The use of metal in the Philippines did not come into play in the same way it is believed to have done elsewhere in the world. While historians believe the introduction of metal into developing civilisations around the globe followed a relatively distinctive pattern - via a Bronze Age or a Copper-Bronze Age, for example - there is no evidence that the Philippines saw this sort of transition. In fact, it is believed that the local populations across the archipelago transitioned straight from stone tools to iron, as noted by historian Robert Fox.
Despite this, there have been excavations that have revealed evidence of the use of copper for ornamentation in the Philippines, as well as some tools that were created with copper and bronze. However, these were largely used alongside stone tools rather than as an alternative to earlier materials. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the first century AD when metal became the dominant materials for use in tool making.
Many archaeologists and historians believe the main reason that the Philippines took a different path in terms of the developing use of metal is the lack of tin on the archipelago, which needs to be combined with copper in order to produce bronze. This fact has also led to many anthropologists and historians suggesting that it’s possible bronze items were actually important rather than made in the Philippines, which could mean the rise of metal in the Philippines was even later than historians believe.
Iron is also believed to have been largely imported to the Philippines, with many anthropologists suggesting it could have been brought to the country via strong trade links with Tamil Nadu, a state in India.
Trade appears to have existed between the two countries as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries BC, although iron would not have appeared until much later. As a result, some scholars argue that iron was in fact mined on the islands rather than being delivered by maritime trade, but the lack of iron smelting artefacts discovered thus far could suggest otherwise.
However it was sourced, once iron did arrive in the Philippines it quickly became the preferred method of crafting tools, essentially ending the country’s reliance on stone and signalling a new age for the archipelago.
"Metal in the Philippines". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.