500 BC to 500 AD
(Metal Age)

What is now the Cotabato region (including the provinces of Sarangani, the Cotabato Provinces, and Sultan Kudarat) was home to communities that made earthenware, secondary burial jars featuring abstract human faces that are as though individuals. This jar people may or may not have been the direct ancestors of the present-day Maguindanao or the Cotabato highland animist groups. But today’s archaeologists are sure that they were part of the southward movement from Batanes of populations who spoke languages all classified now as Austronesian. Today’s languages, including Maguindanao, Maranao, and Iranun — and the Sulu Archipelago’s Tausug and Sama — are Austronesian, as are the rest of the 171+ languages of the Philippines; the 300+ languages of Indonesia; and the total of 1,200 languages from Madagascar to the whole Polynesia. This archaeological reconstruction replaces the outdated “theory of migration” from the south credited to H. O. Beyer.

960 AD to 1279
(Sung Dynasty (in China))

The islands of Southeast Asia first saw traders from the distant lands that are today known as China and the Arabian Peninsula. At present, there is no record of their arrival in this period in the archipelago that will be known as the Philippines. But the region in which peoples of the Philippines traded, was source of foreign exotica (particularly from Champa in Vietnam, the Straits of Malacca, and Palembang in Sumatra, which was, at the time, called Sri-Vijaya) that became important to the Sung economy. A pre-existing, indeed, 5,000-year old maritime network in the region was intensified during these four centuries. Within that network, Philippine peoples speaking one or another Austronesian language (such as earlier versions of Sama, Tagalog, and whatever was spoken then in Mindoro) were known as outstanding seafarers.