A Paranormal Experience

" The girl looked 13 or 14, skinny as a rail, and she said, 'You have to get permission from the Holy Mother to take pictures; otherwise they won't come out. "


 I've been to the Philippines several times and know that some pretty spooky things can happen there, especially on some of the islands -- of which I'm told there are about 7,000.

On my last trip to there I had an experience that I definitely can't explain.

First, you should know that I'm fairly knowledgeable about photography. I started very early working for daily newspapers back when cameras used 4X5 sheets of film.  (I took a large percentage of the photos on this site.)

Suffice to say, I know my equipment and I stopped making muddle-minded goofs a long time ago. If a photo situation is questionable, I can recognize it and I either compensate or pass it up.

On one trip to an island in the Philippines I visited a well-known "Holy Mother," a reputed spiritual person -- in this case a middle-aged woman. We'll call her "Mother R."

Mother R was well known for giving advice and she supposedly had the power to heal assorted physical maladies.  (The ratio of trained doctors to the general population there is more than 5,000 to one.)

When I got to her spiritual compound I noticed there was an impossibly long line to see her. The day was bright and sunny -- very hot with the high humidity typical of the Philippines.)

Dragging around a heavy Nikon camera with assorted lenses can get pretty tiring, so when I had to make long trips under such conditions and didn't need special equipment, I switched to a small, sophisticated automatic camera -- auto exposure, auto focus, shock resistant and completely idiot proof.

" I wasn't about to stand in the hot sun for hours to see this woman, so I just walked around taking some pictures to document the location. "

>> I had started a 36-exposure roll of film at another location.  On arriving at her compound I took a series of pictures -- probably 15 or so -- on the same roll, checking my camera as I went along. (A habit you develop when your livelihood depends on results.)

At one point a young Filipina girl came up to me. She looked 13 or 14, skinny as a rail, and said, "You are supposed to get permission from the Holy Mother before you take pictures, otherwise they won't come out." 

I dismissed that; after all, conditions were perfect and I had taken thousands of photos in my life which had "come out" just fine. Plus, what did a little girl know about professional photography?

By then it was mid-day and there was still a two or three-hour line to see Mother R.  The young girl asked if I wanted her to stand in line for me. That seemed like a good idea (being a native. she seemed far better equipped for that than I was). But I was concerned it might all come to nothing because of a language problem. 

I asked the girl if Mother R spoke English.  She said "no," but that didn't matter because the Holy Mother repeated what she heard in her head -- which amounted to whatever language the person in front of her understood.

That was intriguing and about then I spotted a shade tree with some soft drinks for sale. I said okay; she could stand in line for me.

Time crept by and finally the young girl was near the front of the line.  She sent someone to get me and take me to the space she had been holding.

When I sat down in front of Mother R, I asked a question in English. She seemed to have absolutely no idea what I was asking.

Finally, she awkwardly said some words in English, directly addressing a major personal issue that was on my mind (that I had shared with no one). The advice she gave seemed totally wrong and I dismissed it.  It was a year or two later that I was forced to conclude that I definitely should have followed her advice -- but that's another story.

I gave the young girl that had stood in line for me some money for her effort and left.  On the way back to my hotel I took a number of photos at two other locations to finish the 36-exposure roll.

When the film was developed, I found that all of the photos before and after the ones I shot in Mother R's compound were sharp, clear and perfectly exposed, just like the hundreds, the other pictures I took with that camera.

But the space for the 15 or so photos I shot at the compound was almost completely black; all I could make out were very dim and very blurry shadows.  Bear in mind that the sun was extremely bright that day, I shot everything outside, and photos taken with a pin-hole camera would have come out.

When I got back to the states I showed the roll to a camera expert where I had bought the camera.  After he examined the film (and keeping in mind that the camera was designed to be completely idiot-proof), he concluded that the camera was defective and replaced it. (It was still under warranty,)

I've given up trying to relate this story to people. They invariably come up with all manner of explanations that I considered from day one, checked on, and ruled out.

I often think of what that simple little Filipina girl said, "You have to get permission from the Holy Mother to take pictures; otherwise they won't come out." 

If you want an explanation for this, you won't find it here. I've thought about it a lot and I don't have one.

-Ron Whittaker.

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