Luzon mainland in red;
its associated islands in maroon
|Adjacent bodies of water|
|Area||109,965 km2 (42,458 sq mi)|
|Coastline||3,249.6 km (2019.21 mi)|
|Highest elevation||2,928 m (9606 ft)|
|Highest point||Mount Pulag|
Outlying island provinces
|Largest settlement||Quezon City (pop. 2,936,116 )|
|Population||53,336,134[a] (2015) |
|Pop. density||490/km2 (1270/sq mi)|
Luzon (Tagalog pronunciation: [lu'zon] or [lu'son]) is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. It is ranked 15th largest in the world by land area. Located in the northern portion of the archipelago, it is the economic and political center of the nation, being home to the country's capital city, Manila, as well as Quezon City, the country's most populous city. With a population of 53 million as of 2015 ,  it contains 52.5% of the country's total population and is the fourth most populous island in the world.
Luzon may also refer to one of the three primary island groups in the country. As such, it includes the Luzon mainland, the Batanes and Babuyan groups of islands to the north, Polillo Islands to the east, and the outlying islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque and Mindoro, among others, to the south. The islands of Masbate, Palawan and Romblon are also included, although these three are sometimes grouped with the Visayas.
The name Luzon is thought to derive from the Tagalog word lusong, a large wooden mortar used in dehusking rice. A 2008 PIDS research paper by Eulito Bautista and Evelyn Javier provides an image of a lusong, explaining:
Traditional milling was accomplished in the 1900s by pounding the palay with a wooden pestle in a stone or wooden mortar called lusong. The first pounding takes off the hull and further pounding removes the bran but also breaks most grains. Further winnowing with a bamboo tray (bilao) separates the hull from the rice grains. This traditional hand-pounding chore, although very laborious and resulted in a lot of broken rice, required two to three skilled men and women to work harmoniously and was actually a form of socializing among young folks in the villages.
Luzon was originally inhabited by Negritos before Austronesians from Taiwan scattered and displaced them. The Austronesian groups were divided into two types of nations; coastal lowland states or highland civilizations. Highland civilizations were based in the mountains and had built up plutocracies based on agriculture, such as the Igorot Society which is responsible for building many of the rice terraces in the Cordillera Mountains, among the most notable being the Banaue Rice Terraces. Meanwhile, coastal states were split among Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, Muslim principalities, and ethnoreligious tribes, who had trading connections with Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Indochina, Bengal, India, Korea, Okinawa, Japan and China, before the Spaniards established their rule. From just before the first millennium, the Tagalog, Kapampangan and Pangasinan peoples of south and central Luzon had established several major coastal polities, most notable among them those of Maynila, Tondo and Namayan. 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.
There was also a Buddhist polity known as Ma-i or Maidh, described in Chinese and Bruneian records in the 10th century AD, although its location is still unknown and scholars are divided on whether it is in modern-day Bay, Laguna or Bulalacao, Mindoro.
According to sources at the time, the trade in large native Ruson-tsukuri (literally Luzon-made, Japanese:???) clay jars used for storing green tea and rice wine with Japan flourished in the 12th century, and local Tagalog, Kapampangan and Pangasinan 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.
During the 1300s, the Javanese-centered Hindu empire of Majapahit briefly ruled over Luzon as recorded in the epic poem Nagarakretagama, which stated that they had colonies in the Philippines at Saludong (Manila) and Solot (Sulu). Eventually, the kingdoms of Luzon regained independence from Majapahit after the Battle of Manila (1365) and Sulu also reestablished independence and in vengeance, assaulted the Majapahit province of Poni (Brunei) before a fleet from the capital drove them out.
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.
Afterwards, some parts of Luzon were Islamized when the former Majapahit province of Poni broke free, converted to Islam, imported an Arab prince from Saudi Arabia, in the person of Sharif Ali, and became the Sultanate of Brunei, a nation that then expanded its realms from Borneo to the Philippines and set up the Kingdom of Maynila as its puppet-state as well as incorporate the newly converted Sultanate of Sulu by a royal marriage. However, other kingdoms resisted Islam, like the Wangdom of Pangasinan which had remained a tributary state to China and was a largely Sinified kingdom which maintained trade with Japan.
In the 1500s, people from Luzon were called Luções and they established many overseas communities within the Indo-Pacific and were actively employed in trading, seafaring and military campaigns across Southeast Asia.
