Nuno, or nuno sa punso is the Philippine term for a dwarf-like creature (nuno) while punso pertains to where the nuno resides, the mound or the anthill known as punso. Some people will say "it is just a mound." But still, there's also those who choose to be cautious around the mound, uttering a word of excuse while passing by such as, "tabi-tabi po," which means "excuse me." Some also add "I don't mean any harm, just passing by." Others may say, like my mom on some ocassions who would add "I can't see you but you can see me, please excuse me."
Depicted as old-bearded, small human-like creature, the nuno can be easily angered to whoever disrespects their dwelling spot. Unseen to the naked eye, there are those who claim that they're able to see the nuno. And some believes one can see them if they would choose to be seen.
The term "nuno" and duwende are also often used interchangeably, sometimes spelled without the letter "u", dwende. "Don't play near the mound. Few neighbors saw a dwarf in that area." Yet, if one got afflicted of a sudden ailment believed to be caused by passing by a mound without saying an excuse, offending the unseen dweller, they would say, "nanuno" the term for being punished or receiving a punishment from the "nuno." Young kids are often warned to not play near the mound to lessen the chances of them stepping on the mound or offending the nuno and being punished.
Nuno sa punso often depicted as small, unseen creature is said to be either good or bad. It's been said that they befriend those people, often young kids that they took a liking and show themselves to them. Some healers also claim of being friends with these creatures and aiding them on their healing practice.
A childhood experience
Living in a coconut farm in the province of Oriental Mindoro at the age of about 6 or 7 years old, the mound that shares space with us inside the ready to live in nipa-hut is not a big deal. Well, not for me, I'm just a kid, although having a nuno sa punso inside our living space most likely raised concerns with my parents.
I keep glancing at my parents outside who seem to be having a good time talking to our new neighbor who lives some distance from us. But I was just not done with the food in my plate. I was having rice with salted dried fish (tuyo) that day. Yes, I remember. Who wouldn't remember something like that? Not having the appetite and with my mom outside, there's no rush to finish my food, instead I started applying oil on my feet before joining them outside. I was busy with myself and was entertained with the oil's effect on my skin, not minding at all the food that I have to finish on the table.
The sound of the plate diverted my attention back on my plate of food, only to see my dried fish was no longer on my plate. I saw it as it was moved from my plate! I wondered how as I continue applying oil on my feet, brushing off what I saw, but the thought that there's someone unseen responsible for it lingers in my head making me feel uncomfortable somehow that I was being watched. Maybe the nuno we're sharing space with inside the nipa-hut was just there watching me. But I couldn't think of any other explanation to that. No dogs yet as we just moved in. As the thought slowly creeps in of the possibility that the nuno sa punso is there, I headed outside and joined my mom talking to our new neighbor.
There's also few occasions where it seems like a white smoke is coming atop the mound along with some other weird experiences. But that's a different story. Whenever we reminsce about our life back then, having the nuno sa punso sharing our living space with us make us wonder that maybe the hut might have been unoccupied for too long that the nuno decided to have its mound in there. We never had any problem though sharing with the space.
I wonder if it's still there? It's been over 20 years.
Offending the nuno
The person who had offended the mound's dweller would be surprise waking up the following morning with either a swollen feet, a sudden fever, unexplained sickness or maybe a swollen private part or hard of peeing. For those who are superstitious, experiencing any of these sudden illnesses would prompt them to think of offending something unseen.
Asking for forgiveness
Experiencing an unexpected illness after disrespecting or offending the nuno sa punso, the victim should make an offering to appease the nuno sa punso. Offerings could be food or whatever the traditional healer or albularyo suggested after the confirmation that the victim is indeed cursed by the nuno.
* live chicken (depends on healer's advice but often prefers live black chicken)
* rice grains
Be cautious when passing by a mound believer or not. It won't hurt to say "tabi-tabi po." Do you have your own nuno sa punso story to tell?
Cecile Tajon on May 11, 2018:
My Mom is Ilocano, and she was taught by an older relative to always say "Tabi tabi, Apo" when walking past a very ancient, gnarled tree. I am not sure if this is necessary, but I still do it anyway, just in case!!
David B Katague from Northern California and the Philippines on January 18, 2017:
Our second home in the Philippines-Marinduque-is a place where Nunos are also a common folklore. There are stories of children disappearing for several hours and when asked what happen to them, they would relate stories that they have been with the Nuno's. Enjoy trading this post, Kababayan!
Ced Yong from Asia on January 17, 2017:
This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing this folklore. While some might dismiss it as superstition, I think it's noteworthy how other cultures also have similar stories and taboos. It links us all together.