The earliest evidence of man, himself, in the Philippines: which is also the earliest appearance of modern man – Homo sapiens sapiens – in these islands, is that of the Tabon Man of Palawan. The discovery of the human fossil was made by a National Museum team headed by the late Dr. Robert B. Fox. The fossil is composed of the skull cap, or the frontal skull bone, two fragments of jaw bones and some teeth. The set of fossils suggest that are at least three individuals. The skull cap is that of a young individual, probably female.
The fossils were found in a cave in Lipuun Point in the municipality of Quezon, Palawan. The cave faces the South China Sea and is located on the western face of the limestone cliff, one among the more than thirty caves found in that rock outcropping. The cave was named Tabon after the large-footed bird that lays eggs in huge holes it digs into cave floors, many of which have been found in the cave. The mouth is about 33 meters above the sea level. A curious fact is that there is no signs of any sea shells in the cave floor deposits. This is because during that time of occupation by Tabon Man the sea coast was about thirty kilometers away since the sea did not reach its present level until about eleven to seven thousand years ago. The layer where the fossils of the Tabon Man was found has been dated to 22 to 23 thousand years old, which also gives the age of the fossils.
The Tabon Cave, in fact, was populated by peoples earlier than Tabon Man, since stone tools were there again to prove this. The deepest soil deposit of the cave was dated to aprroximately 50,000 years old, and the youngest to about 10,000 years. This shows that the cave was used continuously for about 40,000 years by peoples that used the same kind of tools. The earliest carbon 14 date obtained for the Tabon Cave was about 30,000 years B.C. from charcoal sample, which among others suggest the earliest date for the use of the fire in the Philippines. The way the tools were made was exactly the same as those found in the Cagayan Valley about 700,000 years earlier: the smaller flake tools and the larger pebble-cobble tools. There was however, one difference. In Cagayan Valley, there were more of the large kinds of stone tools. In the Tabon Cave, there was less than one percent of the pebble-cobble tools compared to the flake tools. This has been taken to mean that the larger number of large stone tools in Cagayan was due to the different needs in that place as compared to Palawan. In the Tabon Caves, the archeological remains tend to show that the early peoples here were catching more of small animals, bats and birds that live in the cave itself, hence there was less need for larger kinds of tools.
The type of tools found in the Tabon Cave actually continued to be in use in other sites in the Lipuun Point even after Tabon Cave was abandoned. In fact, this type of tools continued to be in use even to recent times among certain peoples. There are a number of archeological sites in the Philippines that have this kind of tools together with tools of later kind. In Lipuun Point, one of the more important of these sites is the Guri Cave. This cave was a place where people lived. This cave contained a layer of soil that contained the garbage left by the people which was composed mostly of marine shells. This layer was dated between 5000 and 2000 years B.C., and was found to contain flake tools, bones of animals like the wild pig, deer and others. This cave was used by people at the time when the sea reached its present level which brought the coastline right at Lipuun Point.
Another difference with Tabon Cave was that the stone tools from Guri were made from rock cores that have been previously prepared before flaking off an intended tool, which produced stone tools with shapes that are repeated – a method that cannot be done with cores that were not prepared.