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. Many people from Luzon had active-employment in Portuguese Malacca. Lucoes such as the Luzon spice magnate Regimo de Raja, based in Malacca, was highly influential and the Portuguese appointed him as Temenggong (Sea Lord) or a governor and chief general responsible for overseeing of maritime trade, at Malacca. As Temenggung, he was also the head of an armada which traded and protected commerce between the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca, the South China Sea, and the medieval maritime principalities of the Philippines. His father and wife carried on his maritime trading business after his death. Another important Malacca trader was Curia de Raja who also hailed from Luzon. The "surname" of "de Raja" or "diraja" could indicate that Regimo and Curia, and their families, were of noble or royal descent as the term is an abbreviation of Sanskrit adiraja.
Pinto noted that there were a number of Luçoes in the Islamic fleets that went to battle with the Portuguese in the Philippines during the 16th century. The Sultan of Aceh gave one of them (Sapetu Diraja) the task of holding Aru (northeast Sumatra) in 1540. Pinto also says one was named leader of the Malays remaining in the Moluccas Islands after the Portuguese conquest in 1511. Pigafetta notes that one of them was in command of the Brunei fleet in 1521.
However, the Luções did not only fight on the side of the Muslims. Pinto says they were also apparently among the natives of the Philippines who fought the Muslims in 1538.
On Mainland Southeast Asia, Lusung/Luçoes warriors aided the Burmese king in his invasion of Siam in 1547 AD. At the same time, Lusong warriors fought alongside the Siamese king and faced the same elephant army of the Burmese king in the defence of the Siamese capital at Ayutthaya. Lucoes military and trade activity reached as far as Sri Lanka in South Asia where Lungshanoid pottery made in Luzon were discovered in burials.
The Spanish arrival in the 16th century saw the incorporation of the Lucoes people and the breaking up of their kingdoms and the establishment of the Las Islas Filipinas 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 Spanish times, Luzon became the focal point for trade between the Americas and Asia. The Manila Galleons constructed in the Bicol region, brought silver mined from Peru and Mexico to Manila, which was used to purchase Asian commercial goods like Chinese silk, Indian gems and Indonesian spices which were exported to the Americas. Luzon then became a focal point for global migration. The walled city of Intramuros was initially founded by 1200 Spanish families. The nearby district of Binondo became the center of business and transformed into the world's oldest Chinatown. There was also a smaller district reserved for Japanese migrants in Dilao. Cavite City also served as the main port for Luzon and many Mexican soldiers and sailors were stationed in the naval garrisons there. When the Spanish evacuated from Ternate, Indonesia; they settled the Papuan refugees in Ternate, Cavite which was named after their evacuated homeland. After the short British Occupation of Manila, the Indian Sepoy soldiers that mutinied against their British commanders and joined the Spanish, then settled in Cainta, Rizal. Newcomers who were impoverished Mexicans and peninsulares were accused of undermining the submission of the natives. In 1774, authorities from Bulacan, Tondo, Laguna Bay, and other areas surrounding Manila reported with consternation that discharged soldiers and deserters (From Mexico, Spain and Peru) were providing indios military training for the weapons that had been disseminated all over the territory during the British war.
Eventually people from the Philippines, primarily from Luzon, were recruited by France which was then in alliance with Spain, to at first defend Indo-Chinese converts to Christianity which were persecuted by their native governments there, extended to eventually conquer Vietnam, Laos and re-establish Cambodia as a French Protectorate (As Cambodia was invaded by Thailand and liberated and re-established by Franco-Filipino-Spanish forces), albeit under French dominion, as they established French Cochinchina which was centered in Saigon. In China, Filipinos were used as mercenaries in the successful suppression of the anti-foreigner Taiping rebellion. In the Americas, in contrast, Filipinos were very active in Anti-Imperialist uprisings, Overseas Filipinos living in Louisiana were soldiers serving under Jean Lafayette in the defense of New Orleans in the War of 1812 against a Britain wanting to re-invade America. "Manilamen" recruited from San Blas joined the Argentinian of French descent, Hypolite Bouchard in the assault of Spanish California during the Argentinian War of Independence. Filipinos in Mexico serving under the Filipino-Mexican General Isidoro Montes de Oca assisted Vicente Guerrero in the Mexican war of independence against Spain. Luzon then produced another great General, this time, for the Spanish Empire, in the person of Marcelo Azcárraga Palmero who became Prime-Minister of Spain. Marcelo Azcaragga Palmero was born in the island of Luzon (Historically called Luçon) and was a restorer of a fallen throne, a Royalist to the Spanish Bourbons. It is a case of historical names repeating itself since the Royalist army in the War in the Vendée at France which attempted to restore the French Bourbons was primarily based on the Diocese of Luçon.
