Was a Tasaday baby really named “Go Ahead”?

Tasaday on National Geographic cover

The Tasaday are a small group of indigenous people living on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

In the early 1970s, they were “discovered” by Western scientists who claimed they were a Stone Age tribe that had been completely isolated from the rest of society. National Geographic made the Tasaday their cover story in August of 1972.

A decade later they were back in the headlines. A 1986 20/20 segment entitled “The Tribe that Never Was” declared the Tasaday were fake and their discovery an elaborate hoax.

The truth? Somewhere in the middle.

The Tasaday are now known to be an authentic group with distinct language, but they are neither primitive nor isolated.

So…what’s with all the background on the Tasaday?

Well, I found a Tasaday baby name story in a news article from 1975.

According to the article, Tasaday parents Bilangan (father) and Etut (mother) had welcomed a baby boy and named him “Go Ahead” because they’d heard a radio operator use the phrase.

This sounded hoax-y to me at first.

But turns out it’s legit. Here’s what I found in a 1975 book about the Tasaday by journalist John Nance:

The Tasaday reported six members of the group had died and three more had been born since Manda’s last visit in 1974. As understood from the Tasaday’s accounts, Trinidad said Tekaf and Guinun apparently died of natural causes or old age; Sasa and Ilib were killed in a landslide caused by an earthquake; and the other two — both boys of Etut and Bilangan: Tasuk, the one named after the [sound of the] camera [shutter], and Goahed, born about 1975 and named after the two-way radio — died of illnesses.

Bilangan and Etut also had at least four other sons: Lolo, Lobo, Natek and Degu. Natek was “named after the Tasaday staple food,” and Degu was “reportedly named for the earthquake that caused the fatal landslide.”


  • Hemley, Robin. Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
  • Nance, John. Discovery of the Tasaday. Manila: Vera-Reyes, 1981.
  • Nance, John. The Gentle Tasaday: A Stone Age People in the Philippine Rain Forest. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
  • Reid, Lawrence A. “The Tasaday language: A Key to Tasaday Prehistory.” The Tasaday Controversy: Assessing the Evidence. Ed. Thomas N. Headland. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1992. 180-193.
  • “Tribe Goes Ahead.” Deseret News 6 Mar. 1975: A2.

P.S. Go Ahead sounds like Gotobed, doesn’t it?

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