Luzon island is shown in colour red; its associated islands in maroon
|Location||South East Asia|
|Major islands||Luzon and Mindoro|
|Area||109,965 km2 (42,458 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||2,922 m (9,587 ft)|
|Regions||National Capital Region, Bicol, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Central Luzon, Cordillera, Ilocos|
|Largest city||Quezon City (pop. 2,761,720)|
|Population||48,520,774 (as of 2010)|
|Density||441 /km2 (1,142 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||Aeta, Bicolano, Ibanag, Igorot, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog|
Luzon // (Tagalog: Kalusunan) is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name of one of the three primary island groups in the country (the other two being the Visayas and Mindanao). Luzon as an island group includes Luzon proper, the Batanes and Babuyan groups of islands to the north, and the outlying islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate, Romblon and Mindoro. Luzon is the economic and political center of the Philippines, being home to the country's capital city, Manila, and about half of the country's population. It is one of the most populated islands in the world, only behind Java, Honshu and Great Britain. It has a similar population size to Sumatra but much smaller area.
Luzon was once split among Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, Muslim principalities, and ethnoreligious tribes, who had trading connections with Borneo, Malaya, Java, Indochina, India, Okinawa, Korea, Japan and China before the Spanish established their rule. From just before the first millennium, the Tagalog and Kapampangan peoples of south and central Luzon had established several Indianized kingdoms, notably among them those of Tundok, Namayan and Maynila. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the first Philippine document written in 900AD, names places in and around Manila Bay as well as Medan in Indonesia. These kingdoms were based on leases between village rulers (Datu) and landlords (Lakan) or Rajahs, to whom tributes and taxes were levied. These kingdoms were coastal thalassocracies based on trade with neighboring Asian political entities at that time.
According to sources at the time, the trade in large native Ruson-tsukuri (literally Luzon made in Japanese:呂宋製 or 呂宋つくり) clay jars used for storing green tea and rice wine with Japan flourished in the 12th century, and local Tagalog and Kapampangan potters had marked each jar with Baybayin letters denoting the particular urn used and the kiln the jars were manufactured in. Certain kilns were renowned over others and prices depended on the reputation of the kiln. Of this flourishing trade, the Burnay jars of Ilocos are the only large clay jar manufactured in Luzon today with origins from this time.
The Yongle Emperor instituted a Chinese Governor on Luzon during Zheng He's voyages and appointed Ko Ch'a-lao to that position in 1405. China also had vassals among the leaders in the archipelago. China attained ascendancy in trade with the area in Yongle's reign.
The Portuguese were the first European explorers who recorded it in their charts as Luçonia or Luçon and inhabitants were called Luçoes. Edmund Roberts, who visited Luzon in the early 19th century, wrote that Luzon was "discovered" in 1521.
The Spanish arrival in the 16th century saw the breaking up of these kingdoms and the establishment of the Philippines with its capital Cebu, which was moved to Manila following the defeat of the local Rajah Sulayman in 1570. Under Spain, Luzon also came to be known as the Nueva Castilla or the New Castile.
In World War II, the Philippines were considered to be of great strategic importance because their capture by Japan would pose a significant threat to the U.S. As a result, 135,000 troops and 227 aircraft were stationed in the Philippines by October 1941. Luzon was captured by Imperial Japanese forces in 1942 during their campaign to capture the Philippines. General Douglas MacArthur—who was in charge of the defense of the Philippines at the time—was ordered to Australia, and the remaining U.S. forces retreated to the Bataan Peninsula.
A few months after this, MacArthur expressed his belief that an attempt to recapture the Philippines was necessary. The U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King both opposed this idea, arguing that it must wait until victory was certain. MacArthur had to wait two years for his wish; it was 1944 before a campaign to recapture the Philippines was launched. The island of Leyte was the first objective of the campaign, which was captured by the end of December 1944. This was followed by the attack on Mindoro and later, Luzon.
Luzon's area is 109,964.9 square kilometres (42,457.7 sq mi), making it the world's 15th largest island. Located on Luzon are the country's capital, Manila, and its most populated city, Quezon City. The island is very mountainous and is home to Mount Pulag, the third highest mountain in the country and Mount Pinatubo, Mayon, and Taal Volcano, Luzon's most famous volcanoes. To the west of Luzon island is the South China Sea (Luzon Sea in Philippine territorial waters), to the east is the Philippine Sea, and to the north is Luzon Strait containing Babuyan Channel and Balintang Channel.
The main part of the island is roughly rectangular in shape and has the long Bicol Peninsula protruding to the southeast. The northern part of the island contains the large mountain range, the Cordillera Central which is covered in a mixture of Luzon tropical pine forests and Luzon montane rain forests. Mount Pulag, the highest mountain in Luzon is located here, rising 2,922 metres.
