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The Tagakaolos are among the original inhabitants of the western shores of the Gulf of Davao, south of Mt. Apo and the Sarangani Province, long before the Spanish colonialists tried to control the territory. They are said to be the non-Moslem lumads related to the Kalagans, both descendants of the Mandaya/Mansaka tribe.

The word Tagakaolo is derived from the phrase “olo sa tubig” which means inhabitants of headwater, the favored dwellings of the Kaolos. They are known for being incredible and graceful dancers, moving to the beat of the sahay and edel, a sounding board with a resonator played during wedding celebrations and other special events of the community.

ctto Japhet Moralde, on YouTube

American anthropologist Fay-Cooper Cole, in his book “The Wild Tribes of Davao District, Mindanao” (1913), maligned the Tagakaolos as having, “a turbulent, warlike disposition, and have been a constant source of trouble to the Spanish and American authorities.”

Dr. Macario D. Tiu of the Ateneo de Davao University, in his book “Davao 1890-1910: Conquest and Resistance in the Garden of the Gods,” writes a counter-history from the perspective of the ancestral domain holders of the land: 

“But when the Americans began to transform Davao into plantations and forced the natives to work in these plantations, they began to resist.

By late 1905, unrest was sweeping Davao Gulf. From Lupon, Datu Tomaros and Datu Compao spread a dance that alarmed the Americans, while in Malalag, the datus were meeting in early 1906 to discuss how to kill all the American planters from Digos down to Malita. The uprising was signaled by the assassination of District Governor Edward C. Bolton by Mangulayon on 6 June 1906, and the looting of planter McCullough’s store in Kibulan. In response, the Americans unleashed the scorched-earth policy on the natives of Davao del Sur.”

The story of the Tagakaolos and their resistance to American colonialist confiscation of their ancestral domain to transform the land into plantations, led by Datu Mangulayon, is told in Ang Misteryosong Sayaw sa Lavi.

Re-written by Janine Dimaranan, and illustrated by Ilena Saturay, the book is adapted from ‘Birang ug uban pang sugilanon sa mga bayaning Lumad sa Mindanao’.

A Tagakaolo chief (Philippine Photographs Digital Archive, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan)


Umaalingawngaw sa buong kagubatan ang tunog ng edel at sahay. May malalim na pinahihiwatig ang sayaw ng mga katutubo sa bawat yabag ng mga paa at kumpas ng mga kamay. May malalim na mensahe ang nagkakaisang Lumad sa kanilang paggalaw sabay sa mga dahon ng matatandang punong iniihip ng hangin.

Ang isipirito ng pagtitipon ay lapat na lapat sa buong komunidad na tila handa ang kanilang mga puso at isip sa kanilang gagawin. Ito ang sayaw sa Lavi ng tribung Kaolo, isang sikretong sayaw ng pagpapasya na tanging sila lamang ang nakakaalam.

Draft illustration: