by: Ma. Christina Perez
The Tasaday, earlier numbering only 27 individuals, inhabit the tropical rain forests
of South Cotabato. In 1986, their population increased to 61. (Peralta, 1
987). According to Nadjo Tarlito Buntas, a Manobo tribal leader, Tasadays are the
ancestors of people who came from the T'boli and Manobo tribes. They were originally
called "Linat Batang". Though not a "Stone Age people," they continue
to hunt and gather, dwell in caves, use stone tools, and wear garments of curcoligo
(a kind of fern plant)
|along side practices acquired through long contact
and exchange with neighboring people. They are socially and geographically
distant, though not completely isolated, and linguistic studies, Peralta
said, show Tasadays are an ethnolinguistic group.
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The actual period is unknown, shrouded in the mists of an unrecorded past, but anthropologists think it likely that since the days of Christ, a splinter group of Manubo Filipinos-completely isolated from civil-ization-lived in the rain forests west of Lake Sebu in today's South Cotabato. The existence of this tribe was first bruited to the Presidential Assistant on Cultural Minorities staff by a Manubo Blit tribesman who called the hitherto unknown forest people Tasaday.
The Manubo Blit - Dafal by name, but better known as "The Bird" with a reputation of "walking through the forest like the wind" - said he not only had contacted these people; he had actually traded and stayed with them a few nights.
Dafal was emphatic "they had no agriculture, no cloth, and no metal tools when he first contacted them, and their staple food was the pith of wild palms and wild tubers."
Initial contact with the Tasaday Manubo by Elizalde and a Panamin exploration team June 7 confirmed Dafal's report.
The Tasaday, in a world shrunk by technology, are good gatherers and trappers, still using stone tools and with absolutely no knowledge of rice, taro, the sweet potato, corn, cassava, or any cultivated plant. They have no names for these crops. They had never tasted salt or smoked tobacco. Sugar they suspected of being poisonous.
When Dafal finally prevailed upon the Tasaday to meet with the Panamin staff in a Manubo But clear-ing at the edge of the forest it was the first time for the Tasaday to have an unobstructed view of the, sky. In an age of lunar landings and moon walks, it was, too, for the Tasaday, a first glimpse at the moon.
Aside from first contacts with Dafal, they had remained isolated in the Cotabato forests and had either intermarried or resorted to bride capture.
Dr. Robert B. Fox, chief anthropologist of the National Museum and director of the Fanamin Research Center, and Presidential Assistant on Cultural Minorities Manuel Elizalde, Jr. (theorized the Tasaday may be remnant groups of Manubo people who isolated themselves because of fear of epidemic diseases known to have swept southeast Mindanao in the early 20th century. Or they may be a splinter group of Manubo who separated from the parental stock at a relatively early date.
"One is tempted to argue," both Fox and Elizalde agree, "that the Tasadays are the actual descendants of a people using only stone tools and that their separation took place some 1,500-2,000 years ago." This would place their separation from the main Manubo tribe at about the time of Christ.
|Twenty-six members of the Tasaday tribe have been
counted and it is doubtful if they total more than a hundred.
Discovery of the Tasaday living in virtual isolation under paleolithic conditions stirred international interest and a "giant bird" - a helicopter used by the Panamin people - has ferried anthropologists, scientists and media men to South Cotabato's hinterlands for an on-the-spot study of the "stone age" people
The Tasaday dialect is a distinct Filipino language related to the many Manubo-type languages in use throughout Mindanao but made unique by the long period of isolation. Many basic words different from those usually found in Mindanao, include dam as for rain, lukas for father, and dinagan for ear.
Particularly interesting to scientists and anthropologists were some of Panamin's initial observations: that the Tasaday still use stone tools for working wood and bamboo, the only positive record in Philippine history of a Filipino people using scrapers fashioned from stones to create bamboo implements for cutting, piercing, and sawing; they had no contact with the outside world and lived in almost total social and geo-graphical isolation; they subsisted primarily on "natak" (the pith of wild palms), wild yams, and other plant foods; and that they are mainly food gatherers and trappers rather than hunters.
|The Tasaday, "provide an unparalleled opportunity in
the 20th century to more fully understand man's culture and behavior
before the appearance of agriculture and the domestication of animals;
before the appearance among 'modern' man of a highly complex technology
based upon metals which is devasta-ting the natural environment upon which
the Tasaday still depend and upon which man everywhere once dependent,'
Forest food resources, food gathering and hunting tools, food quantities necessary for survival are included in the area of needed research as well as questions of health and comparative well-being in a society without agriculture, without a metal technology, and without a permanent residence in a tropical rain forest subjected constantly to elemental forces.
Since Panamin was established in 1967 it has served four million Filipinos unable to participate actively in the affairs of their land due to cultural-linguistic differences as a result of isolation and un-equal exposure to Western civilization.
Often categorized as "non-Christians," they comprise 12 per cent of the country's population and are now known as the cultural minorities. They include the Tholis and Ubos and South Cotabato; the Muslim Samals, Maranaos and Tausugs; the Badjaw of Sulu; the Hanunoo of Mindoro; the Ifugao of Northern Luzon; and the Agta of Palanan, Isabela.
