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Seven Popular Urban Legends in the Philippines

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Young Filipinos may be interested in hearing the following popular urban legends which have been told many times over the years.  These urban legends may in fact read like historical events, but they sound so extreme, farfetched or exaggerated, hence they must be urban legends, right?

Nowhere else in the world can tales like these sound so hyperbolic.  Here are some of the urban legends that could still baffle our mind to this day, because of how severe, how extreme or how magnified (if you want to go to that extent) the characters, the events and the plot were described.  It is up to you whether you would believe them as true or dismiss them as popular urban legends.

  1. A woman had 2,000 pairs of shoes.  Rumors have it that in 1986, after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled after ruling the country for over 20 years when about 10,000 people reportedly just disappeared, the people who stormed Malacanang Palace reportedly discovered a collection of 2,000 pairs of shoes belonging to former First Lady Imelda Marcos.  Why is it an urban legend?  Well, how can anybody wear 2,000 pairs of shoes? And how could 10,000 victims of human rights just disappear? And why is Imelda Marcos a congresswoman today?
  2. There were stories in Maguindanao that a group of journalists and political supporters of one candidate suddenly disappeared in the morning of November 23, 2009.  Some 58 individuals, including 34 local journalists, were reportedly killed and buried using an excavator, by a group of henchmen of political landlords belonging to the Ampatuan family.  Why is it an urban legend?  How could anybody kill 34 journalists and attempt to make it a secret? And why was nobody convicted yet, if it really happened?
  3. Garbage is not only filthy, it can also kill, so says an urban legend that has been circulating for more than a decade now.  The legend has it that on July 12, 2000, around 500 garbage scavengers who were living literally at the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City were buried alive under tons of trash when a 50-foot garbage mountain collapsed on their makeshift houses during heavy torrential rains.  Why is it an urban legend? Well, are there people living with the garbage in the Philippines in the first place? Really?
  4. Here is an urban legend that could easily eclipse the notoriety of the Titanic disaster, which reportedly killed 1,500 people in 1912.  Here in the Philippines, there is a persistent overblown story about a passenger ship called MV Doña Paz, owned by Sulpico Lines, which allegedly collided with oil tanker the Vector off Mindoro Island on December 20, 1987.  The incident, according to the legend, left 4,341 people dead. Why is it an urban legend?  Well, no ship was supposed to carry more than 4,000 people in the first place.  If it was true, why is Sulpicio Lines still operating its vessels to this day. 
  5. Banditry exists only in the movies, right, but in Mindanao, there is this melodramatic story about a group of extremists that raided an entire town. According to legend, members of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf (Bearers of the Sword) group burned the Christian town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay province in the morning of April 3, 1995.  The bandits, according to the legend, burned the houses and commercial establishments in Ipil town, took dozens of hostages and shot dead at least 54 residents of the town. Why is it an urban legend? Well, how can any decent government allow a bandit group to co-exist with the civilian population in the first place?
  6. A Philippine president was convicted of plunder.  Could it be true that former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada was once convicted of plunder, or theft involving more than P500 million.  According to legend, Erap was ousted from power in January 2001 and in 2007, the anti-graft court found him guilty of plunder and sentenced him to a jail term of 40 years.  He was accused of receiving P545-million protection money from jueteng operators, diverting P130 million in tobacco excise taxes, receiving P189.7-million kickback from Belle Corp. and maintaining billions of pesos in bank accounts not declared in his statement of assets and liabilities.  This must be an urban legend, because as far as we know, Joseph Estrada is now the mayor of Manila and his two sons became senators.  One of his wives, Loi Ejercito, also served as a senator while another wife, Guia Gomez, became mayor of San Juan. What a legend!
  7. Here is one recent urban legend that sounds so exaggerated or, if we may say, extravagant.  If Imelda Marcos had 2,000 shoes, there is a businesswoman who owns more than 50 homes in the Philippines and the US. And one of her bath tubs is reportedly full of money.  What? According to legend, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles established 12 non-government organizations that absorbed the pork barrel of senators and congressmen as well as heads of government agencies, to fund invisible projects for the poor.  Common, why will anybody need 50 houses, with none of these houses equipped with a safe, that a bath tub is needed to store money.  And who in the world of politics will allow a businesswoman to get a share in their loot?  And why will anybody call Napoles a businesswoman, if she runs non-profit or non-government organizations? Well, it must just be an urban legend.

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