On, this my last trip to Maliana, I use the opportunity, passing many places owned by the infamous militia leader Joao Tavares, to bring up the topic of ghosts with Andre. Over the past two years my trust of intuition and extra-sensory perception has definitely increased.
He asks me if I ever smell at night a sudden, intense sweet scent. In Dili, one instance comes to mind. Near the lighthouse, only one building remains abandonned. A sweet breeze entered the car window. I think I was slightly drunk, I leaned back in the passengers seat and enjoyed.
Andre says, the sweet smell is the indication of a ghost. There was a ghost about. There are many ghosts around the lighthouse, from the civil war to 1999.
Then he said something that sent chills down my spine. His Filipino friends saw ghosts around Dili all of the time. During the day.
Part of what is disconcerting about this, is that Filipinos do not tend to have too much connection with the history of the place. They are interested in working and saving. So they have no real ‘reason’ to psyche themselves into thinking that they are seeing ghosts.
“How do you know you’ve seen a ghost during the day?” I ask. “Do you ever walk down a street during the middle of the day? When the sun is hot and there are few people around? Somebody passes you. You will look back seconds later and there is nobody there.” He says. My eyes start to water and I swallow. Two uncontrollable reflexes.
“Sometimes you will call out ‘hi’ or ‘good afternoon’ to somebody. There is no response. Then you turn back to see them after you’ve passed, and there is nobody there.”
“Dili is full of ghosts,” Andre says, as we take the last curves before the Nunura river, descending into Maliana in the noon-day heat.