The discovery unfolds a series of medical and anthropological questions. It is also a linguist's dream. Dental science would profit to know why none of these tribe members have cavities in their teeth in spite of the protein deficiencies. Or how lost are they really? For how long? The studies have just begun.
|Among the most fascinating
discoveries about the Tasaday was that they still used stone tools,
demonstrating their isolation.
John Nance was a journalist based in Manila at the time of writing this account of some seventytwo days over a period of three years, spent with the Tasaday people. Overall, it is a compendium of information based on firsthand contact with the Tasaday and with other visitors and officials who also spent time in the area. The concern of the book is to present both the Tasaday
|as a people and the efforts to "preserve" them and
their culture during and after initial contact. In this connection a
considerable amount of information concerning Manuel Elizalde, Jr. and
PANAMIN (Private Association for National Minori-ties) is provided, as
well as accounts of the activities of the National Government during the
period. The view taken is largely uncritical.
Where the book focuses on the people themselves and on Nance's interest and concern for them, some interesting vignettes of Tasaday life and personalities appear. Often, however, in the quote accounts and comments, translated from their own language, we face the problem of not knowing how the discussion was recorded and edited for presentation. Although the aim is to present the Tasaday in such sections, it is a useful account of discovery of the Tasaday and some aspects of their daily living, and the consequences of their contact with officials, visitors, investigators, and others. The book is well illustrated with photographs.
The analysis and interpretation of Tasaday culture, language, and social organization is scattered, weak, often disorganized, and highly speculative. The observations are frequently not well grounded in research or understanding of the problems. An example is the discussion of Tasaday origins in which a link is suggested with undefined southern Indian tribal groups. This kind of speculation is neither useful, nor, in my view, necessary; it mars an account, the purpose of which is to describe what is known to the author. The text does not answer any of the more technical questions that might be raised about the Tasaday and their connection with other local groups, in relation to culture, language, and social organization. While such analysis was in no way the aim of the author, he allows himself to speculate freely and to quote the speculations of others; the result is at best questionable.
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by John Nance
Dafal found them. Stick-thin and lemur-eyed, he was the Daniel Boone of southern Mindanao, a solitary Filipino who wandered an unexplored 600-sq. mi. tract of rugged mountain jungle. One day in the early '60s, he followed a trail of strange footprints. Three small brown men, naked except for loin puches made of leaves, were digging up a large root with a sharp stick. When they saw him, they fled like monkeys. Shouting reassurance,
Dafal gave chase until the men stopped in a stream bed, trembling.
Fresh Air. The aborigines, who called themselves Tasaday (pronounced TAw-sawdai), did well to trem-ble. The most primitive human beings so far discovered on this guilty planet had turned to face the .20th century. There was culture shock on both sides. The Tasaday discovered evil; the rest of us discovered good in a form so pure it seemed almost incredible to a civilization that had long since abandoned Rousseau's conception of the Noble Savage: Biblically reminded that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and des-perately wicked,' assured by anthropologists that Homo sapiens is descended from a killer ape, shocked by recent accounts of a primitive Ugandan culture based on sadism (Time, No. 20, 1972), modern man is inclined to sniff suspiciously at any breath of air from the morning of the world. But this air is genuine and fresh.
In The Gentle Tasaday, the story of these unspoiled aborigines is told for the first time with energy and detail by John Nance, an American reporter stationed in Manila. With critical judgment, eyewitness authority, literary gracelessness and barreling narrative excitement, he has made a ragged classic of popular anthropology.
It took ten years for Dafal's stories about the forest people to reach the Filipino commissioner for minorities, a hard-working young millionaire named Manuel Elizalde, Jr. Alarmed, because logging com-panies were cutting roads through the Tasaday retreat, the official ordered Dafal to bring the tribe out for a meeting. Stone axes in hand, they stood like figures in an Erich von Daniken fantasy as Elizalde descended from the heavens in his helicopter. They immediately dubbed him Momo Dakel Diwata Tasaday of the Tasaday).
|With the help of Blit interpreters, whose language is
distantly akin to Tasaday, communications slowly began. The primitives had
no weapons, no agriculture, no art, no religion, no words for bad, enemy,
war or kill. For good and beautiful they used the same term, ma/eon. They
loved the jungle, open country was 'where the eye sees too far." Happiness
flooded their lives. They laughed and hugged and nuzzled by the hour.
After several meetings, Elizalde and Nance flew into the secret valley of the Tasaday. High on a cliff, in a cave about 50 ft. wide and 30 ft. deep, small groups sat talking by several
|fires. Children climbed a smooth rock and laughed as
they slid down. One boy flew a pet butterfly on a string, like a kite. The
floor of the cavern was regularly swept with branches, but no improvements
had been made.
The valley was an Eden filled with useful plants and watered by a rushing stream. Usually, the men gathered food and the women looked after the children, but the roles were often reversed. Every adult, -male or female, had an equal voice in the decisions of the group.
