Nuno Sa Punso [The Philippine Dwarf]

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by Randy Topacio |

For many years, we are often bewildered by stories told by elderly people of folklores that boggle the minds of the young and the not so young. Stories of scary encounters with the aswangs, manananggals, tikbalangs, tiktiks, dwendes and nuno sa punso.

Most commonly warned by our elderly folks are the “nuno sa punso”. Nuno is a dwarf from the Philippine mythology. Nuno sa Punso lives in an anthill called “punso.” Aside from the common anthill, their homes would look like mounds on the ground. To us it looked more like a simple anthill. Anyway, just to be on the safe side, we would avoid going near it.

Nuno can also be found under huge rocks, trees, along rivers, in caves and sometimes even next to human homes. Some have seen them and described their looks as a small old man with long white beard. Those who step on the punso and damage their homes are punished. Stories of their foot getting swollen, they would vomit blood, urinate black liquid and become rather hairy on their back.

It is also believed that this dwarf can spit at you. And where the saliva lands on your body, you are going to feel pain in that part of the body. Old folks say that if we accidentally hit, step or destroy it, something terrible may happen to us. A curse may be bestowed upon you. Some say you either end up with some incurable disease or sometimes leading to death.

The worst punishment is actually a dwarf’s curse that can cause a possession. Families of those who have been punished by the dwarf offer some food to the punso. A ritual called “tawas” is performed by the “albularyo” – a kind of doctor who cures people and drives away bad karma with his herbal medicine and chants. They say it is a good way to help the victim.

In the provinces, where restrooms are not readily available, when you got to go… you got to go. We would usually look for a place to stopover and use the restroom. However, not all the time there will be a clean restroom available. The only option was to your thing by the side of the road, either beside a tree or behind the bushes. But be warned. Our folks tells us that before doing so, we need to say, “tabi tabi po” whenever we are passing through. “Tabi-tabi po, makikiraan lang po“. Loosely translated, this means “excuse me, just passing through”. This was done to ensure that these “nuno” will be aware and move out of the way. Who knows, there might be one just where you intend to release and trample on one or destroy even their homes.

Well, I have not encountered such a curse. I guess it’s because I have been chanting the phrase “tabi tabi po, makikiraan lang po”, as I walk into the area. You’ll never know.

Sampaloc Tree
Sampaloc Tree

The closest encounter with a Nuno is when we had our tamarind tree cut down to give way for the construction of my room. Our home had this huge tamarind tree in a lot beside our house. The trunk was so wide that it would take two people embrace the trunk to make their hands meet each other.

At the time we needed to clear the area, my Dad had commissioned some workers to chop down the tree. The workers were hesitant at first to cut the tree as they feared it might be home to some entity. After sometime convincing them, they proceeded by cutting first the branches. It will take around three dump trucks to load the branches.

On the 3rd day, one of the workers did not report to work. We found out that he got sick. The others got scared and did not report for work the next day. After a week, we hired new workers to finish the job.

It was taking them sometime to finish cutting the branches so we provided them with a chain saw to cut the major branches of the tree. I was there when they were about to cut it up. The worker started the chain saw and as soon as it hit the branch… it stopped. They chain saw suddenly died on us. It would not restart.

They continued to chop it down manually. As soon as we got the big branches out of the way, the other worker managed to get the chain saw running again. They were able to cut down the tree leaving a stump on the ground. They could not go any further as the chain saw broke down.

So we decided to leave the stump to rot and let mother-nature work on it.

One of the previous workers had gone back looking for a job. And we asked him how his fellow worker, who got sick, was doing. He said that the worker passed away due to some illness. We were surprised to hear of this sad news. He said that they must have destroyed a house of a nuno. “Naengkanto po ata sya ng nuno”. (Translated: “he was cursed by the dwarf”).

There are incidents that are hard to explain. Could it be a coincidence that a worker is dead after chopping down a huge tree which was believed to be home to some entity? Neighbors tell us that they would see a white lady moving in and out of the tree. The lady would be seen in their sala and exit through the wall leading to the tree. After the tree had been removed, they don’t get to see her anymore.

Now tell me, are they for real? You decide.

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