The irregular coastline of Luzon provides several fine bays, most notably Manila Bay, which is considered the best natural harbor in E Asia and one of the finest in the world. N Luzon, which is drained by the Cagayan River, is very mountainous; the highest peak, Mt. Pulog, rises to 9,606 ft (2,928 m). In the east the great Sierra Madre range so closely parallels the shore that almost no coastal plain exists. Mountains extend generally along the entire length of the island, into the irregular Bicol peninsula to the southeast, where Mt. Mayon is the most famous volcano. In the west, the Zambales range runs from Lingayen Gulf S to Bataan peninsula. The island has two large lakes, Laguna de Bay and Taal. The inhabitants are almost all Christian and are principally Tagalogs and Ilocanos. Indigenous peoples include the Negritos and Igorots (the latter's famous rice terraces on steep mountain slopes are considered one of the agricultural wonders of the world).
Between the rugged coastal mountains, in central Luzon, lies the Central Plain, watered by the Pampanga and Agno rivers. Barely above sea level, c.100 mi (160 km) long and 40 mi (64 km) wide, it is the most important agricultural land in all the Philippines. It supplies food for almost the entire Manila area and is the nation's major rice-producing region and its second (after Negros island) sugarcane-producing area. Elsewhere, the Bicol peninsula is known for its extensive coconut plantations; the Cagayan River valley for its tobacco and corn. Other major crops are fruits, vegetables, and cacao. Luzon has important lumbering and mining industries; there are gold, chromite, nickel, copper, and iron deposits, and the bamboo on Bataan peninsula has many commercial uses. Manufacturing is centered in the Manila metropolitan area, where the major industries produce textiles, chemicals, and metal products. Scattered throughout the island are fertilizer plants, an occasional oil refinery, cement factories, and plywood mills and wood product plants.
As the major island, Luzon has played the leading role in the nation's history. Manila harbor has been important since the arrival of the Spanish in the late 16th cent. It was on Luzon that the Filipino revolt against Spanish rule began (1896), that U.S. forces wrested control of the islands from Spain (1898), and that the Philippine insurrection against U.S. rule broke out (1899). The island was invaded by Japanese forces in several places on Dec. 10, 1941, and in early 1942 the Allied forces made their last stand on Bataan peninsula and Corregidor. Luzon was recovered (1945) after a major landing from Lingayen Gulf (January), a bloody fight for Manila (February), and protracted mop-up operations, which were not completed until June. Luzon's several U.S. military bases were closed down between 1971 and 1992, in part because of the devastation caused by Mt. Pinatubo's eruption; the one at Subic Bay was converted to a free-trade zone. See Philippines, The.
The eight regions are listed below, discussed individually. Its administrative centers are for formality's sake only, meaning, there is no 'valid' regional administrative center (except in the case of Administrative regions), the power being vested by the provincial governments. The regional centers are only the head tourist offices for the region.
Ilocos Region (Region I) is located in the northwest portion of the main island. Its provinces are: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan. Its inhabitants are 70% Ilocanos and 30% Pangasinans. The main languages are Ilokano and Pangasinan. The region's administrative center is San Fernando City, La Union. The city of Vigan in Ilocos province is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial city in the Philippines.
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, Cagayan River. Its provinces are Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino. 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 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 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 populated 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. Its recognized administrative center is Manila, which is in Metro Manila, however, some government officials still consider Quezon City, which is also in Metro Manila as the administrative center, and also, Lucena City.
MIMARO (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 Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, 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.
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 largest mountain range in the country, the Cordillera Central. Mount Pulag, the second highest mountain in the country, is located there, rising 2,922 meters. 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.
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 extends 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. 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 North-Southwestern trending left-lateral strike-slip Philippine Fault System traverses Luzon, from Quezon province/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-Borneo 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 seismic and geodetic data, Luzon has been modeled as a series of six micro blocks or micro plates, all moving and rotating in different directions, with maximum velocities ~100 mm/yr NW with respect to Sundaland/Eurasia (Galgana et al., 2007). This highly deforming, multi-block nature of Luzon is also noted in its Geologic make up, as cited by Pubellier et al.(2004) among others.
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, Tarlac and the rest of Central Luzon. Meanwhile, Tagalogs are the majority in Bulacan, 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, Blacks, and Filipino mestizos are also visible. Most Americans have settled in Angeles City and Olongapo City due to the 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, Bikol, and Pangasinan. English and Lan-nang-oe, a variant of Hokkien (Min Nan), is also used by many inhabitants.
Spanish has a history on the island, primarily due to educated illustrados (including José Rizal) as well as authorities of the Spanish Empire. 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.