The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.
Informant: “Basically, what it is, it’s like a troll, that is kind of mischievous or it’s nice. And they’re like really short… Kind of dwarf-looking creatures. They’re mischievous in the fact that… My grandma told me that they kind of like steal your property. Or not steal it, but take your property and wait for you to find it, and they won’t give it back to you until they feel like it. That’s how they’re mischievous.”
Me: “But they’re not dangerous?”
Informant: “They’re not dangerous, no. They’re just kind of mischievous. And then like, to make… A lot of people in the Philippines, they want to make sure that those Duwende are pleased, so they’ll leave food out in their yard and stuff, so that they’re pleased and stuff like that. Basically, the number one thing is that you don’t want to piss them off, or else they will do more mischievous stuff to you.”
Me: “A lot of pranks and things?”
Informant: “Yeah, a lot of pranks. They’re definitely not bad-bad, but they’re pretty, like, like kids. They’re childish.”
Me: “And are they called The Duwende? Or-”
Informant: “Just Duwende.”
Me: “Oh ok, so it’s kind of like their name. And they’re teeny people?”
Informant: “Yeah, they’re tiny.”
Me: “Sounds kind of like the Menehune in Hawaii.”
Informant: “Yeah! Well I don’t know, I’ve heard of it, but…”
Informant: “Yeah, tricksters. Definitely!”
Background & Analysis
The informant’s grandma had told her this legend/superstition, and she is from the Philippines although currently lives in America. The grandma learned this from her own family, and while the informant doesn’t know whether or not her grandma had ever encountered the Duwende, the grandma knows of people who have run into these creatures a long time ago, before her own time. From what the informant understands, the Duwende are specific to the Philippines, but can be found on multiple islands. On Visaya, there is supposedly a larger population of Duwende, but she is not sure why because she isn’t Visayan. The informant is also unsure how popular this legend is in the area that her family is from, which is Ilocos. The lessons to be taken away from this legend would be to have patience, be nice, and do good deeds which will ultimately be rewarded.
As I mentioned in the interview, the Duwende sound a lot like the trickster version of the Menehune in Hawaii. Normally, they are characterized as mischievous and taunting, but if you get on their wrong side, they can be dangerous. Since both Hawaii and the Philippines are archipelagos, it makes one wonder whether Menehune and Duwende have similar origins.
*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/supernatural-series-duwende>