The strongest individual was a woman named Dul; the most imaginative Balayam, a prehistoric poet. Asked define the soul, Balayam said so "The soul may be the part of you sees the dream."
Of the 25 Tasaday the visitors coed, several had medical problems: hernia, bronchitis. But even the Tasaday diet seemed low in calorie (1,000-1,500 a day), there was no nutrition, no tooth decay, no tuber-culosis. During the three year covered by this book, only one Tasaday died, apparently by accident.
Sharp Looks. Women were a dilemma for the Tasaday. Forbidden by storm to intermarry, the men had four wives among the Tasafeng and the Saduka, two similar forest tribes. But the groups had recently disappeared. Impassively, Elizalde imported a girl from tribe outside the forest. Balayam woed her tenderness and sensibility, the whole tribe celebrated the wedding gathering around the couple and murmuring, "Mafeon, mafeon."
By far the biggest problem in the Tasaday's life was the outsiders who become barging into it. Several dozens of entists and journalists and film people passed through. Everybody asked questions (Scientist: "Do you talk to rock Balayam, startled: "No, do you talk rocks?") Finally, the Tasaday rebel "We will go back to the stump of the feelings," one of them said firmly. Another told Elizalde his people were tired of the "loud voices and sharp looks."
They never understood all the dangers implied by those looks. After President Ferdinand Marcos es-tablished 46,000-acre forest reserve around the Tasaday, eight heavily armed Ubu killers, possibly in the pay of logging interests, invaded the forest. At the foot of the Tasaday cliff, guards drove them off. The Tasaday only blinked vaguely. They had no word for violence.
With all its problems, progress seemed to please the Tasaday. They liked, the steel knives that made it easier to get palm pith, the flashlights that helped them hunt frogs on dark nights. In the Big Sacred Bird they found a focus for feelings that other societies have directed to God.
Inevitably, the day came when even God was not enough. Stirred by the inquiring spirit of their visitors, they reached for the forbidden fruit of knowledge. One night, speaking for all the Tasaday, Balayam told Elizalde that "it might be good to just have a look outside the forest." Elizalde gently put them off. They will not be put off forever. A paradise is being lost, but perhaps it will be well lost if the world learns the tribal commandment the Tasaday brought with them out of the Stone Age: "Let us call all men one man."
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by Robert B. Fox
On this age when man has walked on the moon and nations plan further explorations of space, the dis-covery of a food-gathering and stone-tool-using people living in total isolation in a vast and undisturbed high-altitude rain forest in the Philippines is truly remarkable.
Secretary Manuel Elizalde, Jr., Presidential Assistant on National Minorities, was able to make an initial contact with these unique people-the Manubo Tasaday-in June 1971, while undertaking by heli-copter a socio-economic survey of the minority peoples who have been living in the rugged mountainous interior of South Cotabato Province, Mindanao.
A neighboring Manubo Blit hunter named Dafal who was working with the Presidential Assistant on National Minorities (PANAMIN), had earlier reported the existence of these people. He introduced a number of items of material culture. Subsequent brief visits by a PANAMIN research team headed by Secretary Elizalde, including myself and other scientists, provide the basis for these introductory notes on these exceptional people.
It is probable that the Tasaday are the only people in the world today living in a tropical or temperate climate who do not know or grow either tobacco, the sweet potato, corn or cassava.
The traditional tools of stone, wood and bamboo utilized by the Tasaday are certainly among the most primitive ever recorded by explorers or anthropologists. The types of their stone tools, which include scrapers,- made of sharp quartz and edge-ground river pebbles, have not been used by man in the Philippines for perhaps 2,000 years.
The Tasaday inhabit probably the most isolated mountainous area in the Philippines, a week's hike into the interior although it is a mere 30-minute flight by helicopter from PANAMIN's T'boli development center in South Cotabato. They live along the headwaters of small rivers and streams in an unbroken expanse of canpied rain forest.
The entire area is above 3,000 feet in elevation and frequently covered by clouds at tree-top level. No one would believe that this wild sea of tropical rain forest could be inhabited by man. But the Tasaday are true forest dwellers, securely adapted to an environment thought to be utterly inhospitable.
Our contacts have been with only one local group of Tasaday-six families of 26 men, women and children. For still unaccountable reasons, the local group of Tasaday with whom we have worked do not like to discuss a possible second group-the Sanduka Tasaday-about whom they talked during our first visit stating that this other group was larger than theirs.
Data gathered by myself and Father Teodoro Llamzon, S.J., a linguist on the staff of Ateneo de Manila University, clearly establish that the Tasaday speak a Malayo-Polynesian language related specifically to Manubo-type languages found throughout eastern Mind anao. Their language has its closest relationship to Manubo Blit, the language of a neighboring people which was also recorded for the first time during our trips to the Tasaday.
In fact, it was only through a Manubo Blit woman, Igna, who also spoke T'boli, that we were able to communicate with the Tasaday. According to Igna, she was able to understand less than half of her earlier conversations with them. This preliminary data on the Tasaday was thus acquired in a highly fragmentary form.
