Ilocos Region

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The Ilocos Region (Ilocano: Rehion/Deppaar ti Ilocos; Pangasinan: Sagor na Baybay na Luzon/Rehiyon Uno [the former literally translated to "west coast of Luzon"]; Tagalog: Rehiyon ng Ilocos), designated as Region I, is an administrative region of the Philippines. Located in the northwestern section of Luzon, it is bordered by the Cordillera Administrative Region to the east, the Cagayan Valley to the northeast and southeast, Central Luzon to the south, and the South China Sea to the west.[5]

Sagor na Baybay na Luzon
Clockwise from the top: Paoay Church, Baluarte Watch Tower, La Paz Sand Dunes, Hundred Islands National Park, Bangui Windfarm
Location in the Philippines
Location in the Philippines
Coordinates: 16°37′N 120°19′E / 16.62°N 120.32°E / 16.62; 120.32
Country Philippines
Island groupLuzon
Regional centerSan Fernando (La Union)
Largest citySan Carlos (Pangasinan)
 • Total13,013.60 km2 (5,024.58 sq mi)
Highest elevation2,361 m (7,746 ft)
 (2020 census)[2]
 • Total5,301,139
 • Estimate 
 • Density410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+8 (PST)
ISO 3166 codePH-01
Independent cities
Component cities
Cong. districts12
GDP (2023)814.29 billion
$14.64 billion[3]
Growth rateIncrease (7.1%)[3]
HDIIncrease 0.743 (High)
HDI rank6th in the Philippines (2019)

The region comprises four provinces (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan) and one independent city (Dagupan). Its regional center is San Fernando, La Union, whereas the largest settlement is San Carlos, Pangasinan. The 2000 census reported that the major languages spoken in the region were Ilocano (64% of the total population at that time), Pangasinan (32.5%), and Tagalog and other languages (3.21%).[6]





The region was first inhabited by the aboriginal Negritos, before they were pushed by successive waves of Austronesian immigrants that penetrated the narrow coast. Tingguians (Igorot) in the interior, Ilocanos in the north, Pangasinenses in the south, and Zambals in the southwesternmost areas settled the region.

Early history


As commercial trading routes became established in Southeast Asia, the pre-Hispanic Luyag na Caboloan (present-day Pangasinan) area in the vicinity of Lingayen gulf became maritime trading centers, as gold mined from the Cordillera Mountain Range came down along the Aringay-Tonglo-Balatok gold trail,[7][8] and was also traded in the neighboring settlement of Agoo, whose coast at the time was shaped in such a way that it was a good harbor for foreign vessels.[9][10]

Evidence of trade between the then-Pangasinense port of Agoo and China has been excavated in the form of porcelain and pottery pieces unearthed at the site of the Catholic church during its renovation, - which are now kept in the Museo de Iloko.[9] Japanese fishermen eventually established their first settlement in the Philippines there, passing on their fishing skills and technologies to the local populace.[9]

Spanish colonial era


The Spanish arrived in the 16th century and established Christian missions and governmental institutions to control the native population and convert them to Catholicism. Present-day Vigan in Ilocos Sur province became the diocesan seat of Nueva Segovia. By the end of the 1700s, Ilocos had 44,852 native families and 631 Spanish Filipino families.[11]: 539 [12]: 31, 54, 113  It also had 10,041 Chinese Filipino families.[12]: 9  Ilocanos in the northern parts were less easily swayed, however, and remained an area filled with deep resentments against Spain. These resentments surfaced at various points in the Ilocos provinces' history as insurrections, most notably that of Andres Malong and Palaris of Pangasinan, Diego Silang and his wife Gabriela Silang in 1764, and the Basi Revolt in the 19th century.

However, it was the Pangasinans in the south who were the last to stand against the Spaniards.[13][better source needed]

American invasion era


In 1901, the region came under American colonial rule, and in 1941, under Japanese occupation.

In 1901, towns of Nueva Ecija, namely Balungao, Rosales, San Quintin and Umingan were annexed to the province of Pangasinan. On November 30, 1903, several municipalities from northern Zambales including Agno, Alaminos, Anda, Bani, Bolinao, Burgos, Dasol, Infanta and Mabini were ceded to Pangasinan by the American colonial government. These municipalities were a part of the homeland of the Sambal people who wanted to remain within the Zambales province. This 1903 colonial decision has yet to be reverted.[14] The reason for transferring those towns from Nueva Ecija & Zambales to Pangasinan is because they were geographically further away from the capitals.

Japanese occupation era


During 1945, the combined American and the Philippine Commonwealth troops including with the Ilocano and Pangasinan guerillas liberated the Ilocos Region from Japanese forces during the Second World War.

The postwar era


The Ilocos region produced two presidents of the Republic of the Philippines within the first two decades after the recognition of Philippine independence: Elpidio Quirino and Ferdinand Marcos.

