anything unless he was first marked with the name of the beast or with the number that stood for its name," Revelation 13:16-17 further states.
Macapagal said that there is nothing special or extraordinary with their barangay, aside from coincidentally having the beast's mark. He emphatically clarified that no beast has ever existed in their area.
"We are not like the other cities that have names for their barangay. In Manila, number is the basis for every barangay. It's just a coincidence that our barangay is 666," said Macapagal. He noted that Ermita has four other barangays aside from 666, which are 667, 668, 669 and 670.
Out of around 42,000 barangays in the Philippines, National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) official Fernando Regalado certified that it is the only village in the country that bears the name 666.
Officer Arlene Ramos of the Department of Interior and Local Government-National Barangay Operations Office (DILG-NBOO) affirmed that even if the National Capital Region (NCR) still has cities with numbers as name, it is only Manila that has the unique Barangay 666.
"Our barangay is 666, many are scared, but we don't believe in it because we don't feel that 666 is unlucky. Actually, it seems lucky because we never get sick and my body is doing good," said Macapagal.
Located at the heart of Manila, the nation's capital, Barangay 666 covers a large land area, where an estimated 1,400 people live in houses and condominiums. The compound, where their barangay hall stands is a 10-minute walking distance from the Manila City Hall. It also houses a small school for the children.
Interestingly, Barangay 666's jurisdiction includes famous landmarks in Manila like the Rizal Park, Qurino Grandstand, United Nations Avenue, Padre Burgos Street, Manila Ocean Park, and even the United States embassy.
"What we're talking about are the primary duties of the barangay, which is what we are doing. Like the business permit clearance, there has to be a barangay chairman who will give it. So even if it's a national park, which is under the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), there is still a barangay that manages it," said Macapagal.
NPDC Marketing and Events Specialist Florizza Buclatin confirmed in a separate interview Macapagal's statements that as for the coverage of the entire Rizal Park, Barangay 666 starts from Taft Avenue, to the Relief Map of the Philippines, leading to all the parks, gardens and other attractions, to the famed 'Kilometer Zero' and execution site of Jose Rizal, up to Quirino Grandstand and Manila Ocean Park.
Barangay 666 also covers various government offices in the vicinity, like NPDC, the Department of Tourism (DOT), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the National Library and the National Museum.
Macapagal and Buclatin clarified, though, that management of barangay officials only comes in terms of small issues and affairs, like minor feuds among people within the area that need to be settled first at the barangay level.
"If there are barangay matters that they can't handle, it will be brought to us, like disputes of the guards, which should be taken care first by the barangay [officials]," said Macapagal.
But ghost stories in the area and offices covered by Barangay 666 remain to take the spotlight in the village.
Buclatin said that although she hasn't experienced anything unusual yet, stories, like toilets suddenly flushing without someone using it, seem to take over most of their scary conversations inside their workplace.
Allan Mangahas, janitor of the National Library, in another interview, seconded Buclatin's claims that many students had told her about eerie tales like seeing ghosts inside the reading room and comfort rooms of the library.
Mangahas added that sometimes, he is afraid when left alone at the ground floor, but he clarified that "it still depends on the people's strong faith, because [even if I'm scared,] I haven't experienced anything."
However, Macapagal insisted that such stories are only for kids and should not be considered anymore by adults. He added that ghost stories were used back then just to convince the young ones to sleep early at night.
Divina Villacarlos, lady guard of the National Museum, also believed that there are no ghosts, since she hasn't experienced yet such supernatural beings. She said that as a security guard, she has been assigned to different floors of the museums, but she has never seen anything scary.
Macapagal revealed there are other things that seem scarier than ghosts or beasts in the barangay.
"Those live ones are whom we have to be afraid of, since dead people can no longer come back," said Macapagal, as he noted the increasing number of snatchers, holduppers, and riding-in-tandem gangs in the metropolis. He also mentioned the problems of increasing street children in his barangay, especially now with the onset of the holiday season.
With proper coordination of the police force and social workers, Macapagal said they can continuously cope with the different issues in their community.
Macapagal also boasted one 'special' landmark in their barangay, aside from the usual markers found at the Rizal Park.
"We have the Luneta Hotel, a century-old hotel, which is being renovated. It is perhaps the only building in the Philippines which has a unique structure fixed at the exterior walls of the building," he said pointing at the winged lizard and monkey-like structures built as part of the hotel's designs.
According to the chairman's research, a Spanish architect-engineer had built the hotel, which is now being preserved by the government.
"We think that there is someone protecting the building. Nobody has ever been hurt every time an accident occurs in the area, specifically when the designs are damaged or suddenly falls. That's why we think Luneta Hotel is unique," said Macapagal.
Meanwhile, Macapagal no longer aims to change the name of his barangay.
"Our barangay is happy, even if it is 666. It will be tedious to have it changed because it will have to undergo Congress. Since it is destined to become our [barangay] number, we have already accepted it [though] we are not devils," Macapagal said.