MANILA, PHILIPPINES — By six o’clock, I was not sure whether to proceed through the grounds of the venue — Palacio de Memoria, a dated pre-war building that is now bathed in moonlight and from the inside, sheer green light flooded through its windows.
Not a stranger to this place, I knew the grounds should not be this dark. Lanterns would usually hang down from the trees, and lamp posts would at least make the parked aircrafts visible. Spotify was not kidding when its invitation posed it as a night of unraveling stories of mystery.
A huge part of the problem is that I am a scaredy cat. As someone who never stepped inside the horror houses of amusement parks, I had to muster the courage of Nancy Thompson just to survive the night.
Within minutes of going in the Palacio, I was ushered through the back door to a phone booth crawling with vines all creepy and crooked. Inside was an old-school telephone where ghost stories corresponded to each number. This was just a snippet of Spotify’s Takot Muna playlist, comprised of top horror creators like Kwentong Takipsilim, Wag Kang Lilingon, Philippine Campfire Stories, and Creepsilog.
What I listened to was an episode about a haunted resort in a remote area in the province, but there is no shortage of tales from the beyond as demonstrated by some of the episodes in the curation, horror can come from anywhere, even in the commonplaces like churches, schools, convents, and cemeteries.
Towards the middle of the party, renowned Filipino film director Erik Matti was introduced to the crowd. He admitted that he, himself, is easily scared, so he uses that to fuel his materials.
“You need to root your stories in something real. I root my stories in what I’m afraid of and I feel that that becomes organic, that becomes a little more authentic because if it scares me, it’s probably gonna scare everyone.”
Being the director of blockbuster Filipino horror movies Seklusyon, Resureksyon, and Pa-Siyam, among others, Erik said that finding the right story is a process, but thanks to our repository of the macabre and supernatural, it can be just a hair trigger away. He added that at times, he would drive alone with nothing but a playlist of horror podcast episodes.
“Audio as a medium has the unique ability to forge an intimate connection between the storyteller and the listener. The absence of visual distractions allows listeners to immerse themselves completely in the narrative, creating a deeply personal and engaging experience,” he shared.
I would have to agree with him. Sound as a sensory trigger is most effective; we’ve probably forgotten the plots of most movies, but the death rattle from The Grudge is etched in my mind. In Spotify’s part, beyond the raw spoken word’s power to strike fear, sound was designed to create ambience and atmosphere — caging each listener effectively long after the episodes are done.
To further immerse us, there was a breakout room that restricted our sight with blindfolds to allow a full auditory experience. Another area was designated for an ouija board for rituals I wouldn’t want to mess with. As people with deep-seated love for urban legends and ghost stories, it’s not difficult to let Filipinos’ imagination run wild, especially when the conditions are on point.
Talking to Spotify’s Podcast Partner Manager for the Philippines Phil Disini, we found out that horror as a genre is rising in the country. “Embracing the thrill of horror is ingrained in the Filipino culture, even throughout the year. We continuously collaborate with our creators to expand our collection and have become the home to the largest collection of horror audio content. We are committed to delivering the best in the genre,” he said.
At the end of the night, it was apparent that horror is no longer just for its cult following, but even curious cats can partake as well. Needless to say, I slept with all lights on that night.