After many years of Spanish occupation and resistance to reform, the Philippine Revolution against Spain erupted in Cavite and spread all throughout Luzon and the Philippines. Consequently, the First Philippine Republic was established in Malolos, Bulacan. In the meantime, Spain sold the Philippines to the United States and the First Philippine Republic resisted the new American colonizers in the Philippine-American War which the Republic lost due to its diplomatic isolation (No nation recognized the First Republic) as well as due to the numerical superiority of the American army. The Americans then set up the cool mountain city of Baguio as a summer retreat for its officials. The Americans also rebuilt the capital, Manila, and established American military bases in Olongapo and Angeles.
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.
The end of the World War necessitated decolonization due to rising nationalist movements across the world's many empires. Subsequently, the Philippines gained independence from the United States. Luzon then arose to become the most developed island in the Philippines. However, the lingering poverty and inequality caused by the long dictatorship of US-supported dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, gave rise to the Philippine diaspora and many people from Luzon have migrated elsewhere and had established large overseas communities; mainly in the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Eventually, the People Power Revolution led by Corazon Aquino and Cardinal Jaime Sin, removed Marcos and his cronies from power and they fled to Hawaii where the US granted them asylum. The following administrations are subsequently managing the political and economic recovery of the Philippines with the particular aim of spreading development outside of Luzon and into the more isolated provinces of the Visayas and Mindanao.
Luzon island alone has an area of 109,964.9 square kilometres (42,457.7 sq mi), making it the world's 15th largest island. It is bordered on the west by the South China Sea (Luzon Sea in Philippine territorial waters), on the east by the Philippine Sea, and on the north by the Luzon Strait containing the Babuyan Channel and Balintang Channel. The mainland is roughly rectangular in shape and has the long Bicol Peninsula protruding to the southeast.
|Regions||Six divisions||Four divisions||Three divisions||Two divisions|
|Ilocos Region||Ilocandia||Northern Luzon||North and Central Luzon||North and Central Luzon|
|Cordillera Administrative Region||Cordilleras|
|Central Luzon||Central Luzon|
|National Capital Region||Metro Manila||Southern Luzon|
|Calabarzon||Southern Tagalog||Southern Luzon||Southern Luzon|
The Cordillera mountain range, which feature the island's north-central section, is covered in a mixture of tropical pine forests and montane rainforests, and is the site of the island's highest mountain, Mount Pulag, rising at 2,922 metres. The range provides the upland headwaters of the Agno River, which stretches from the slopes of Mount Data, and meanders along the southern Cordillera mountains before reaching the plains of Pangasinan.
The northeastern section of Luzon is generally mountainous, with the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the country, abruptly rising a few miles from the coastline. Located in between the Sierra Madre and the Cordillera Central mountain ranges is the large Cagayan Valley. This region, which is known for being the second largest producer of rice and the country's top corn-producer, serves as the basin for the Cagayan River, the longest in the Philippines.
Along the southern limits of the Cordillera Central lies the lesser-known Caraballo Mountains. These mountains form a link between the Cordillera Central and the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, separating the Cagayan Valley from the Central Luzon plains.
Summit of Mount Pulag, Luzon's highest mountain
The central section of Luzon is characterized by a flat terrain, known as the Central Luzon plain, the largest in the island in terms of land area. The plain, approximately 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 sq mi) in size, is the country's largest producer of rice, and is irrigated by two major rivers; the Cagayan to the north, and the Pampanga to the south. In the middle of the plain rises the solitary Mount Arayat.
The western coasts of Central Luzon are typically flat extending east from the coastline to the Zambales Mountains, the site of Mount Pinatubo, made famous because of its enormous 1991 eruption. These mountains extend to the sea in the north, forming the Lingayen Gulf, and to the south, forming the Bataan Peninsula. The peninsula encloses the Manila Bay, a natural harbor considered to be one of the best natural ports in East Asia, due to its size and strategic geographical location.
The northern section of Southern Luzon is dominated by the Laguna de Bay (Old Spanish, "Lake of Bay town"), the largest lake in the country. The 949-square-kilometre (366 sq mi) lake is drained into Manila Bay by the Pasig River, 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 20 kilometres (12 mi) southwest of Laguna de Bay is Taal Lake, a crater lake containing the Taal Volcano, the smallest in the country. The environs of the lake form the upland Tagaytay Ridge, which was 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.
