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It is believed that the first inhabitants of the Philippines arrived over 300,000 years ago. It is commonly thought that they migrated over a land bridge, which existed at that time, from the Asian mainland.
The next known inhabitation is when the Negrito or Aeta arrived in the islands around 25,000 years ago. However, they were driven back by several waves of immigrants from Indonesia, only to be followed by the maritime peoples of the Malayan islands.
Although there is little written about this period of history, the next major steps are the time period from around 5000 BCE (Before Common Era, aka, BC) through around 500 CE (Common Era, aka, AD)
There is much written on the Austronesian peoples of the Southeast Asia area and their descendants. These peoples were the seafaring people who traveled to distant parts of the world during this period of history. Some historians believe that these peoples settled in the southern regions of the Philippines and eastern regions of Indonesia. What is known, about this period, is that blade stone technology, dating back to around 5000 BCE reached the northern portions (Luzon area) of the Philippines. There are several postulates concerning migration and maritime trade during this time period.
It is known that there were many warring peoples in the Philippines as early as 2000 BCE. Within the past 20 years, remnants of stonewalls have been found in the province of Ifugao. Based on dating techniques of the tools and artifacts found in the same area of these walls, it has been shown that they were build during this period, 2000 BCE. It is theorized that these stone wall outlines were the traces of an ancient fortress. This was thousands of years before any Spanish influences.
Mines have been found in the Philippines, dating back to at least 1000 BCE. There physical presence and the written history by the early Spanish settlers suggest that the Filipinos were actively mining for precious metals thousands of years before peoples in other regions of the area. The type of metals that were mined included silver, copper, gold and iron. Many of these metals were used as decorations for their homes as well as on their personages. During this same period, in history, the peoples of the region were building the rice terraces and other agricultural wonders that are known as commonplace today through the Asian communities.
One group, known as the Igorots, builds stonewalls, dams, and canals that still mystify engineers. These hydraulic works were created from stones greater in bulk than those of the Great Wall of China.
Pottery finds, through out the Philippines, have been dated between 500 BCE through 500 C E (AD.) Some of this pottery included the unique burial jars found amongst the Ayub Cave pottery in Mindanao. This particular type of jar pre-date any found anywhere else in the southeastern regions of Asia.
Today, many historians dispute when modern Philippine history began. Some believe it to have started as early as the 13th century. It was during this time that 10 datus from Borneo, each with a hundred of his kinsmen, landed in what is now known as Panay Island in the Visayas. From this time to the early 16th century, independent tribes of peoples ruled the region, now known as the Philippines.
Following this modern 'discovery' of the Philippines, as some historians put it (vs. Magellan), the country and its peoples began to see rapid advances in social and economic development.
For instance, around the year 1380, it is believed that the Arab-taught Makdum arrived in the Sulu archipelago, establishing what became a powerful Islamic sphere of influence over the next hundred years.
During this same period in history, the Philippines were already established as an active trading center. It is known that many merchants and trading ambassadors from the surrounding areas, including Siam (Thailand) and China, came to Cebu to pay tribute to the king and arrange trade agreements.