As he drives along looking for business he spots a lone woman standing in the shadows of the giant Balete tree that gives the street its name.
Puzzled as to why she’s out so late and all alone, he slows down. Sure enough the woman steps forward and indicates that she wants him to stop and pick her up. As she climbs into the rear seat he catches a glimpse of the lady.
Strangely dressed in a long flowing white gown, the beautiful woman looks sad and upset. The driver gives her a few moments to compose herself as he continues along the drive.
As he reaches a junction in the road he asks the woman her destination but there is no reply. Turning around in his seat he cranes his neck to ask the question again. To his astonishment the rear of the taxi is empty.
Shaken, the driver pulls over to the side over the road. A quick glance along the deserted street confirms the woman has not climbed out or fallen from his car. Unnerved, the cabbie struggles to regain his wits.
As he does so he slowly realises that he hasn’t picked up just any passenger but the White Lady of Balete Drive.
The Balete Tree
Named after a giant Balete tree that once stood in the middle of the carriageway, this road was perhaps always destined to provoke superstition and rumor among the local people.
For the Philippine people the Balete tree is laden with legend and mythology. Beautiful and elegant, the trees add grace to the avenues and streets of the Philippines during the day.
By nightfall though, their twisted roots and vines give them an eerie, haunted quality. Gnarled and crooked, they seem to invite you to delve into their dark hearts, perhaps never to appear again.
Small wonder then that they are said to be the dwelling place of fairies and other supernatural beings who perform sorcery and witchcraft from deep within their enchanted depths.
The White Lady
The legend of the white lady is found throughout the world. Usually representing the ghost of a young and beautiful woman who died tragically, to see the white lady is often an evil portent.
Known as a harbinger of doom, the white lady seeks to avenge her death by making others suffer as she did. Often haunting the spot where she died she disappears as quickly as she appears.
The White Lady of Balete Drive
Rumors of the white lady of Balete drive began to circulate in the 1950’s when an article in a newspaper caught the imagination of local people. Often dismissed as an elaborate hoax, it would be easy to reject the story out of hand, until that is you examine the original newspaper reports.
Written by Neil Cruz in The Philippine Daily Enquirer the first report of the white lady contains a detailed interview with a witness. The witness is not an ordinary member of the public however, but a Captain in the Manila Police Department.
The Captain testifies that in the early hours of the morning, sometime in 1953, he was driving along Balete drive when he saw a young woman attempting to hitch a lift. Taking pity on the lady and perhaps concerned for her safety, the officer pulled over.
As he drove away he turned around to speak to the young woman only to discover that she had disappeared.
Obviously puzzled and shaken, he continued to drive back to his station until he came upon the scene of a fatal road accident. For this police officer the apparition of the white lady was certainly a portent of tragedy to come.
Since this time the white lady has appeared on many occasions. Strangely, she seems to favor taxi drivers but is sometimes witnessed by others.
Occasionally, she is seen standing in the roadway. Injured and bloody she falls across the hood of terrified drivers. When they stop to investigate the woman has gone and there is no evidence of an accident.
More often she appears on the sidewalk and hails a cab before climbing into the back seat and evaporating into thin air.
The most disturbing and frequent incidents occur for those drivers who glance into their rear view mirrors to catch a fleeting glance of a bruised and battered woman. By the time they have done a double take she has gone.
Who is The White Lady?
There are lots of rumors and theories as to the identity of the white lady. The first claims that she was a young woman who died during the Second World War.
Raped by a Japanese soldier her discarded body was thrown among the roots of the Balete tree where her soul was claimed by the supernatural forces within. Destined to haunt the area where she died, she seeks her revenge on local drivers.
In the second version of events the Japanese soldier is replaced by a taxi driver and the girl is a local university student. Perhaps this is a bid to explain why she seems only to appear to male car drivers.
Some cabbies who claim to have had a ghostly encounter with the white lady tell yet another story. They suggest that she is a young girl who tells a sad tale of being jilted by her boyfriend before fading away before their eyes.
One of the most intriguing theories is that the white lady is the ghostly victim of an automobile accident. Crashing her car near the giant Balete tree she has been earth bound ever since.
This theory is intriguing because the unfortunate young woman is named. Said to be the daughter of a local affluent family, she lived in one of the fine houses that line Balete drive.
According to two different stories, teenager Leni Recto Garchitorena either died in a hit and run accident with a taxi cab or she was joyriding with her boyfriend when they lost control and crashed their car.
True story or urban myth? Whatever the reality of the matter the tale of the white lady continues to fascinate. A combination of human tragedy and the supernatural mythology of the Balete, it is a story that captures the imagination.
A beautiful young woman whose soul is forever entwined in the mystical depths of a magical tree, the tale is incredible and almost unbelievable.
For those that doubt the existence of the white lady though, there are many witnesses who will swear to you that they have seen the apparition of this ghostly woman with their own eyes.
If you’re still not convinced take a drive along this haunted road in the small dark hours of the early morning. You never know, if you are really, really unlucky, you too may catch a glimpse of the beautiful but sad, white lady of Balete drive.