WE USED to see dead people.
Or so people thought we did, one of many misconceptions people had of the unlikely bunch of friends who became Spirit Questors Baguio.
It was hard to explain to people, but how could you blame them? It's not every day that you can talk to the dead.
Dion Fernandez founded the group, which started in campus, of course, not known to the university officials, famous to be unreasonably religious.
The Spirit Questors was formed in 1995 as the culmination of an Interdisciplinary Studies class by Tony Perez.
The five young teenagers struggling in school ventured into the realm of the unknown and became pillars for the spirit world. The group saw a need to expand its membership in Baguio in 1997, as it was believed that the city's close links to its spiritual past could be harnessed.
In the old days, when all were one in quests, one questor played the flute to call spirits into the divine circle they form. He is now a nurse in Manila. Another acts as a medium and she is now in Canada, while the three others interchange roles: one can interpret, one can calm spirits and another can set them free. Together, all of them form a curious group who hold a gentle power to let go.
At the peak of questing, the group was called on by the National Bureau of Investigation to help reconstruct the last five hours of a poor teenager's life before she was brutally raped and murdered.
Policemen and NBI agents who insisted to join the circle had to be carried out, as they fainted halfway through the rites, leaving the team on their own to work until the early morning.
The NBI informed us and years later, they were able to arrest two suspects because of the quest, and we felt happy and sad.
At the start of the millennium, one emotional case was the kidnap-murder of two university students. We painfully had to inform both that they have been killed and led one after the other to spiritual freedom.
The image of the young boy holding out his hand to the girl and leading her to the light is one of the images we will carry forever.
We mourned the cutting of the lone tree on Loakan Road but took joy in the task of questing the family of the poor DPWH employee who died after cutting it.
We carried the news of money due his family through a debt he kept secret from his wife. The man wanted his family to get the money to pay for the studies of their youngest.
A questor not versed in the Ilokano dialect was able to stand as interpreter in the quest and carry out the message to the family, proof of how powerful the gift given to the group was.
We have had our share of loony cases. A family wasted our time in masking a quest supposedly to talk to their dead grandfather. As the night progressed, we learned they were actually looking for gold they believe was buried within their home.
Or the time we spoke to the spirit of a teenager who committed suicide. The mother joined in the circle and ended up scolding the poor soul in the afterlife. The teener left the circle with her hands covering her ears, protecting herself from the nagging of her mother and preferring to wander into the afterlife in peace.
We helped other people find peace but not once have we tried to talk to our own dearly beloved, maybe we never will and accept that as a consequence in exchange for a greater good.
The group of friends rose above the name calling and cajoling, the wide-eyed wonder they get when people ask them insane questions and were able to go about their own lives.
Accosting the gift and was resigned to the fact we had to share it but It was in 2011, the Spirit Questors of Manila formally disbanded.
The group tried to continue the responsibility, without the support of the Manila group and our main founder, but it was difficult, we suffered from a lack of members.
Our original group was now depleted, leaving only two members in Baguio to deal with a continuous flow of requests.
Our group died a natural death, so to speak.
As ghost month beckons, blessed be.