To the east of the Cordillera Central is the large Cagayan Valley, which serves as the basin for the Cagayan River, the longest river in the Philippines. To the east of the valley rises the Sierra Madre mountain range, easily the longest range in the country. This region is known for being the second largest producer of rice and the country's top corn-producer. The province of Isabela is the largest province in the island in terms of land area and the second largest in the country next to the province of Palawan.
The Sierra Madre snakes southwards into the central and southern part of the island. Between it and the Zambales Mountains to the west is the largest plain, the Central Luzon plain. This plain, approximately 11,000 km² in size, is the country's largest producer of rice. Among the rivers irrigating this plain, the longest are Cagayan to the north, and Pampanga to the south. In the middle of the plain rises the solitary Mount Arayat. To the west, in the Zambales Mountains, rises Mount Pinatubo, made famous because of its enormous 1991 eruption.
The Zambales Mountains extend to the sea in the north, forming Lingayen Gulf, home to the Hundred Islands National Park. To the south, the mountains also extend into the sea, forming the Bataan Peninsula, which encloses the Manila Bay. This natural harbor is considered to be one of the best natural ports in East Asia, due to its size and strategic geographical location.
To the southeast of Manila Bay is the largest lake in the country, and also the largest inland lake in Southeast Asia, the Laguna de Bay (Old Spanish, Lake of Bay town). This 949 km² lake is drained by the Pasig River into Manila Bay. Pasig River is one of the most important rivers in the country due to its historical significance and because it runs through the center of Metro Manila.
Located just 20 km southwest of Laguna de Bay is Taal Lake, within the southwestern portion of the island. This caldera of a lake contains the smallest volcano of the country, Taal Volcano, which rises on the island in the center of the lake. The volcano in turn has a lake in its crater which also contains another small island. All the surrounding areas of Taal Lake were once part of a massive prehistoric volcano that covered the southern portion of the province of Cavite, Tagaytay City and the whole of Batangas province.
Off the southwestern portion of Luzon is the island of Mindoro, separated by the Verde Island Passages. The passages connect the South China Sea to the east with the Tayabas Bay. To the south of the bay is the island of Marinduque.
The southeastern portion of Luzon is dominated by the Bicol Peninsula. This is a mountainous and narrow region that extends approximately 150 km southeast. Along it are numerous gulfs and bays. In the north is Lamon Bay, which contains Alabat Island and is south of the Polillo Islands of Quezon province. Other bays and gulfs include San Miguel Bay, Lagonoy Gulf, Ragay Gulf, and Sorsogon Bay.
To the east of the peninsula lies the island of Catanduanes. Leading to it is the Caramoan Peninsula. Off the southeast tip of Bicol is Samar island, separated by San Bernardino Strait. Bicol Peninsula is connected to the main part of Luzon through the Tayabas Isthmus. Extending south from the isthmus is the Bondoc Peninsula.
The Bicol Peninsula is also home to numerous volcanoes. The most famous is Mayon Volcano in Albay. This 2,460 m high volcano is symmetrically shaped, rivaling that of Mount Fuji in Japan, and is a symbol of the Bicol Region. Other notable mountains are Mount Isarog and Mount Iriga in Camarines Sur, and Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon.
The island of Luzon contains 8 of the 17 administrative regions of the Philippines. These regions are not political entities, but merely serve as administrative groupings of provinces. They are:
- Ilocos Region (Region I).
- Cagayan Valley (Region II)
- Central Luzon (Region III)
- CALABARZON (Region IV-A)
- MIMAROPA (Region IV-B)
- Bicol Region (Region V)
- Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)
- National Capital Region (NCR)
Ilocos Region (Region I) is on the northwest side of the island and faces South China Sea. The region is well known for its white sand coastline and rich history. Its provinces are Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan. The region's administrative centers is San Fernando City, La Union.
Cagayan Valley (Region II) is located in the northeast portion of the main island and also covers the Batanes and Babuyan Islands to the north. The valley is surrounded by the Cordillera Central and Sierra Madre mountain ranges. Running through its center is the country's longest river, "Rio Grande de Cagayan". Its provinces are Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino. The main languages spoken are Ilocano, Ybanag, Irraya, Ivatan, Itawis, Gaddang and Tagalog. The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) is in Santa Ana, Cagayan. It has four progressive cities, its Industrial Center Cauayan City, Primary Growth Center and Investment hub Ilagan City, its Premier City Santiago City and the region's administrative center is Tuguegarao City.
Central Luzon (Region III) contains the largest plain of the country and produces most of the country's rice supply. Its provinces are Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. The region's administrative center is the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. The former United States Navy base of Subic Bay is located in Subic, Zambales while the former United States Air Force is in Clark Field, Pampanga. Both are now two of the country's booming special economic zones. The main languages are Kapampangan, Ilocano and Tagalog.
CALABARZON (Region IV-A), one of the newest regions of the country, was previously a part of Southern Tagalog (Region IV). It is one of the most populous areas of the country. The name of the region is actually an acronym that stands for its provinces, which are Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon. The Tagalogs are the dominant ethnic group in this region, with Tagalog as the main language. The region's administrative center is Calamba City.
