June 4, 2024 | Eul Basa

Rare Photos Of The Lost Tribe That Lives In A Volcano


Meet the "People of the Rock"

Deep in a mountainous region of the Philippines lies a tribe completely detached from modern society. Their choice of habitat is mind-blowing—not just because it can be a dangerous environment, but because it works so well for them.

Volcanotribe Cover

Who are the Tau't Bato?

The term Tau't Bato refers to indigenous southwestern Palawanos of the Philippines who live in caves or on hillsides in the crater of a dormant volcano during certain times of the year.

Tau't Bato  tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

In a rarely explored Philippine land

They reside in the Singnapan Basin, with Mount Matalingahan to the east, the coast to the west, Quezon to the north, and uncharted territories of Palawan to the south.

Tau't Bato tribe Kawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Living in a sleeping giant

Mount Mantalingahan is Palawan's highest peak, found in a rarely visited wooded area. Few non-locals trek to this valley due to its sheer remoteness and difficult access.

Mount MantalingahanAlastair Robinson, Wikimedia Commons

The importance of Mt. Mantalingahan

New species are continuously being found in Mount Mantalingahan, a significant biodiversity location. It retains more than half of its original forest and serves as a crucial watershed for 200,000 individuals who rely on it. The mountain is inhabited by native Palawans who have resided on this territory for countless centuries.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

A volcano to call home

During the rainy season, families take shelter in nearby caves of the dormant volcano. In dry months, each family has their own sections of land and makeshift houses in the valley. 

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Simple living

Men wear bark and fabric loincloths, while women wear single-piece fabric skirts to cover their lower bodies. Such is indicative of their primitive lifestyle. Women may also wear non-Indigenous shirts occasionally.

Tau't BatuEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Master weavers

Tau't Bato's craftsmanship is generally less refined compared to other Palawan tribes, except in basket weaving. They construct sturdy lattices around cave homes using saplings, securing them to wall crevices for entry.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Experts in adapting to change

Conditions in various caves influence changes to sleeping platforms and granaries. The Tau't Bato are experts in making modifications to their environment depending on the need for it.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

The "Bulun-bulun"

The primary social structure of the Tau't-Bato is married groups, ranging from simple male-female pairs to more complex family units. These groups are organized into larger assemblies called "bulun-bulun," meaning "gathering."

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

The tribe is tight-knit

Each bulun-bulun lives in a cave or housing compound within their living area. They support each other by sharing food and engaging in social and material interactions.  

Tau't Batu tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Assigned life partners

Tau't Bato traditionally do not partake in courtship rituals. Marriages are arranged by parents, with girls marrying at 9+ and boys at 15+. During the ceremony, the couple eats boiled cassava together.

Tau't Batu tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Children grow up fast

Elder children care for younger children while busy. Similar to other tribes in the region, a greater number of offspring means more hands that are available to help keep things in the community running smoothly.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Strong spiritual beliefs

The Tau't Batu people adhere to a spirit-based religion, aiming to please spirits for blessings and avoid curses. They are fully immersed in nature, incorporating their environment into every aspect of their lives.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Friendly, not hostile

 Despite being an old tribe, they are still welcoming to outsiders—though they may be shy at first. In their province of Palawan, they are somewhat a kind of local celebrity, with curious adventurers often seeking to visit their villages.

Tao't Bato tribe in Singnapan Valley harvest ripe durianPacific Press, Getty Images

They love music

The Tau't Batu have a passion for music. They are skilled in playing two musical instruments called "Kubing" and "Kudlong," which are often used alongside a gong.

Tau't Bato tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

A self-sustaining community

Life in the valley for the Tau't Baut is simple but fulfilling with all basic needs met. Strong family bonds and affection are what keep them going. 

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Carbohydrate-heavy diets

The Tau't Bato sustain themselves by growing crops like cassava for carbohydrates, alongside sweet potato, sugarcane, garlic, pepper, and more.

Tau't Bato tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Equal distribution of labor

The women in the valley start their tasks early. Everyone in the family shares the workload of planting, maintaining fields, harvesting, and cooking for the family. 

Tau't Bato tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Hunting in the forest

The Tau't Bato are also skilled hunters and foragers, gathering food all year to help supplement their diets. A popular prey of choice is wild pigs, which they capture using spring traps. 

Tau't Bato tribeEBS World, The Tau't Batu, Exploring the Origin of Humanity

Hunting in the caves

They also catch bats by making bat catchers. Large nets made from palm leaves and lengthy poles with strands of rattan thorns can easily ensnare bat wings. The Tau't Bato use every part of the bat, including the wings.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Their weapons of choice

Tau't Bato typically used blowguns for forest hunting, but they now prefer shotguns for convenience. They only occasionally use blowguns today; usually if no shotguns are available.

Tau't Bato tribe, manKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Constantly at war with mosquitoes

Malaria is a big issue in the Singnapan Valley, causing concern for residents. Precautionary measures are crucial, like burning grass to repel mosquitoes.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

Trading habits

They also participate in the exchange of goods and money with the  Candawaga people of a nearby village. In terms of goods exchanged, the Candawaga offer marine fish in return for horticultural products from the Tau't Bato. 

Tao't Bato tribe in Singnapan Valley harvest ripe durianPacific Press, Getty Images

Currency is valid

In terms of money exchange, the two trade forest products such as almaciga (a Philippine timber tree that is used to make resin) and rattan with each other.

Tao't Bato tribe in Singnapan Valley harvest ripe durianPacific Press, Getty Images

Political intervention

In the 1970s, President Marcos named the tribe after their cave-dwelling. The former Philippine President made several trips to Singnapan Valley to bring care packages to the people, despite fearing that the tribe might attack.

Ferdinand Marcos 1969 InauguralAge FotoStock, Wikimedia Commons

A tale of riches 

Marcos was fascinated by the wealth in the area and his team looted caves used for burial by the Tau't Bato to gather gold and valuables. They also searched for Japanese treasure in unexplored caves.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

The president's ulterior motives

Rumors later spread that Marcos hid riches in the caves of Singnapan, attracting tourists in the '80s and '90s. However, Marcos's true intention was to exploit the tribes for wealth—not to store his own.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

They must be protected

Today, the government of the Philippines has limited access to the Tau't Bato. This is a problem because mining concessions pose a threat to their communities near Mt. Mantalingahan.

Tau't Bato tribeKawanza, The Last Cavemen: The Filipino Tribe That Lives Inside a Volcano

How to visit

The starting point for a trip to the Palawan tribe and Tau't Bato people is reached after a rough seven-hour bus journey from Puerto Princesa. Once you find a tribe member, they can link you to a tour guide who can take you further into the villages.

Tao't Bato are small sub-ethnic group that dwells in cavesPacific Press, Getty Images


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