(luzŏn'), island (1990 pop. 30,797,458), 40,420 sq mi (104,688 sq km), largest, most populous, and most important of the Philippine Islands.
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.
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