Our first impression of the Tasaday was that they had sought refuge in the forest in relatively recent times-their folk stories tell of fugu, an epidemic sickness, decimating their numbers. The linguistic evidence however, as well as their types of tools and economic life, clearly demonstrate that the Tasaday area splinter group of the Manubo which separated from the parental stock at a relatively early date, certainly in prehistoric times.
|A study by Father Llamzon, which involved a
comparison of the Tasaday language with nine other Mindanao languages, and
the methods of lexico-statistic dating suggest that Tasaday separated as a
distinct language from Manubo Blit-the language most closely related to
Tasaday-more than 1,000 years ago. The Philippine archaeological record,
supported by numerous radiocarbon-14 determinations, could possibly argue
for even an earlier date of separation, for among other Filipino groups
the types of tools which the
Tasaday use were replaced by metal tools from 1,500 to 2,000 years ago.
The initial data would thus indicate that the Tasaday have been isolated, both geographically and cul-turally, over an enormous span of time, possibly 2,000 years, during which they did not share in the cultural and technological influences and development which have reshaped the lifeways of neighboring people with whom they are related.
The Tasaday move and gather food in a formal local group, the nasugbung, which in turn is composed of a number of elementary families of father, mother and unmarried children. Each family lives and sleeps together. As the basic social unit, the family is responsible for the care of infants and children. Shelter at night for each family is provided by the space formed between the buttress roots of giant trees, covered by the leaves of wild palms when necessary.
They also speak of using rock shelters for habitation, for limestone cliffs are plentiful in the area. Warmth at night is provided by fire made with a wooden drill rotated with the bare hands against another soft length of wood and tinder. Miniskirts for women and G-strings for men are usually made of the long and tough leaves of ground orchids or of the Circuligo plant. Ornamentation is confined to body tattoing done with a thorn and plant dye or large earrings worn by both sexes which are also made of plants but, since contact, of brass wire.
Food gathered during the daylight hours provides two meals, one in the evening and one the following morning, although wild fruits are eaten throughout the day. The Tasaday rarely stay in one place for more than two nights. Food is shared among the group but each family generally eats independently. The few tools which the local group possesses are also passed from hand to hand when needed.
There is no group leader, decision-making being based upon the knowledge, experience, as well as activeness, of the individual. There are apparently no social roles within the local group, such as that of a midwife. Women deliver their children unassisted, even cutting the umbilical cord which is later buried by the husband.
Marriages are arranged by parents, as is characteristic of all Filipino peoples, and involve an exchange of gifts between parents. As the local group is extremely small and as there may be an imbalance in the number of boys and girls of marriageable age, finding a wife or a husband is extremely difficult.
The most outgoing of the Tasaday, a young man named Balayam, was most willing for us to help him find a wife, for in his local group there were nine male children but only four female and none marriageable. The Tasaday, nevertheless, insist that they do not practice polygamy, exchange or loan spouses, although these practices are common among other hunting and gathering people in the Philippines.
There would certainly be no moral reason for the Tasaday to deny polygamy, for like neighboring peoples the first ancestor of the Tasaday is said to have had two wives and three children from whom all Tasaday descended. Genealogies show that the Tasaday are highly inbred, four of the six families and 16 of the 26 individuals being close consanguineous kinsmen. As among all peoples in the Philippines, kinship is reckoned
equally with the father's side and the mother's side.
We noted extremely affectionate ties between parents and children who are carried constantly, even when three or four years of age. A characteristic and touching scene was a mother walking down a stream with a child at her breast and another riding on her back. Parents continually nuzzle and-smell, rather than kiss, their children.
The husband and wife are invariably found together and, when it rains, the man will immediately prepare a temporary shelter of palm leaves for his wife and the young children. The more active boys group and play together, amusing themselves by gathering rattan fruit, catching tadpoles and crabs, or vaulting across the narrow streams with poles. When cold, they sit one behind the other with their arms around each other.
The most important and dependable source of food for the Tasaday is tubers of vines of the genus Dioscorea. Nutritionally, these wild yams are practically identical to the white potato, being an excellent source of food and used by gatherers and horticulturists throughout Asia and Oceania. The yams are available throughout the year and, if the plant is not destroyed when the tubers are gathered, abundant. The Tasaday, like other people in the Philippines, will leave the head of the tuber in the ground attached to the vine when they remove one or more of the tubers; a kind of incipient agriculture. As the Tasaday know the location of every vine in the forest, they are able to reharvest the tubers each year.
The intense meaning which the wild tubers have to the Tasaday was vividly revealed when we asked one man about what was the most beautiful thing he could think of. He quickly answered: "For me, that which is most beautiful is to find a large yam after digging a hole deep in the ground." The yams are dug with a crudely fashioned digging stick. The fruit of trees and rattan form another major source of food, although these can only be gathered seasonally. Leaves also provide a vegetal food.