The southeastern portion of Luzon is dominated by the Bicol Peninsula, a mountainous and narrow region extending approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) southeast from the Tayabas Isthmus in Quezon province to the San Bernardino Strait along the coasts of Sorsogon. The area is home to several volcanoes, the most famous of which is the 2,460-metre (8,070 ft) high symmetrically shaped Mayon Volcano in Albay province. The Sierra Madre range has its southern limits at Quezon province. Ultra-prominent mountains dot the landscape, which include Mount Isarog and Mount Iriga in Camarines Sur, and Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon.
The island is covered by 8 administrative regions, 30 provinces and, as of 2014 , 68 cities (8 regions, 38 provinces and 71 cities if associated islands are included). One of the regions, Mimaropa, is geographically part of the Visayas according to the non-centric view. This is contested by imperial Manila through the Manila-centric view. Majority of scholars in the Philippines consider Mimaropa as part of the Visayas, in line with the non-centric view.
(5,024.19 sq mi)
(10,899.21 sq mi)
(8,499.90 sq mi)
(6,514.82 sq mi)
|Southwestern Tagalog Region[ii]
(11,436.69 sq mi)
(7,010.00 sq mi)
(7,498.89 sq mi)
(236.06 sq mi)
|Region||2015 census||Area||Density||Regional center||Component LGUs|
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.
Metro Manila is the most populous of the 3 defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines and the 11th most populous in the world. as of 2007 , census data showed it had a population of 11,553,427, comprising 13% of the national population. Including suburbs in the adjacent provinces (Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) of Greater Manila, the population is around 21 million.
|1||Quezon City||National Capital Region||2,936,116||11||Las Piñas||National Capital Region||588,894|
|2||Manila||National Capital Region||1,780,148||12||Makati||National Capital Region||582,602|
|3||Caloocan||National Capital Region||1,583,978||13||San Jose del Monte||Central Luzon||574,089|
|4||Taguig||National Capital Region||804,915||14||Muntinlupa||National Capital Region||504,509|
|6||Pasig||National Capital Region||755,300||16||Marikina||National Capital Region||450,741|
|7||Parañaque||National Capital Region||665,822||17||Pasay||National Capital Region||416,522|
|9||Valenzuela||National Capital Region||620,422||19||Imus||Calabarzon||408,112|
|10||Bacoor||Calabarzon||600,609||20||Mandaluyong||National Capital Region||386,276|
Seven major Philippine ethnolinguistic groups predominate Luzon. Ilocanos dominate northern Luzon, while Kapampangans and Pangasinenses, as well as Tagalogs and Sambals, populate Central Luzon. Tagalogs dominate the National Capital Region, Calabarzon and the island provinces of Marinduque and Mindoro, while Bicolanos populate the southern Bicol peninsula. Visayans mainly predominate in the island provinces of Masbate, Palawan and Romblon.
Other ethnic groups lesser in population include the Aetas of Zambales and Bataan, the Ibanags of Cagayan and Isabela, along with smaller groups like the Gaddang of Nueva Vizcaya, and the Igorot/Cordillerans of the Cordilleras.
Due to recent migrations, populations of Chinese and Moros have also been present in urban areas. Mixed-race populations of Spanish, Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and Arabs are also visible. The Chinese and their mixed-raced descendants are spread all across Luzon. According to old Spanish censuses, around 1/3rd of the population of Luzon are admixed with either Spanish or Latino descent (Mostly in Cavite and Manila) Most Americans have settled in Central Luzon's highly urbanized cities of Angeles and Olongapo due to the former presence of the U.S. air and naval bases in there, while a majority of the Koreans and Japanese have mainly settled in the major cities and towns.
Almost all of the languages of Luzon belong to the Philippine group of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. Major regional languages include: Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicolano, Kapampangan, and Pangasinan.
English is spoken by many inhabitants. The use of Spanish as an official language declined following the American occupation of the Philippines. Almost inexistent among the general populace, Spanish is still used by the elderly of some families of great tradition (Rizal, Liboro...).
Like most of the Philippines, the major religion in Luzon is Christianity, with Roman Catholicism being the major denomination. Other major sects includes Jehovah's Witnesses, Protestantism, the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayans), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and the Iglesia ni Cristo. Indigenous traditions and rituals, though rare, are also present.
The economy of the island is centered in Metro Manila with Makati 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.
Within the walls, there were some six hundred houses of a private nature, most of them built of stone and tile, and an equal number outside in the suburbs, or "arrabales," all occupied by Spaniards ("todos son vivienda y poblacion de los Españoles"). This gives some twelve hundred Spanish families or establishments, exclusive of the religious, who in Manila numbered at least one hundred and fifty, the garrison, at certain times, about four hundred trained Spanish soldiers who had seen service in Holland and the Low Countries, and the official classes.