In 1971, the small Tasaday tribe of about 25 people was discovered on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. They were “living the lives of cave men” and they were “unaware that there were other people on the planet” (Lerner, 1989; Hemley,

Manuel Elizalde, former director of Panamin (the Filipino government’s agency for routing aid to minorities), and Ferdinand Marcos’ Special Assistant for Oversight of Minorities, claimed: “They didn’t realize there was a country; they didn’t realize there was a sea” beyond Mindanao; “they did not even know what [rice] was.”

Fulfilling humanist preconceptions

The apparent primitivity of the Tasaday fit in with evolutionary ideas of man’s ancient past: “They have no words for weapons, hostility or war;” for most of history, the secular story goes, “we lived as the asaday,” in caves, using stone tools, and hunting and gathering. “Could the Tasaday have been alone in their caves for ten thousand years? It was a tantalizing idea.”

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