Tadpoles of the giant mountain frog, crabs, and small fish are abundant in the creeks and provide their principal protein. These are gathered entirely by hand as the Tasaday have no net or weirs. For those familiar with the small, black tadpole of lowland areas, the size of the tadpole gathered by the Tasaday comes as a shock. They are large and fleshy, three to five inches in length. The giant frog, about 12 inches long, is also plentiful and easily killed with a striking stick.
The food gathered is roasted or cooked wrapped in leaves twisted together and placed next to the coals of the open fire. The wild yams may be stored for a week or more. Food, they say, is plentiful and there is obviously an optimum balance between the size of the local group and the food resources of the forest.
The Tasaday, moreover, appear to be in relatively good physical condition, with well-conditioned muscular bodies, although the older peoples sleep constantly. Goiter is common, as would be expected, and one young man had a severe skin fungus. Another boy had two congenitally webbed toes on his left foot.
The group also included a five-year-old retarded albino boy whose skin was covered with rashes and ulcers. The father, a widower, must carry the child at all times, a difficult task for a food-gathering people. This boy has no chance of survival.
Although the younger people are seemingly healthy, their life span is obviously short, the oldest indi-viduals being a married couple of only 45 to 50 years. Genealogies would indicate that only two children per family reach adolescence. A brief dental examination revealed no evidence of caries-refined sugar is unknown to them-but pyorrhea. The adults chew a wild betel nut constantly, blacken their teeth, and file their incisors, labially and occlusally, with an abrasive river stone.
The Tasaday attribute all of their knowledge and that which they possess to their ancestors, the fangul, suggesting a cult-of-the dead found among perhaps all traditional groups of Filipinos. They speak of their dead soul relatives, as found among neighboring minority peoples whose beliefs they share, for the canopy formed by the giant trees limit the boundary of their universe and their world view.
The Tasaday, however, are more than just a small group of isolated primitive people who in the past would have been wiped out by civilization and by the well-meaning agents of change who would promise them a better life, and even a better death. Rather, they symbolize not only the remarkable variability and adaptability of man and his culture, but his universality. We see among the Tasaday the basic qualities of humanness and the common denominators of cultures everywhere and probably at all times-individuals organized into a social system to perpetuate their kind, to exploit effectively the environment in which they live with the tools which they know, to enjoy the good life as defined by tradition and group values, and living with memories of the past and the uncertainty of the future. And, the Tasaday have survived.
Knowing the Tasaday-.--how they live, feel, believe and fear-can provide us with a mirror, the "Mirror for Man," as the late Clyde Kluckholm would say, to better understand ourselves, our fellow men, and the incredible problems which the civilized world faces.
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by Jane Kramer
The gentle Tasaday had this at least - a gentle guide on their journey from the caves of a Philippine rain forest to the underworld of the civilized. This name was Dafal. He was a kind of tribal Daniel Boone, a happy, solitary hunter who roamed the island of Mindanao, stopping from time to time at an Ubu or a But village to see a wife, sire some offspring, enjoy a few days company, but never staying put for long before he was off again -- up a mountain with his how and a couple of poisoned arrows, or down in the island's dense and unchartered rain forest, trapping and exploring. It was on one of these ago, as far as anyone can tell that Dafal saw human footprints and followed them until he came upon three tiny men, digging with sticks for roots. The men were naked except for the leaves covering their genitals. At the sight of Dafal they fled, then stopped, trembling with terror, when he chased them, calling.
The three men were the first-known Tasaday. That 'is, they called themselves Tasaday, the forest Tasaday, and presumably the world Tasaday, since they had never been outside the forest and had no no-tion whatever that anything existed beyond the few square miles in which they gathered food. They did not hunt or cultivate. Their homes were caves, high on the face of a mountain in the forest. They traveled up and down by vines, leapt through tree tops. They survived on roots and palm and nibbled flowers. They had no cloth, no skins, no metal, no pottery; they had never invented a way to carry water. Their tools were stone, and they made fire by spinning a crude wooden dill until the sparks caught. They had not gods, no history. They also - so they claimed - had no words for enemy or war or murder, no way even of saying 'bad.' They feared snakes, but they apparently could. not imagine harm from men. In fact, the worst they said they could imagine fellow humans were loud voices sharp looks." -
|The "new era of the Tasadays, as John Nance puts it,
began on June 4, 1971, with the arrival of a young Manila millionaire who
have heard those stories. Manuel Elizalde Jr. had made his way fruni
Harvard. Marcos' cabinet, and he had earned a reputation for himself as a
reformed playboy, taking up the cause of the country's violently
beleaguered tribed. He had founded, headed and personally funded a group
called PANAMIN (Private Association for National Minorities), and he was
now apparently determined to save, single-handed some four million
tribesmen extinction at the hands of the loggers, miners, ranchers,
farmers and assorted "Christian" settlers who were seizing their homelands
with the help of hired killers and the notoriously corrupt Filipino
The Tasaday, as it happened, had a messianic legend to match Elizalde's messianic ambitions. They believed that one day a "good man" would come to them, and so, like shepherds to Bethlehem, they followed Dafal to a clearing at the forest's edge on that June day, eager to meet the "good man" he had pro-mised. Elizalde appeared in a monstrous black chopper that dropped, screeching, out of the sky to within a few feet of where the Tasaday waited. (It is a mark of their extraordinary trust that the Tasaday didn't die of fright, but merely flung themselves into the mud, holding their heads.) And the Tasaday, some 50 thousand years behind their visitor by the anthropological clock, took him on with dignity and civility.
