- Little is known about Philippine history before the Spaniards arrived.
- Written records made by the inhabitants of the Philippine islands were made of perishable bamboo or leaves.
- For a long time, Philippine history started with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Primary Sources of Pre-colonial History
- The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (c. 900 AD)
- Records made by Japanese, Chinese, and Muslim traders
- Collected histories made by Spanish chroniclers
- Small communities that are headed by datus form the barangaycity-state.
- A barangay, usually having about 100 families, is headed by the Rajah.
- The noblemen of this period practiced Hindu-Buddhist culture and religion.
- Many of the barangayswere under the jurisprudence of neighboring Malay Sri Vijaya, Javanese Majapahit, Brunei, and Melaka empires.
- A thalassocracy is an empire at sea.
- Trade with Sumatra, Borneo, Thailand, Java, China, India, Arabia, Japan and the Ryukyu Kingdom help established many sea empires.
- In the earliest times, the items which were prized included jars, which were symbols of wealth throughout South Asia, and later metal, salt and tobacco.
Pre-colonial Social Structure
By the 9th century, a highly developed society had already established several hierarchies with set professions: The Datu or ruling class, the Maharlika or noblemen, the Timawa or freemen, and the dependent class which is divided into two, the Aliping Namamahay (Serfs) and Aliping Saguiguilid (Slaves).
The Boxer Codex
The Boxer Codex is a manuscript written circa 1595 which contains illustrations of Filipinos at the time of their initial contact with the Spanish.
The script used in writing down the LCI was an ancient script called Kawi, which originated in Java, and was used across much of Maritime Southeast Asia. By at least the 13th century or 14th century, its descendant known in Tagalog as Baybayin was in regular use. The term baybayin literally means syllables.
The Growth of Islamic Sultanates
In 1380, Makhdum Karim, the first Islamic missionary to the Philippines brought Islam to the Archipelago. The Sultanate of Sulu, the largest Islamic Kingdom of South East Asia and the Malay Archipelago, encompassed parts of Malaysia and the Philippines. The royal house of the Sultanate claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad.