Admit it, you were scared to go inside a Robinson’s Galleria fitting room or restroom from the mid-‘80s up until the mid-‘90s just like anyone else. Anyone who was alive back then heard stories about Robina Gokongwei’s twin, a half-human, half-snake creature that had a penchant for beautiful women whom he later abducted after marking them.
One of the alleged victims was popular movie and TV actress Alice Dixson. Ms. Dixson was one of the “it” girls back then. People fell in love with her the moment she rolled her shoulder and uttered the words, “I can feel it,” for a Palmolive soap commercial. She also became the darling of Philippine prime time TV when she starred as Faye in Okay ka, Fairy Ko, a popular TV show which premiered in 1987 on IBC 13, and which starred “Bossing” Vic Sotto.
In an episode of Sarap Diva, a cooking and talk show hosted by Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez, Ms. Dixson talked about the urban legend and what supposedly happened to her at Robinson’s Galleria. She was clearly aware of the urban legend and she said what people are claiming wasn’t true. She was never abducted by a “taong ahas.”
The myth of the half-human, half-snake creature is nothing new. In Part II of Historia natural del sitio, fertilidad y calidad de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas (History of the Bisayan Islands ) by Fray Ignacio Francisco Alcina, the Spanish priest documents the supernatural beliefs of the Visayans and one of them is the belief in the existence of humans having snake twins.
Snakes have been part of various myths and legends. It even played an integral part in the salvation history of man. In the Bible, the snake symbolizes temptation, the beginning of man’s downfall, the start of man’s pride swelling, catapulting him, at least in his mind, to a god-like status. The snake is the devil’s advocate, taunting man to defy God.
The Chinese believe that snakes are evil, malevolent creatures that cause harm. They are believed to possess magical powers like shape-shifting. One such creature famous for her shape-shifting abilities is Madam White Snake from the Legend of White Snake. Other creatures that are part snake are Fuxi and Nüwa and Gong Gong.
In the Philippines, we have Zuma, a comic book character created by Jim Fernandez in 1976. Zuma is an Aztec demigod with the body of a human and a two-headed snake around its neck. He is the son of Kukulkan, the Aztec serpent god. His daughter is named Galema. Galema was conceived when Zuma raped Galela, a mortal.
No one really knows how the urban legend of the Robinson’s Galleria “taong ahas” started. It could have been just someone’s idea of a joke. Someone had told someone and it eventually spread like wildfire. Or it could have been a publicity stunt. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Good or bad PR is still PR.
Or it could’ve been started by the rivals of the Gokongweis. At that time, and even up to now, there are very few players when it comes to mall industry. Perhaps someone didn’t want to play fair and wanted to ruin Robinson’s Galleria’s reputation. Maybe someone had concocted a wild story they knew urban legend-believing Filipinos would eat up.
Even when logic dictates that such stories could not possibly be true, as there really are no half-human half-snake creatures out there, you still get goosebumps when you enter a Robinson’s Galleria restroom or fitting room. Especially when it’s nighttime, and you look around and you find yourself all alone.