It was a proud, lurid, heartbreaking scene, as John Nance describes it. Nance was the Associated Press bureau chief in Manila at the time, and while most of his colleagues were putting out their "cave-man" dis-patches - the Tasaday were the 'lost tribe,' the "missing link," the genuine-article stone-age men, the 25 creatures out of prehistory -- and most social scientists were responding with the arrogant skepticism of the slighted. Nance became obsessed with the Tasaday story. He was determined to know them, to puzzle out the implications of their remarkable innocence, and, finally, he became committed to their protection too.
He hounded Elizalde, and talked his way into the first expedition to the Tasaday rain iorest. Eventually, he went on nearly every expedition. He became a sort of unofficial coordinator for Tasaday projects, a liaison betweeh the~scientists who wanted the Tasaday "preserved" for study and Elizalde who, with logging roads already cutting toward the forest, wanted, in part, to save them through exposure. Nance was the one who raised the moral issues for both sides. He challenged Elizalde's critics, and he challenged Elizalde and then, giving that up as a hopeless exercise, he settled for being a sort of conscience to Elizalde and, in a way, his champion.
Elizalde made a curious "good man" for the Tasaday. His energy matched his ambitions. His arro-gance was maddening, his motives questionable but, as Nance came to believe, ultimately irrelevant to his passion. He was a burnt-out case at 33; at 34, an impresario of salvation. He loved playing paterfamilias to the innocent and the helpless. (In Manila, he had adopted scores of stray children.) He loved being a strong and dazzlingly, magically competent. In fact, he loved being god, and the Tasaday, taking him for their legendary "good man," made a sort of god of him, an airborne cargo-cult messiah who brought in -the new day in his black chopper.
They called him Momo Dakel Diwata Tasaday "great man-god of the Tasaday," and he saw no reason to discourage them. In a way he was justified. He gave the Tasaday a focus for their perilous trust. He was thirs-there for them-the source, really, of their poise and safety in those first apocalyptic encounters with strange beings, monster machines, and with the very fact of life beyond the forest.
Elizalde carried treasures, produced miracles -- beads, rice, antibiotics, knives, chopper rides for the daring, even a wife for Balayam, the Tasaday's horny bachelor. He talked Marcos into proclaiming their forest a reserve, under PANAMIN protection and PANAMIN jurisdiction. He stopped the loggers and their hired assassins, and he stopped the developers who were already moving toward the forest with obscene gimmicks. (One developer wanted to build a tree-hotel, after the famous game-preserve hotel in Kenya, where at dinner tourists could admire the Tasaday in their natural habitat.) And he enraged the anthropologists, who had wanted a "pure" people to observe-and who now had to depend on a flamboyant and temperamental deity for permission to observe at all.
Of course, the Tasaday had not been "pure" since the day they met Dafal. And when a stone-age gatherer a note-taking anthropologist, neither can seriously pretend that the other isn't there or - more to the point - hasn't happened. The Tasaday, to their credit, always seemed to find the suggestion that they 'behave normally" ridiculous, but the scientists, intent on their own invisibility, often blamed Elizalde and his friends and bodyguards for compromising their work. The scientists who got on-best with the Tasaday, and bothered them least, were, inevitably, the ones with something solid, practical, to discuss. Douglas Yen, a young ethno-botanist, who wanted to classify their plants and analyze their diet, spent a n few weeks with the Tasaday, talking about flowers, walking the forest with them, and Yen, it seems, learned more about the Tasaday that way than anybody else who came.
TheTasaday, not surprisingly, liked the people who liked them. They liked Gerald Green
and his NBC crew, who clearly enjoyed the Tasaday. They even liked Charles Lindbergh, who came early on with Elizalde. (There is something so American about Nance's Lindbergh, something so congenitally entrepreneurial about the old man trying to talk Elizalde into auctioning off film rights to the Tasaday to the highest bidder.) Questions, on the other hand, often confused them. They kept trying to explain to people that they knew only what they knew, and nothing more. They did their best, for Momo Dakel Diwata Tasaday's sake, but the people who ask too many questions scared them, and the ones they nuzzled and hugged and loved were the ones, like Gree and his crew, who had no qualm about sitting up late at night in Tasaday cave, playing flashlight game and exchanging songs-even if it meant a little more fun and a little less purity.
Nance writes well about the Tasaday and their idyllic forest. He is tender and enthusiastic and properly but by no means glibly puzzled by the sense of loss these peaceful, innocent men and women inspired in their civilized guests. But his fascination, finally is a much with Elizalde as with the Tasaday. Elizalde was a powerful man, staking his claim-even a humanitarian claim is a claim-in the most lawless and corrupt province of notoriously lawless and corrupt country. He knew the frontier rules, and pro-ceeded by them, and probably saved the Tasaday because of it.
