The ghost in Manila Film Center

This is not really a legend since it actually happened. But the story about the haunting is the legend.


The Manila Film Center is an abandoned auditorium by Manila Bay in the Cultural Center complex. A Korean company is currently making efforts rehabilitating the image of the center with a transvestite Las Vegas-like act. Now housing the "Amazing Philippine Theatre," the massive building is patronized nightly by dozens of Korean honeymooners who pose in front of the kitschy Egyptian Pharoah figure above the doorway before entering to enjoy the performance by the "country's prettiest gays." Most of the couples are completely unaware of its ghostly reputation, if one doesn't consider Filipino males with long hairless legs as apparitions.

It is haunted by the ghosts of angry construction workers. People hear cries and moans, see apparitions as well as bleeding walls and arms sticking out from under doors.

It was told that Imelda Marcos had the grandiose notion of turning the Philippines into the Cannes of Asia by starting an international film festival. They decided the venue to be held beside the Cultural Center of the Philippines and had a date set for January 18, 1982.

Despite the downhill trend of the Philippine economy, Imelda plodded along with her grandiose schemes. She also ignored some bad omens. When she first decided to launch her International Film Festival, she had built a huge building that was designed on the lines of the Parthenon.

Unfortunately, it appears that both Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, began to change the building plans while the structure was being built, forcing construction delays. As a result, the center was being completed as quickly as possible in time for its inaugural film festival.

On November 18, 1981, shortly before 3:00 a.m., scaffolding and wooden support gave way while cement was being leveled on the sixth floor of the half-finished Manila Film Center, killing 26 construction workers and injuring 36 others. However, according to the Marcos-controlled press, 28 workers were killed in the accident, and some says 15 only. Rumor had it than 168 had died.

Betty Benitez (wife of Imelda’s Assistant Minister, Conrado Benitez), who was in charge of the project for the First Lady, was called to the scene. The mothers and wives of the men who died had come to claim the bodies. But the building was due to open for the festival, therefore it was said that instead halting the project for a rescue attempt and digging out the workers, Betty ordered, “Pour the cement.”, thus, the bodies and some of the still alive people were burried on the spot in a rush to finish the building for Imelda Marcos' film festival and the Miss Universe pageant.

A few months later Betty Benitez was herself killed in bizarre accident. She was a passenger in a car driven by O. D. Corpus, a former president of the University of the Philippines. They were on their way to Tagaytay at night. (It was never made clear why they were out driving in the middle of the night away from their respective spouses and families.) Betty was killed instantly when the car ran off the road on a curve and smashed into a tree. Corpus survived.

Manilans soon said the film festival building was haunted, and many refused to work there or go inside to see films. Imee Marcos called in a medium, who was said to be able to communicate with the dead, and brought him to the film festival building. The medium went into a trance. Normally, he spoke only in his native dialect. But in the trance, he suddenly spoke on in English: ‘Now there are 169,’ he intoned. ‘Betty is with us.’

In a 2005 documentary produced by GMA Network Channel 7: i-Witness, all 169 workers were traced and the records show that not more than a dozen died. Furthermore all the bodies were retrieved and were given a proper burial.


Of course with a tragedy like this, there are going to be restless souls attached to the building and some of these ghosts have been spooking guests of nearby buildings.

In one story, a stranger approached a passer-by, who gives him a calling card and asked him to telephone his family and tell them that he was all right, and that he would be leaving soon. When the passer-by made the call, a startled voice explained that her husband was dead -- his body was one of those encased in the film center.

- Beth Day Romulo, Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987: 167-68.