The Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines some 30,000 years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya. The Malayans followed in successive waves. These people belonged to a primitive epoch of Malayan culture, which has apparently survived to this day among certain groups such as the Igorots. The Malayan tribes that came later had more highly developed material cultures.
In the 14th century Arab traders from Malay and Borneo introduced Islam into the southern islands and extended their influence as far north as Luzon. The first Europeans to visit (1521) the Philippines were those in the Spanish expedition around the world led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Other Spanish expeditions followed, including one from New Spain (Mexico) under López de Villalobos, who in 1542 named the islands for the infante Philip, later Philip II.
The great majority of the people of the Philippines belong to the Malay group and are known as Filipinos. The only markedly non-Malayan inhabitants are the Negritos (negroid pygmies) and the Dumagats (similar to the Papuans of New Guinea). The Filipinos live mostly in the lowlands and constitute one of the largest Christian groups in Asia. Roman Catholicism is professed by 84% of the population; 5% are Aglipayans, members of the Philippine Independent Church, a nationalistic offshoot of Catholicism (see Aglipay, Gregorio); 5% are Muslims (concentrated on Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago; see Moros); and 3% are Protestants.
Some 70 native languages are spoken in the Philippines. The official national language is Filipino, a form of Tagalog. A considerable number of Filipinos speak English, the nation's second language; Spanish is spoken by a very small percentage of the population.