Picture this: you’re going around the museum and a staff alerts the tour group that the Balete tree was disturbed so the souls inside it were freed. Wyd?
This was the premise of this year’s Midnight Museum Dia de los Muertos tour.
Last October 26, Ayala Museum was transformed into the land of the forgotten souls for an interactive adventure tour. It was a night of colorful costumes, skull-painted faces, and educational activities all throughout the museum. This year’s Midnight Museum was in collaboration with the Mexican Embassy who schooled us on the Day of the Dead and the Filipino-Mexican traditions that come with it. The Ayala Museum courtyard was also filled with all the tacos and mojitos you could ask for and good music to get everybody in a festive mood.
Things turned around though once the actual museum tour started. We’d been warned that forgotten souls were lurking around but we still continued. Not the smartest decision, but hey it’s Halloween, we’re down for a little adventure. We first entered the Gold of Ancestors exhibit and everything was normal… until someone got possessed. That moment felt like an initiation of sorts: 1) the spirits weren’t f*cking around and 2) the only way we’d make it out alive is if we participated in the rituals. We listened to our tour guide and went searching for gold foil to put on the skull. We hope you’ll never need to remember this fact but in case you do, that is one way to appease the spirits.
The rest of the exhibits had their own forgotten soul (with names and stories based off Philippine folklore and history!) that we had to help along the way. We met Los Angelitos — a baby whose corpse was burned as one of the practices of indigenous peoples — at the Art and the Order of Nature in Indigenous Philippine Textiles exhibit. The experience was really eerie (the room was completely dark and at first you could hear only the child crying OK) but we got ourselves together and hummed him to rest. We also met the soul of a Filipino soldier from WWII at the Diorama exhibit and even a creepy white lady who started reaching out for us. We were told to wear our clothes in reverse so she’d stop but bruh, ain’t nobody got time for that. (I mean, some of us had full-on costumes which were hard to take off.) We also met a journalist named Desparecidos at the martial law exhibit and he was buried in newspapers because he was killed for speaking out.
SLX (formerly Sipat Lawin Ensemble) did an amazing job at bringing these forgotten soul characters to life. Their costumes freaked us out, but their stories made us feel a certain way. Being able to participate in some rituals and activities also made the entire experience productive. Who says Halloween has to be all tricks? They even gave us marigold at the end of the tour to offer at the ofrenda in the lobby and the post-tour debriefing was not-your-typical pagpag. We played a Mexican game called loteria but with a twist. It was basically lottery, but the correct answer to a particular quiz question is the symbol we had to look for in our card, which effectively cleared the creepy thoughts in our minds, and was a good way to wrap up the adrenaline-filled evening.
TL;DR this year’s midnight museum was stressful, educational, and a just ‘lil emotional. This might just be a tough one to beat, but I guess we’ll just wait for next year to find out.