MIMAROPA (Region IV-B), along with CALABARZON is the newest region of the country, and was previously a part of Southern Tagalog (Region IV). It contains most of the islands in the Luzon group. The name of the region is actually an acronym that stands for its provinces, which are Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. The region's administrative center is Calapan City.
Bicol Region (Region V) occupies the Bicol Peninsula at the southeastern end of Luzon island, plus the outlying islands which include the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate. The remaining mainland provinces are Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon. The region's administrative center is Legazpi City. The inhabitants are of Bicolano descent with Bikol as the main language.
Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) almost completely covers the Cordillera Central mountain range of Northern Luzon. CAR, created in 1989 is a special administrative region for the indigenous tribes of these mountains. Its provinces are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. The regional center is Baguio City.
National Capital Region (NCR) is a special administrative region that contains the capital of the country, Manila; the country's most populous city, Quezon City; and an additional 15 more cities and municipalities. The region is more popularly known as Metro Manila. It is the only region in the country that has no provinces, and is the most densely populated with over 10 million people living in a 636 km² area.
Luzon is sometimes divided into three areas: Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon and Metro Manila. Northern Luzon are the regions north of Metro Manila (Regions I, II, III and CAR), while Southern Luzon are regions to the south and east of it (Regions IV-A, IV-B and V). In some statistics, Metro Manila is included within Southern Luzon.
Luzon is part of the Philippine Mobile Belt, a fast deforming plate boundary zone (Gervasio, 1967) hemmed in between two opposing subduction zones, the west-dipping Philippine Trench-East Luzon Trench subduction zone, and the east-dipping north-south trending Manila Trench-Negros Trench-Cotabato Trench. The Philippine Sea Plate subducts under eastern Luzon along the East Luzon Trench and the Philippine Trench, while the South China Sea basin, part of the Eurasian plate, subducts under western Luzon along the Manila Trench.
The North-Southeastern trending braided left-lateral strike-slip Philippine Fault System traverses Luzon, from Quezon province and Bicol to the northwestern part of the island. This fault system takes up part of the motion due to the subducting plates and produces large earthquakes. Southwest of Luzon is a collision zone where the Palawan micro-block collides with SW Luzon, producing a highly seismic zone near Mindoro island. Southwest Luzon is characterized by a highly volcanic zone, called the Macolod Corridor, a region of crustal thinning and spreading.
Using geologic and structural data, seven principal blocks were identified in Luzon in 1989: the Sierra Madre Oriental, Angat, Zambales, Central Cordillera of Luzon, Bicol, and Catanduanes Island blocks. Using seismic and geodetic data, Luzon was modeled by Galgana et al. (2007) as a series of six micro blocks or micro plates (separated by subduction zones and intra-arc faults), all translating and rotating in different directions, with maximum velocities ~100 mm/yr NW with respect to Sundaland/Eurasia.
|Population census of Luzon|
|Source: National Statistics Office|
Ilocanos predominate in the northern portion of Ilocos and the region of Cagayan Valley, Pangasinense primarily inhabit Pangasinan, while the Kapampangans primarily live in Pampanga, and Tarlac. Meanwhile, Tagalogs are the majority in Bulacan, the rest of Central Luzon, CALABARZON, and Metro Manila, while Bicolanos predominate in Bicol. Other ethnic groups are also present such as the Aeta of Zambales, the Ibanag of Cagayan, and the Igorot of the Cordilleras.
Due to recent migrations populations of Hindus, Moros, and Chinese have also been present in urban areas. Populations of Spanish, Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Desis, and Filipino mestizos are also visible. Most Americans have settled in Angeles City and Olongapo City due to the former presence of the U.S. air and naval bases in Central Luzon.
Almost all of the languages of Luzon belong to the Borneo–Philippines group of the Malayo-Polynesian language branch of the Austronesian language family. Major regional languages include: Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bicol, and Pangasinense. English is also used by many inhabitants.
Spain ruled the Philippines for 333 years. Spanish was the language of Philippine Revolution, and the 1899 Malolos Constitution proclaimed it as the official language. However, its use declined following the American occupation of the Philippines, it is still used by the elderly members of some families of great tradition (Rizal, Liboro...)
The economy of the island is centered in Metro Manila with Makati City serving as the main economic and financial hub. Major companies such as Ayala, Jollibee Foods Corporation, SM Group, and Metrobank are based in the business districts of Makati, Ortigas Center, and Bonifacio Global City. Industry is concentrated in and around the urban areas of Metro Manila while agriculture predominates in the other regions of the island producing crops such as rice, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, pineapple, and coffee. Other sectors include livestock raising, tourism, mining, and fishing.
Arts and culture
The major religion present in the island is Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church being the major denomination. Other sects include Protestantism, the Philippine Independent Church. Indigenous traditions and rituals are also present.
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