He played on vanity, saving face and ancient codes of hospitality to ensure the Tasaday at least a breathing spell from the vultures. When the mayor of a nearby town laid an ambush for one of his expeditions, he knew enough to pay the mayor a formal visit, take pictures, praise the mayor's pigs, share dinner. He was gunrunner to his tribes when they were threatened. Once, he raised his own militia of local tribesmen to protect the forest from a raiding party. Eventually, he hired his own gunmen to hunt down the leader of the party, and then freed him, earning a truce by showing up one night at the bandit's hideout for a kind of trial by guts. He dealt better, though, with thugs, than with scholars. He did not really under-stand what it was the scholars wanted from the Tasaday, He found their complaints petty, their jealousies absurd, and their purposes often beside the point-the point being the welfare of the Tasaday, as he saw it.
Elizalde was arbitrary and irresponsible with his power. The first few anthropologists who tried work-ing with him gave up in exasperation. Two more abandoned their project upon discovering that Elizalde's men, stationed in the forest to guard the Tasaday, were determined to guard the Tasaday from them. Irenaus Eibesfeldt, the German ethologist, arrived for an extended field trip, found that Elizalde had forgotten he was coming, and ended up with two days in the forest. Once, Elizalde himself abandoned PANAMIN, and the Tasaday, without warning for seven months to run for congress as a favor to Marcos.
Nance still lives near Manila and may well be protecting home, heart and visa. But his defense.of Elizalde s connection with the Marcos regime and his apologias for Marcos and his Dragon Lady consort are inexplicable and indecent, and will tempt a lot of people who care about the Philippines to say the hell with the Tasaday and throw his book in the trash can.
Elizalde liked to talk about "scientific research" and make long-distance calls to important anthropo-logists, but he never did anything to establish a consistent and long-term Tasaday research program. He would drop everything to escort a friend or, better still, a celebrity into the forest. He liked travelling with Charles Lindbergh. Once, at the request (order?) of Imelda Marcos, he even flew in Francisco Franco's granddaughter and her husband who wanted to have an "experience" and take some pictures for the family album. Yet over the first two years of the Tasaday's new era, the 11 specialists --anthropologists, linguists, etc.-who saw the Tasaday were able to stay for a combined total of only three months.
What this means, of course, is that most of the important anthropological questions about the Tasaday are still unanswered. No one knows yet how the Tasaday get their women. Tasaday men do not marry Tasaday women. They say that in the past they got their wives from and presumably provided wives for- two forest groups called the Sanduka and the Tasafeng, but they claim to have "lost" those groups or, sometimes, to have "forgotten" them. None of the other Mindanao tribes have ever heard of the Tasafeng or the Sanduka. Presumably they are gatherers, like the Tasaday, and like them cave dwellers, but the Tasa-day will not, or cannot, say where their caves are. A number of Tasaday boys are approaching manhood and will want wives soon; they may have already begun searching for their neighbors-but no one has been allowed to stay with the Tasaday long enough to know.
No one, in fact, has stayed in the forest long enough to begin even to speculate on how the Tasaday got there. Were they always in their forest? Did they arrive when the Philippines were still connected by land bridges to the Asian continent? Or were they, and the illusive Tasafeng and Sariduka with them, rem-nants of a more sophisticated culture that was pushed into the forest by a forgotten war or some great natural disaster and, over centuries, lost its knowledge? The questions are endless.
What has kept the Tasaday from wandering, exploring, pushing at their small frontier? Why are they not at all curious about the world beyond their forest? How do they manage to be tender, so sharing with each other? How do they manage to be tender, so sharing with each other? How do they raise their typically squabbly and aggressive babies into such loving grown-ups? What is the basis of the extraordinary .cooperation by which they live so happily together? What, in fact makes the Tasaday so happy-when the rest of the world today is, almost by definition, miserable?
John Nance knows that the right questions are often the most naive ones. He is as gentle a chronicler I for the Tasaday as Dafal was a guide-and it would be nice to learn that Nance has left Manila and the appalling shadow of the presidential palace and is spending a year or two among the Tasaday, getting to know them more.
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Cult Archaeology and Creationism
THE TASADAY HOAX?
Prepared by Regina Hatcher
The Century's Greatest Discovery?
On June 7, 1971, a PANAMIN exploration team and Secretary Manuel Elizalde, Jr. were able to make an initial contact by helicopter with an unknown Filipino people who inhabit a vast forested area in the rugged mountainous interior of South Cotabato Province in Mindanao, Philippines.
The discovery of these people is of great scientific interest, particularly to the studies of Mans cultural and technological development, for they are food gatherers whose own technology is still based upon the use of stone tools. Some scholars said contacting the Tasaday was one of the most significant anthropological events of the 20th century.
Or a Fantastic Hoax?
