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Luzon is the largest island in the Philippine archipelago, and the most developed. The capital of the Philippines, Metro Manila, is located here.

Luzon has slightly over 100,000 square kilometers of land, most of it rich volcanic soil. To the north in the Ilocos regions is the Cordillera mountain range with rich deposits of copper, silver and gold. Central Luzon is a flat plain, the "breadbasket of the Philippines" due to its vast ricefields and vegetable farms (although some of it has been ruined by the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption).

The southwest area of Luzon, the Southern Tagalog region, is the area around Laguna de Bay, and the site of numerous light industrial parks, factories, and businesses, many in the garments, electronics, and automotive industries.Southern Tagalog is considered the most progressive high-growth area after the National Capital Region (Manila and its suburbs). The southernmost point of Luzon, the Bicol region, is a long peninsula stretching southeast. It is renowned for Mt. Mayon, the volcano with the "world's most perfect cone", but is one of the more depressed and underdeveloped areas on the island.

Early inhabitants

Luzon was initially inhabited in pre-historic times by the Aeta (Negrito) tribes, who migrated down the Malay Peninsula, across Java, and up to the Philippines when the archipelago was still connected to the Asian landmass via a land bridge.

Next came the Javanese, the ancestors of the Ifugao tribes, who crossed over from Borneo and Java; they built large trading settlements who did brisk business with Chinese and Indian merchants; what records remain indicate that their relations with the Aeta were relatively cordial, with instances of land being bought for copper or other metal tools, and trade with the Aeta tribes for fur, food, and lumber.

The Malays came last. This seafaring people settled all over the archipelago, most as resupply bases for their trading runs, but a few as hideouts for pirates preying on foreign shipping. All three races had extensive kingdoms, sultanates and independent states across Luzon; while sometimes warfare broke out (like the taking of Maynilad by Rajah Soliman) in general, these different peoples engaged in free commerce, both among themselves and with China, India, and Siam.

The Colonial Period

The Spanish conquest of the islands in the 16th century brought Christianity to Luzon, and by the nineteenth century, only the last unconquered tribes in the Cordillera highlands retained their native religion and culture.

During the Spanish occupation, Luzon (especially Southern Tagalog) was a hotbed of rebellion, due to the large number of rich merchant families who were able to afford to send their children to study abroad. The Malolos Republic, which proclaimed its independence from Spain in 1898, was composed of eight provinces in Southern Tagalog; only later was Visayas and Mindanao added to the proclamation.

The Spanish American War and the Philippine American War gave control of the islands to the Americans; as the only city of any appreciable size, Manila was chosen as the colony's capital city. Consequently, through most of the 20th century, most development and infrastructure was built in Luzon, to the detriment of the other islands.

Luzon Today

To this day, this disparity is still extremely noticeable; over half of 60 million Filipinos live in Luzon, with an estimated 15 million in Metro Manila alone. Most other islands are relatively backward, underfunded and depressed, lacking even the basic necessities of running water, electricity, telephone service and decent roads, while 60% of the country's wealth is invested in Luzon.

This is due to the concentration of political power, business and government in Manila (which is often derisively called "Imperial Manila" by probinsyanos). This situation pushes those living in the provinces to migrate to the capital city, which further depresses those areas (due to the lack of skilled people) and intensifies the congestion, overcrowding, and crime in the slums of Manila.

Most details from memory of my grade school and high school history lessons, and from twenty-five years of living in Southern Tagalog.

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