Ang Nuno sa Punso

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Nuno sa Punso

During hot summer afternoons when I was a boy, I used to enjoy hiking to the stream near our home. Usually there would be a farmer nearby plowing his little rice field with his big carabao (water bufallo). I noticed that he would always be careful to avoid plowing the several large anthills on his rice field, but could not be certain why.

Still on his way to Ilocos Norte, Juan decided he needed to rest under a balete tree to escape that afternoon's harsh and hot sun. Haphazardly, he had chanced upon what looked to be like an ant or termite hill, except it was about four times larger. Out of the corner of his eye, a little old man with a flowing white beard and a walking cane emerged from one of the hills, and smiled at him.

Juan quickly recollected what was told to him as a story when he was but a young boy. In the old days during rice harvest time, barrio farmers would be careful to pay homage or "rent" to the dwendes (dwarfs) that were said to own all the land there is. The rent that was taken was usually boiled white chicken and rice cakes. Usually the food is put in the fields or under trees after sunset. The food must be free from salt, spices or any kind of seasoning. The rice must be boiled for the dwendes have few teeth.

Juan recognized that the shirtless little man before him was what was called the Nuno sa Punso. Nuno sa Punso was a very old bearded man as short as a boy of three, but with comparatively large joints, belly, head, eyes, nose and mouth. He usually lived underground, under caves and anthills, which is how he got his name; nuno sa punso means "old man under the anthill." Usually, nuno sa punso napped on the anthill at noon, and preferred that farmers not plow the ground with tractors, fearing that the tractors would ruin his anthill home.

Nuno sa punso was a relatively harmless dwende and mostly hid himself as Juan remembered. That is until its anthill home somehow got plowed accidentally or unless rent wasn't provided. Sometimes, nuno sa punso visited people's yards after sunset, so it would also be unwise to inadvertently blind nuno with the dust that is swept from a yard or floor then. Otherwise, nuno sa punso would pinch an unlucky traveler's skin, which subsequently became blue, or pull the toes and make them twice as long. Nuno could also give scabies, fever or chills, or worse cast an evil spell.

"Excuse me, sir. I almost did not see you, please let me pass so I don't step on you accidentally." Juan exclaimed.

Juan still had the white chicken and rice that Enting's folk had provided to him. He gathered some wood nearby and created a small fire to cook the white chicken. He took some water from a nearby stream and emptied his water tin can to cook the rice. He subsequently offered this to nuno sa punso.

Nuno sa punso thanked Juan for his offerings, and offered him some on some dangers ahead on the road. Because of Juan's respect for him, nuno sa punso also provided Juan with a whole roasted piglet, enough food to last him for a good week!