Sara's uncle Lando had a massive heart attack and was confined in the ICU of a well-known hospital in Makati. The doctors didn't give her uncle Lando much time to live. He had slipped into a coma and they fear that he would not wake up anymore. Uncle Lando's relatives decided to take turns watching over him, in the event he did wake up. Being a night owl, Sara volunteered to take the graveyard shift (from 12 midnight to 5 a.m.).
One night (early morning actually) Sara came home from the hospital. As was her habit, she took a quick shower before turning in. But as she stepped out of the shower and toweled herself dry, she smelled the aroma of sampaguitas. Not just a whiff but a strong fragrance, like the bathroom was filled with the scent of flowers. The aroma lingered for a minute or two before disappearing.
Tired, Sara shrugged it off as her imagination. Just as she was about to sleep though, her phone rang. Who could be calling at this hour? She thought. But deep down she knew that there was only one reason for anyone to call her. She picked up the phone.
'Sara, uncle Lando has passed away,' said her cousin.
'Thank you,' was all Sara could say, as she numbly put the phone back into its cradle. Instead of the deep sadness she expected to feel, she felt peace, as if her uncle had said goodbye to her before he moved on.
Later in the afternoon, uncle Lando's relatives gathered at the funeral parlor while waiting for his body to be embalmed. They were all quiet and sedate, each one silently reminiscing the happy times with the jolly uncle Lando.
Aunt Vera (who isn't really a relative but a close friend of the family) arrived and gave her condolences to uncle Lando's wife and children. She sat down and waited with the family.
'I was having lunch with some friends when the most peculiar thing happened,' aunt Vera said. 'Just as we were finishing our meal, we all smelled sampaguita and calachuchi. It smelled like we were in a funeral home. It wasn't just me who smelled it; my guests and household help smelled it too.'
'That was Lando probably bidding you goodbye. You know how much he loved to tease you,' said uncle Lando's sister.
'It probably was. But the funny thing was, I only found out about his passing when you called me this afternoon,' said aunt Vera. True enough, the family had only informed close friends and relatives about uncle Lando's passing. The obituary would only come out the next day.
A little while later, a middle-aged man walked into the funeral parlor. By this time, uncle Lando's body was laid out peacefully in his coffin.
'Um, I'm looking for Mr. Lando Reyes?' said the man.
'Yes, I'm his widow. May I help you?'
'You see, ma'am, I have his car outside. He told me this morning to deliver it here when I was finished repairing it,' said the man. He looked confused as it dawned on him that the owner of the car was lying in a casket.
Everybody looked at each other. 'Please, tell us about it,' said Sara.
The man identified himself as mang Erning. He's the mechanic uncle Lando went to for all his car repairs. 'Early this morning, Mr. Reyes came into the shop. We even talked and joked a bit, you know how he is. I mean, was. He asked about his car and I told him that it would be finished within the day. He said to bring it to this funeraria when I was done.
'I didn't question him about his choice of location. Maybe he was visiting someone here, I thought at the time. What I didn't expect was that he'd be the one lying here!'
'What time did you say he visited you?' asked Sara.
'About 8:30 this morning,' said mang Erning.
'He died at 5 in the morning,' said uncle Lando's widow.
And it doesn't end there.
Mrs. Reyes (uncle Lando's widow) had ordered a couple of maidenhair ferns from her florist, mang Dan, to add to the decor at the wake. They had agreed that mang Dan would deliver it to the Reyes residence and that the family would take care of bringing the ferns to the funeral parlor.
Mang Dan's farm was in Cavite, and he made a special trip that day to get the plants to Mrs. Reyes. He had delivered several orders before to the Reyes residence and knew how to get there.
But that night, he got lost. For some reason he kept turning into the wrong street. When he finally got to the Reyes house, it was near midnight. He just dropped off the plants with the household staff and told them that he'd return a few days later to collect on the payment.
A few days later, he got lost again going back to the Reyes house. He had talked to Mrs. Reyes earlier, and they had agreed that she was leaving a check with the maid, so that mang Dan can come and collect it at anytime. When he finally got there and got the payment, he suddenly smelled an almost overpowering sampaguita fragrance. He quickly got into his pickup and drove off.
Later, when he related this story to Mrs. Reyes, she said to him, 'That was probably my husband, most likely asking you why you were late. You know him, he was always prompt and expected everyone to be the same.'
*Appearing in True Philippine Ghost Stories book 11.