Or could it be a brilliantly sinister scheme by then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and a Harvard grad to fool the world, gain fame, and steal timber and gold worth billions...the biggest anthropological fraud since the Piltdown Man.
Manuel Elizalde, Jr. died in May 1997. He was a wealthy Harvard-educated Filipino, who perpetrated what may have been one of the biggest anthropological hoaxes in history. In 1971, Elizalde introduced the world to a tiny group of peace-loving, Stone Age food gatherers, isolated hundreds of years in a Philippine rainforest, that he claimed had no contact with Westerners.
The Discovery Elizalde made contact with the Tasaday through a tribal frontiersman named Dafal, who reportedly had met them many years earlier on a hunting foray with his father into the deep interior of the forest. The forest was generally avoided by most tribes people who believed it was the domain of evil spirits and savage beasts. Dafal eventually brought the Tasaday bits of metal and cloth in return for a choice forest vine and for helping watch his traps.
Who are the Tasadays?
Based on a few hours of observations and working with interpreters, anthropologists concluded that the Tasadays are a real people who have been isolated geographically and culturally for around 2,000 years.
Through translators from nearby tribes who understood some of their unusual dialect, the Tasaday said the dense, uncharted forest and caves had been their home as far back in time as any knew.
Several Tasaday adults tied their hair back with vines to make pony tails, unloosed, it hung waist length. The tallest men stood about five feet tall, the women a bit less. Their dirt smudged bodies were lean and supple and they said their staple foods were yam-like roots, fruits, nuts, and small fish, crabs, and tadpoles from the forest streams. The population numbered 7 men, 6 women, and 14 children.
The World Meets the Tasaday
Elizalde had a tree-top helicopter pad erected near the Tasaday caves, monitored access from outsiders and, although he may have cautioned that scientific studies should not jeopardize the Tasadays long-sheltered lifestyle, an international media carnival ensued.
The Tasaday were immediately filmed by a National Geographic team, with CBS screening their documentary, The Last Tribes of Mindanao on Jan. 12, 1972. Within a month of Elizalde breaking the story, he created a PANAMIN U. S. Foundation and elicited celebrities like Charles Lindbergh and John Rockefeller IV as incorporators.
Capping the Lid on the Whole Incident
During the crest of publicity in 1972, President Marcos declared about 19,000 hectares reserved for the Tasadays and subsequently imposed martial law on the Philippines. Under such political conditions, the Tasaday story was carefully orchestrated and diverse criticisms on their authenticity was blacked out or ignored. No one had time to really do an exhaustive and scientific study on the Tasaday.
Blowing the Lid off the Whole Incident
The ouster of Marcos in 1986 provided opportunity to visit the fabled Tasaday. In April 1986, Swiss anthropologist and journalist Oswald Iten, accompanied by Joey Lozano, a journalist from South Cotabato, made the first unauthorized investigation to the Tasaday caves and found them deserted. What they documented was long-standing PANAMIN manipulation of local Tboli and Manobo peoples who were first abused in 1971 to live in the caves in order to create a false image of cave-dwelling, stone-age people. Lozano knew people in the region never believed the Tasaday were authentic. One of his interviews reported that a Tboli tribesman maintained radio contact with Elizalde and transported rice and other food stuffs for those posing as Tasaday.
"We didnt live in caves, only near them, until we met Elizalde...Elizalde forced us to live in the caves so that wed be better cavemen. Before he came, we lived in huts on the other side of the mountain and we farmed. We took off our clothes because Elizalde told us to do so and promised if we looked poor that we would get assistance. He gave us money to pose as Tasaday and promised us security from counter-insurgency and tribal fighting."
Elizalde fled right after the Aquino assasination in 1983, the first of the Marcos cronies to leave the Philippines. PANAMIN staff indicated that millions from their treasury went with Elizalde, bankrupting the organization. Elizalde ended up in Costa Rica, squandered all the money, got hooked on drugs, and died a destitute.
The Tasaday story is a hoax, but the indigenous people involved are real and their exploitation has become one of the reasons why indigenous peoples in the Philippines are now struggling to retain or regain their land, resources, and self-determination.
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Bailen, Jerome, 1986. A Tasaday Folio. Quezon City, Philippines
Duhaylungsod, Levita, 1993. Where Tboli Bells Toll: Political Ecology Voices Behind the Tasaday Hoax. IWGIA
"Food, Ecology Study of the diet of SE Asian cultures, including the Tasaday, and its implications.
Headland, Thomas, 1992. The Tasaday Controversy: Assessing the Evidence. American Anthropological Association.
Katutubo Directory: A Global YES event for the UN Decade of Indigenous People, 1996.
Nance, John, 1977. The Gentle Tasaday. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Robson, J.R.K., 1980. Food, Ecology and Culture. Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
Stone Age Cavemen of Mindanao, National Geographic, August 1972, pp. 219-246
Pictures and description of the Tasaday tribe as it appeared in this issue of National Geographic.
Yen, Douglas; Nance, John, 1976. Further Studies on the Tasaday. Panamin Foundation.