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REVIEW: ABS-CBN’s ‘Kababalaghan’ is scarier and better than ever

By Matthew Escosia Published Oct 30, 2023 7:01 pm

Picture this. You’re a kid in the ‘90s. You just got home after a cemetery visit for your family’s undas tradition. You open the television, only to find out that Noli De Castro’s evening program Magandang Gabi…Bayan (MGB) is playing. And it’s not the usual MGB but the MGB Halloween-themed episode you always fear every year as a kid. 

Today’s young audience will never experience the anxious feeling of just listening to a Noli De Castro monologue because of the scary stories you associate with his iconic show. While recordings of past episodes of Magandang Gabi…Bayan is available online, it will be hard to replicate the thrill and dread of seeing them as it air.

MGB had a fairly good run from 1988 to 2005, but those who are missing De Castro during Halloween will enjoy Kababalaghan: Pagkagat ng Dilim, the fifth edition of his newest annual special during this season.

Kababalaghan still retains the investigative journalism present from MGB but what sets it apart is its focus for a more cinematic approach to tell horror stories. This year’s special is directed by Jet Leyco, a prominent Filipino filmmaker known for Matangtubig and the underrated horror flick Second Coming. The decision to bring Leyco on board was not only an exciting feat, but a way to bring a more confident creative voice to present a usually undervalued production.

And this was very much present throughout. Shots of Noli De Castro delivering his monologue and introducing his segments already made a big impression in terms of looks. With the way the production value has leveled up, you can tell the forces behind this production know that people are viewing them in not only letterbox-shaped television sets but in widescreen monitors, mobile phones, and computers.


This year’s Kababalaghan features three short horror segments (Haunted Condo; Regalo; and Kamay sa Dilim), all of which have dramatization of the stories narrated by the subjects juxtaposed with De Castro and his team of paranormal experts confronting the spirits. 

The opening segment Haunted Condo follows Prei, a female college student who is haunted by a doppelganger in her condominium unit. When these spirits continue to whisper to her, forcing her to leave the unit for good, she claims that the entities are seeking help and justice from a horrific past.

Up next is Regalo, which uncovers a rest house in Pililia, Rizal known for mysterious disturbances. The sightings are presumably said to be the ghost of the house owner’s deceased wife who has been notoriously scaring off numerous families trying to rent out the place.

Finally, Kamay sa Dilim is a chilling look on a woman who claims that an entity is touching her private parts while sleeping. The entity is said to be an incubus, a male demon sexually preying on sleeping women.

Kababalaghan only runs for an hour (commercials included) but its segments could have benefitted more with a longer running time to further explore the subjects. Sequences of De Castro conducting interviews with paranormal experts, residents near the concerned area, and other individuals can easily be prolonged to explain more details and perspectives.

Just the mere presence of De Castro actively participating in all segments by engaging with his subjects makes the stories (even if they can feel far-fetched) look credible and welcoming


There’s a reason why De Castro has become the face of Halloween on every Filipino television screen. Beyond the fact that he’s been doing this for decades, the veteran journalist and his producing team’s knack for nail-biting stories is what keeps them to continue being at the top of this game. 

This year’s Kababalaghan Halloween special is impressive for how it improved on previous (and even MGB’s) editions by leveraging cinematic means to present the entire episode. This is very apparent in a lot of ABS-CBN shows lately, and we can all wish that more news and public affairs programs on the network will follow suit in the future.

You can watch the replay of Kababalaghan V: Pagkagat ng Dilim on ABS-CBN News’ YouTube channel here.