THE GENTLE TASADAY: A Stone Age People in the Philippine Rain Forest by John Nance
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THE GENTLE TASADAY: A Stone Age People in the Philippine Rain Forest

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Start with the photographs--an eloquent black-and-white portrait of a fragile habitat and the unique human ecology it supports. The faces of the Tasaday look out from these pictures with a radiant self-possessed intelligence that makes you wonder just where the rest of us went wrong. The text is something of a letdown. The spotlight is shared by the Tasaday themselves (some two dozen vividly individual personalities)and the man most responsible for their discovery--Manual (""Manda"") Elizalde, who is the benefactor they regard almost as a god. Elizalde, the wealthy Harvard-educated czar of PANAMIN (an association to protect the many national minorities of the Philippines) emerges as an amazing, maddening man incurably hooked on running the whole show whatever the cost in efficiency, consistency and sanity, but also achieving a near-miraculous rapport with the various Philippine tribes under PANAMIN's wing. Nance, an AP correspondent who accompanied Elizalde on many of his trips into the Tasaday rain forest following the initial discovery of the tribe in 1971, records the developing bonds--some of deepening friendship, some of disquieting dependency--between the loving, dignified people who knew no word for ""enemy"" and the well-meaning, unconsciously proprietary intruders. The moral ambiguities of the situation are played out against the threatening background of Philippine political unrest; although the Tasaday reserve is now (thanks to Elizalde) part of a large tribal municipio, the rapacious local logging interests are likely simply to ignore this technicality. Every shift of the narrative back to the Tasaday leaves one more aware of what they may be losing through the efforts of both friends and all-too-real enemies. Even Nance's wonderful photographs had their human cost: nonstop shutter-clicking which added to cultural shock and at last roused the Tasaday to gentle protest. Nance has a huge cast of characters (scientists, newsmen, members of other local tribes) and a complicated sequence of events to cope with. He sometimes makes rough going of it, but the story more than justifies itself.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich