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Old 4th June 2021, 04:12 AM   #1
Marbel
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Default Tboli sudeng - vintage photo

Hello all,

I thought you’d enjoy this photo. A Tboli man with his wife and sudeng.

Courtesy TimeLife. Photo by Carl Mydans - July 1970
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Old 4th June 2021, 02:05 PM   #2
Ian
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Great picture. I see the photo is attributed to 1970, which seems rather recent for a T'boli to be wearing a prized sword, unless it was for show or ceremonial purposes. However, neither he nor his wife seem dressed for any special event.

When I first looked at this B&W photo, I thought it was from the early 1900s (although in very good condition). The dress of the man seems pre-WWII and he is wearing a shirt/jacket that looks very much like U.S. military issue circa 1920. So I was surprised to see the 1970 attribution.

Perhaps the sword is just for the camera.
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Old 4th June 2021, 03:29 PM   #3
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In fact, he doesn't seem to be wearing it-- there is a munsala visible but no means of support. If he is just holding it, this would support Ian's observation. Great photo!
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Old 4th June 2021, 03:59 PM   #4
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Default Tboli sudeng - vintage photo

Hello Ian & Oliver,

Thanks for the comments.

To be sure, the photo is definitely from 1970. In fact I think it's important to note that photos of the Tboli from this era are very rare. The Tboli obviously had no cameras and were very rarely visited by anyone with a camera. The earliest Tboli photos I've ever found were dated from approximately 1960 and came from the archive of a Summer Institute of Linguistics missionary who lived with the Tboli for decades.

I'd say that the photo was likely just slightly posed as Mydans was a wonderful professional photographer. The sudeng would not have been used as an every day blade for wearing or working but was certainly carried for a purpose that day. In terms of the occasion, other photos from the same day reveal that it was actually an important one in the mountains as they were being paid a visit by Manuel Elizalde. The Tboli weren't necessarily wearing their finest, but a bit more adornment by the women and plenty of swords by the men are certainly seen in the photos.

All the best!

Last edited by Marbel; 5th June 2021 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 4th June 2021, 07:39 PM   #5
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Default Tboli sudeng - vintage photo

Here is another photo taken on the same day.

At first I thought the man near the middle might be the same man above. However while the scabbard looks similar, his hat is different and he isn’t wearing the black ring on his left hand nor wearing all of the earrings shown in the other photo.

It is interesting to see the other weapons in the photo. The man on the left has a sangi on his hip. The man facing us looks to be holding a very traditional Tboli tok and the man on the far right has a nice old Maguindanao sword strapped to his side. Or as the Tboli would call it, a sudeng.
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Old 5th June 2021, 04:04 AM   #6
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Very cool. Is the full set available online for viewing?
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Old 5th June 2021, 06:55 AM   #7
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Hi Jeff,

Yes, the complete archive is available. You can find it at this link:
https://artsandculture.google.com/se...Elizalde&hl=en
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Old 5th June 2021, 12:18 PM   #8
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Wonderful series of photos. I have uploaded a few more of them.
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Old 5th June 2021, 02:26 PM   #9
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Yes, Carl Mydans was indeed an excellent photographer and this series of images would have been done for Life Magazine. Carl is also known for excellent work for the Farm Security Association (FSA) photo project. I would not go so far as to suggest that any of these images were "staged". Posed would be a better term as the people were there with there weapons already and he probably just asked them to strike a pose. It is interesting that they would all turn out with their swords for a visit from Manuel Elizalde. Elizalde has a rather complex history, at once a proponent for the rights of minority peoples and also apparently a master con man who invented a story about discovering a "Stone Age" tribe of people (Tasaday Hoax) living the the hills that he kept up until after he and his wife fled the Philippines with millions of dollars from the foundation he set up for this isolated tribe.
I find it interesting that the Tboli would consider a visit from Elizalde to be a time to carry their weapons if this was not a common practice in some regard, if not on a daily basis, but whenever they hosted any official visitations from "dignitaries".
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Old 5th June 2021, 04:02 PM   #10
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Hello David,

Indeed ‘posed’ is a more appropriate term and I have edited my original post.

For the Tboli man, carrying a weapon of some sort would certainly have been a regular occurrence. That being said, Elizalde was absolutely considered a dignitary or even more by the Tboli and would have drawn relatively large crowds including men who would arrive proudly adorned. In 1970, the Tboli people were still relatively unknown to most of the world including most of the Philippines. When Elizalde began pouring money, resources and pride into the Tboli lands and peoples, he became extremely important to their world. No one matched his status and so having a visit from Elizalde and his group would absolutely always be an auspicious occasion for the Tboli.

As you noted, his was a complex story and not all of his goals and deeds were altruistic.

Regarding the Tasaday people, who still live in the very remote mountains between Lake Sebu and the sea, theirs is also a complex story. No matter how inaccurately reported or manipulated, they are people and not a hoax. When discussing the Tasaday, I always encourage people to read a book titled “Invented Eden” by Robin Hemley (be sure to get the second printing). I feel that upon carefully reading this book you will truly understand the Tasaday story and be touched as well.

I would note lastly, for those truly interested in the Tboli people, most of Elizalde’s work with the Tboli was done in the area of what is now known as Tboli town or Kematu (where he constructed a large ‘village’ and where most of the photos in the Mydans series were taken). The somewhat more familiar Lake Sebu area is quite a bit further into the mountains. In 1970, in terms of outside influences the Lake Sebu area was dominated by Sta. Cruz Mission which established the first schools, medical facilities and other key infrastructure projects in the area. The mission was also aided by a number of Peace Corps volunteers from the US. It should be stated that these people played an extremely key role in preserving and promoting the material culture of the Tboli, including weaving, bead, embroidery and basket work and even brasscasting.
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Old 6th June 2021, 12:41 AM   #11
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Great set of pictures and excellent comments!

I notice that the man brandishing his kris (also Maguindanao in origin) is holding it backwards. Those holding their sheathed kris have the hilt inverted. Perhaps it is the preferred manner for the T'boli to use the kris upside down. Or maybe they don't use them any more and this is just a pose for the camera. Those holding/wearing a tok have it correctly oriented.

I see too another man wearing a similar style of shirt/jacket as the man in the original post.

These folk all look like poor peasants who maybe put on their best shirt and pants for the visit of a dignitary. Their traditional weapons may be the best piece of "male jewellery" they own, hence the display of swords and one spear.
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Old 6th June 2021, 04:17 AM   #12
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In some of the photos they are inspecting US military rifles (M14 and M16), how do you suppose they got their hands on those in such a remote location?
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Old 6th June 2021, 05:43 AM   #13
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Hi Jeff,
Weapons like those you noted made their way to the mountains in a variety of ways. Throughout the lowlands and less rural areas, these weapons were not rare. While the local Tboli people may have owned a few, it’s likely that most in the photos were owned by Elizalde’s entourage which would have been large and very well armed. You probably also noticed Charles Lindbergh in the photos as well, creating the need for an even larger amount of security.

During that time (and continuing until today) the mountains could be a dangerous place with various groups of roaming bandits and rebels, all armed with M16s, etc. In addition, groups affiliated with mining and lumber interests would always have plenty of armed security. It’s my understanding that Elizalde wasn’t against ‘helping’ the Tboli by supplying them with a few rifles and machine guns for their protection against these problematic groups.
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