Duwende have been defined as different but similar things: goblins, hobgoblins, elves, dwarves, gnomes, little spirits, and more. The name comes from duende, the Spanish word for goblin/elf, and dueño, the Spanish word for the "real owner of the house." They live in houses, trees, underground, and other rural areas. They also live in mounds, which makes them mistaken for "nuno sa punso," which means "old man of the mound."In some stories Duwende are a separate race and in others Nuno and Laman Lupa are simply another Duwende.
Appearance:Duwende is Spanish word for “dwarf” and these creatures resemble small dwarves or gnomes who dwell underground, in trees, or sometimes take residence with humans who leave them offerings. They stand about 3-6 inches tall and usually have white, grey, or black skin. In some descriptions they only have one eye and one nostril.
The Duwende could easily be substituted with the elves from the fairy tale about the elves and the cobbler. When treated well and left offerings (particularly sweets, fruits and chocolate), they will help the land and those kind to them become prosperous with their enchantments. Usually somewhat benevolent, they have been known to be quite helpful “house spirits.”
However, if you cross a Duwende or are rude, they can be quite spiteful. They are also said to love minerals and gold much like classic fantasy dwarves or leprechauns.
It’s very important to note that politeness, offerings, and following the form of the old ways is very important to Duwende and their ilk. So if one minds their manners when encountering a Duwende, they will likely receive aid and information. If one is rude, bad luck and curses of all sorts will befall them. In some stories, this is associated with their color (white for good luck, black for bad). Those cursed by Duwende have been known to hallucinate and fall into near comatose states.
Duwende usually come out at noon for an hour and at night. Phillipinos who believe in the existence of Duwende leave food on the floor so that the Duwende can be peaceful and protective of their homes. However, they can still be little tricksters who love to steal things and laugh while you search for it, only returning it when they feel like it or if you tell them to (please) return it. (Check out this tale of someone's encounter with a Duwende!) If really provoked, Duwende can cause sickness or even death upon its victim.
Some Phillipinos use the story of the Duwende as a cautionary tale to children (and adults too) to not snack after bedtime. One story goes that if you creep into the kitchen at night to get a snack, the Duwende can take your soul and trap you inside any kitchen equipment nearby (you wouldn't want to be trapped inside your rice cooker, would you?). To get children to finish their food, parents threaten the Duwende would come after them.
Phillipinosbelieve that saying, "Tabi-tabi po" or "Bari-bari apo ma ka ilabas kami apo" can help keep the Duwende from playing tricks on you. The phrases excuse the person for bothering the Duwende.
When the Duwende aren't hiding people's belongings or trapping people in rice cookers, they sing, make noise, throw sand and pebbles, knock over kitchen utensils, and sometimes even play with children.