Prepared by Regina Hatcher
|A group of Tasaday with clothing and tools all indicating an ancient lifeway.|
|The Philippines with Mindanao near the bottom, the location where the Tasaday were "discovered" in the rainforest.|
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.
|Among the most fascinating discoveries about the Tasaday was that they still used stone tools, demonstrating their isolation.|
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.
|Elizalde, in the white cap, was the purported discoverer of the Tasaday, part of the work of his organization, PANAMIN.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Gentle Tasaday, by John Nance, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Inc.,1977
Nance was an AP reporter based in Manila, Philippines who reported in this book his encounter with the Tasaday (focus on the first three years).
Further Studies on the Tasaday, by Douglas E. Yen and John Nance, Panamin Foundation, 1976
Collection of six papers providing data and insight into the lives and environment of the Tasaday.
The Tasaday Controversy: Assessing the Evidence, by Thomas N. Headland, American Anthropological Association, 1992
A special publication of the AAA. Papers from a special session held during the 88th annual meeting of the AAA.
Where Tboli Bells Toll: Political Ecology Voices Behind the Tasaday Hoax, by Levita Duhaylungsod, IWGIA, 1993
Political ecology discussions behind the Tasaday hoax
Food, Ecology and Culture, by J. R. K. Robson, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1980
"Food, Ecology Study of the diet of SE Asian cultures, including the Tasaday, and its implications.
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
"The Story of the Tasaday Indians", with photographs and descriptions. This page has had trouble loading in recent attempts to look at it.
"Sounds like Science", National Public Radio. A small article including a detailed story of Elizalde's death and his connection with the Tasaday.
Global Prayer Digest profile on the Mandaya Mansaka Tribe (Tasaday/T'boli combination) "Plead with God for the unreached peoples. Pray for a strong church." Everyone wants to get in the act and "save these people".
A syllabus for a Comparative Cultures class taught by Dr. David McMurray at Oregon State University outlining the Tasaday tribe (Spring 1998).
Cultural Survival, Curriculum Resource Program Bibliographies "Readings on the Tasaday, Dandan, Virginia, Metro Manila, Philippines: Tasaday Community Care Foundation, 1989 "Tasaday", Fernandez, Carlos A. and Frank Lynch, Philippine Sociological Society, 1972
Encyclopedia Britannica's Internet Guide on the Tasaday. Items included are the Tasaday Mailroom, Tasaday Classifieds, Tasaday Tattler, etc. A hodge-podge of items showing that there is still a little interest in the Tasaday.
The Cave People of the Philippines
Sypnosis - Examines the culture and daily lives of the Tasaday people, a primitive tribe discovered in the Philippines in 1971. Produced by NBC News, 1972, 38 minutes (running time)
The Lost Tribe
Sypnosis - Examines the controversial study of the tiny Tasaday tribe discovered in the remote Philippine rain forest in 1971. Produced as an episode for the television program "Nova", 1989, 60 minutes (running time)
Last Tribes of Mindanao
Sypnosis - A National Geographic Society film about Manuel Elizalde's work among tribal peoples on the Island of Mindanao, 1971.
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