Author Archives: Kevin Chan

Duwende at Home in the Philippines

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. <>.


Stormygirlpdx. “Duwende.” Your Ghost Stories: Publish Your Paranormal Experience! 21 Feb. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <>.

Hungry Ghost (Preta) in Burma

My room mate, ThawZin, is from Burma. He is a Buddhist, and is very religious. This is the story he told me from his country.


ThawZin: “First, some background info! In Buddhism we have different classes for spirituality. There are the demigods at the top, followed by humans, animals, hungry ghosts, then devils. Hungry ghosts are what we call ‘preta’ (pronounced pale-tar). Pretas are people, who, when they were alive, were greedy and malicious. Their death is usually caused by a greedy act they brought upon themselves. You know… pretas are actually pitied by humans, because they have to face suffering, but they deserve it. It’s karma. They are invisible, but they can scare mortals. They like eating the gooey shit coming from meat and other things, haha! That is why, every time I go to the market with my mom, we always have to spit on the floor, so that they won’t follow us. Their appearance: they have big bellies, and small heads. The big bellies symbolize how greedy they are, you know… They want so much, but the little head, little face, little mouth, symbolize that they can’t get anything, can’t get shit, you know? Haha!


Anyway so the story… my mother told me this before. In Burma there’s this guy. He was fucking greedy during his life time. One day he was really hungry. He loved eating intestines, so he went to his wife and said, ‘Where the fuck is my food?!” But the wife didn’t have anything prepared. He was so angry, so he went to the barn and, you know, he cut the tongues of the cows there while they were still alive! I mean the cows were still alive, and he just cut them, and so they were bleeding and shit. The cows were like… mooing the whole night, haha!  And they died a slow, painful death. He went to his wife, threw the cow tongues down at the table and told her to cook them for him. So the wife did. As he was eating the cow tongues, suddenly his own tongue started to dissolve. You know, it dissolved all the way to his insides. But karma did not kill him yet, it made him suffer. The cow tongue just dissolved his insides for days, until he died. He died just like the cows… a slow, painful death. When he died, that is when he became a preta. Well, he was reborn as a preta.”


Me: “Where in Burma was this? I mean, is there a specific place where he haunts?”


ThawZin: “Oh yes! It is in the old first kingdom of Burma, in Bagan.


Me: “Do people avoid that place?”


ThawZin: “Oh not at all! Actually you know, when he died, his preta was located under the ground. And then one day farmers in Bagan found that one part of… you know, the ground, started becoming fleshy. And that’s when they figured out that there was a preta there. They don’t avoid it. They constantly plow over the land, again and again. The greedy guy has to suffer again and again, getting plowed, but they can’t do anything about him. It’s karma, man. He deserves what came to him, and he has to stay there until he has repaid his debt, his bad karma.”


ThawZin’s story shows a lot about the Burmese culture, especially about the strength of the people’s belief in Buddhism. For one, the whole idea of a preta ghost is based on Buddhist beliefs in spiritual hierarchy and rebirth. As well, he says that even though people pity these pretas, when the farmers found out that there was a preta under the ground, they still plowed over him, again and again, even if it made the preta suffer, because they believed in the Buddhist concept of karma: that people deserve what is coming to them, good or bad. In many ways, his story also comes as a story of morality, particularly for the idea that greed and blind rage are unwanted negatives that will get you in trouble, and will follow you even after you die, in your rebirth, or the afterlife.