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Use of the term "Filipino" in the Philippines started during the Spanish colonial period.
The original meaning was "a person of Spanish descent born in the Philippines" (a person of Austronesian ancestry and not of Spanish descent was called an "Indio"). Historian Ambeth Ocampo has suggested that the first documented use of the word to refer to Indios was the Spanish language poem A la juventud filipina, published in 1879 by José Rizal.
Instead, the region was dotted by numerous semi-autonomous barangays (settlements ranging is size from villages to city-states) under the sovereignty of competing thalassocracies ruled by datus, rajahs or sultans or by upland agricultural societies ruled by "petty plutocrats".
States such as the Wangdoms of Ma-i and Pangasinan, Kingdom of Maynila, Namayan, the Kingdom of Tondo, the Kedatuan of Madja-as, the Rajahnates of Butuan and Cebu and the sultanates of Maguindanao, Lanao and Sulu existed alongside the highland societies of the Ifugao and Mangyan.
This may have enabled ancient migrations into the Philippines from Maritime Southeast Asia approximately 50,000 BC to 13,000 BC. This was a two-pronged expansion, which moved north through the Philippines and into Taiwan, while a second expansion prong spread east along the New Guinea coast and into Oceania and Polynesia.
Upon official adoption of the modern, 28-letter Filipino alphabet in 1987, the term Filipino was preferred over Pilipino.