I have lived in the same house in the Philippines since I was a baby. The house was built by my grandfather in the 1960s. It is a fairly large house, especially compared to the average size of a Filipino home. It has two floors, and a large garden at the back. There are a lot of empty rooms now—rooms that used to belong to my uncles and aunts when they all lived in that house (my grandfather had 7 children). I asked my mother, Letty, to tell me of a ghost story of the house that she had experienced, or have heard from other people living in the house.
Letty: “Ghost stories? Um… I don’t really know if you’ll consider this as a ghost story, but do you remember your old ‘yaya’ Weng? (‘Yaya’ is the Filipino word for babysitters. They usually work full-time, living with the families they work for. Mayet was my new ‘yaya’ after Weng) You might remember her… She took care of you when you were a baby, until about 2 years old, before Mayet came.
There was one time, very long ago, before you were even born, that Weng got sick. She got a… I think… Um… 42 degrees Celsius fever. I gave her medicine but even after a few days, she still wouldn’t get better. I was so scared for her and everyone else in the house… what if it was contagious?! So when a week passed we called in your Uncle William who was a doctor to check on her. The odd thing was that… he said she was completely fine! She was just really hot and all she needed was rest.
I decided to take matters into my own hands… Haha, I think I was paranoid! I turned to Chinese temple blessings from that time on… First, I asked Weng what she was doing that day she started feeling ill. She said she was just handling the laundry that day, hanging out the clothes to dry in the garden. So I went down to check out the place where our maids usually hang clothes, and there it was… a duwende mound!”
Me: “What is a duwende mound?”
Letty: “Well, a duwende is this… I don’t know how to put this… but it’s a creature, very small, typically the size of a waterjug… Haha! They resemble people, but you can tell that they are not… for one, because of their size… and two, um… their face is also different, almost demonic… Anyway, they usually don’t interact with people, but they get very angry when you destroy their homes, which are the mounds that sprout up from the ground. I think Weng might have hit it accidentally when she was hanging clothes, and this fever was her punishment! Anyway… I got so scared so I got the Chinese blessing papers from the temple and burned some around the garden to try and appease the spirits… did a bit of prayers to the spirits… then asked the houseboy to flatten the mound… gently of course! At least that way no one will step on it again and get hurt. And guess what! A day after, Weng’s temperature went back down to 36 degrees Celsius and she felt fine!”
Me: “Didn’t my sister say she saw one too?”
Letty: “Yes, according to Chris, she says she saw a duwende when was about… ten years old I think. I remember that day too. I asked her to get something for me from the storage room downstairs, which was adjacent to the area of the garden where I saw the dwende mound… she ran back to me crying, saying that she saw this tiny man sitting on top of one of the boxes, just smiling at her.”
Me: “What time was this?”
Letty: “It was really late at night, around 11pm. I asked Papa to come down with me because I was terrified. I don’t like ghosts… never want to see them… I know they’re there, but I just don’t want to see them… Anyway, so Papa and I went down to check on the storage room, but nothing was there. We moved around the boxes and didn’t find anything. Whatever your sister saw was gone. I’m not saying I don’t believe her, because I do. I’m just thankful the duwende didn’t do anything to her.”
On a personal level, I, myself, had an experience with an entity which I believe to be the duwende as well. When I was ten years old, I was sleeping in the room which my sister Chris sleeps in now. It is important to note that I did not hear any of the stories that happened to the other people in the household at this time. Back then, the house was under renovation, and so the curtains were gone, and I could see the outside clearly. One night, I woke up at around midnight. I didn’t realize until around 5 minutes later that my eyes were following a distinct shadow figure on the eave’s underside visible from my bed. I stood up and walked towards the window and stopped at about a meter away. I realized the shadow figure was walking left and right, and that it was humanoid in shape. I walked closer, only for the figure to stop its walking, and turn towards me. I was so scared that I ran back under my sheets, and eventually fell asleep.
The duwende is a quite popular folklore demon in the Philippines. Because knowledge of it is so widespread, it is not surprising that people in my household, most of whom had grown up in the Philippines, would find it easier to associate inexplicable situations to a duwende’s work. The appearance of the dirt mound could just have been coincidence with regards to Weng’s sickness; Chris’ and my experiences could just have easily been results from pairs of tired eyes, and at a time when spooky things are supposed to happen. Had the witnesses not known about the existence of duwendes at the time of the events, they would not have thought the events to be as strange. However, because of their prior knowledge to the demon, coincidences could be interpreted as proof for the existence of the entity.
There are a number of websites, listed below, though non-academic, that have information on duwendes. Other terms used to described duwendes in English are goblin, hobgoblins, elves, and dwarves, but most common are dwarves. They live in mounds in the ground, or trees. They say that some of them are good, and some are evil, but most punish you for disrespect if you do not acknowledge and respect their presence, and will only relieve you of pain when they are given sufficient offerings.
Cunningham, RT. “Filipino Folklore: Duwende, Mumu and Tabi Tabi Po.” Untwisted Vortex | An American Living in the Philippines. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.untwistedvortex.com/2009/06/15/filipino-folklore-duwende-mumu-tabi-tabi-po/>.
Stormygirlpdx. “Duwende.” Your Ghost Stories: Publish Your Paranormal Experience! 21 Feb. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=305>.