This period also marked a return of the tobacco industry to the Ilocos Region. Ever since the end of the tobacco monopoly, tobacco production had declined in the Ilocos as filipinos started shifting from locally made cigars to foreign made cigarettes.[15] But after reading a feature article series by Maximo Soliven which explained why Virginia tobacco would grow well on Ilocos soil, businessman Harry Stonehill was convinced to invest extensively in rebuilding the industry, establishing the Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing and Redrying Corporation (PTFCRC) in 1951 and recruiting farmers from throughout Region 1 to produce tobacco.[16][17] The following year, La Union Congressman Manuel T. Cases filed a bill to "limit the importation of foreign leaf tobacco," which was eventually signed by President Elpidio Quirino as Republic Act 698.[18] This allowed Stonehill's investments to make a handsome profit,[19] and the newly-rebuilt local industry to bloom.[16] Stonehill was later deported a decade later, in the 1960s, for tax evasion and bribery of government officials, in what would later be called the Stonehill scandal,[19] but the tobacco industry continued to grow.[17][19]

The Martial Law era


Various human rights violations were documented in the Ilocos region during the Marcos martial law era, despite public perception that the region was supportive of Marcos' administration.[20] In Ilocos Norte, various farmers from the towns of Vintar, Dumalneg, Solsona, Marcos, and Piddig were documented to have been tortured,[20] and eight farmers in Bangui and three indigenous community members in Vintar were "salvaged" in 1984.[20]

Ilocanos who were critical of Marcos' authoritarian rule included Roman Catholic Archbishop and Agoo, La Union native Antonio L. Mabutas, who spoke actively against the torture and killings of church workers.[21][22] Other La Union natives who fought the dictatorship were student activists Romulo and Armando Palabay of San Fernando, La Union, whose torture and death in a military camp in Pampanga would lead them to being honored as martyrs in the fight against the dictatorship in the Philippines' Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial.[23]

In Ilocos Norte, one of the prominent victims of the Martial Law era who came from Laoag was Catholic layperson and social worker Purificacion Pedro, who volunteered in organizations protesting the Chico River Dam Project in the nearby Cordillera Central mountains.[24] Wounded while visiting activist friends in Bataan, she was later killed by Marcos administration soldiers while recuperating in the hospital.[25][26] Another prominent opponent of the martial law regime was human rights advocate and Bombo Radyo Laoag program host David Bueno, who worked with the Free Legal Assistance Group in Ilocos Norte during the later part of the Marcos administration and the early part of the succeeding Aquino administration. He would later be assassinated by motorcycle-riding men in fatigue uniforms on October 22, 1987 – part of a wave of assassinations which coincided with the 1986-87 coup d'état which tried to unseat the democratic government set up after the 1986 People Power Revolution.[27] Both Bueno and Pedro were later honored among the first 65 people to have their names inscribed on the wall of remembrance of the Philippines' Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which honors the martyrs and heroes who fought the dictatorship,[28] and Pedro was listed among Filipino Catholics nominated to be named Servant of God.[29]

Integration of new provinces


The province of Pangasinan was transferred by Ferdinand Marcos from Region III into Region I in 1973 and afterwards imposed a migration policy for Ilokanos into Pangasinan, to the moderate detriment of the native Pangasinenses. Before the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, Pangasinan was not a part of the region.[30] He also included Abra, Mountain Province, and Benguet in the Ilocos region in a bid to expand Ilokano influence among the ethnic peoples of the Cordilleras.[31]

Transfer of provinces to the Cordillera Administrative Region


When the Cordillera Administrative Region was established in 1987 under Corazon Aquino, the indigenous provinces of Abra, Mountain Province, and Benguet were transferred into the newly formed region.

Contemporary history


The Ilocos region has produced two more Philippine Presidents in the years since the 1986 People Power revolution: Pangasinense Fidel V. Ramos and Ferdinand Marcos' son Bongbong Marcos.

The southern parts of the region were severely hit by the 1990 Luzon earthquake. Five municipalities in La Union were affected: Agoo, Aringay, Caba, Santo Tomas, and Tubao with a combined population of 132,208. Many buildings, including the Agoo Municipal hall,[32] the Museo de Iloko, the parish church of Aringay,[33] and the Basilica Minore of our Lady of Charity,[9] collapsed or were severely damaged. 100,000 families were displaced when two coastal villages sank due to liquefaction. The province suffered many casualties leaving 32 people dead. In Pangasinan, about 90 buildings in Dagupan were damaged, and about 20 collapsed. Some structures sustained damage because liquefaction caused buildings to sink as much as 1 metre (39 inches). The earthquake caused a decrease in the elevation of the city and several areas were flooded. The city suffered 64 casualties of which 47 survived and 17 died. Most injuries were sustained during stampedes at a university building and a theater.


Political Map of Ilocos Region

The Ilocos Region is divided into two contrasting geographical features. The Ilocos provinces occupy the narrow plain between the Cordillera Central mountain range and the South China Sea, whereas Pangasinan occupies the northwestern portion of the vast Central Luzon plain, having Zambales Mountains as its natural western limit.

Lingayen Gulf is the most notable body of water in Pangasinan and it contains several islands, including the Hundred Islands National Park. To the north of Ilocos is Luzon Strait.

The Agno River runs through Pangasinan from Benguet, flowing into a broad delta at the vicinities of Lingayen and Dagupan before emptying into Lingayen Gulf.

Administrative divisions


The Ilocos Region comprises 4 provinces, 1 independent component city, 8 component cities, 116 municipalities, and 3,265 barangays.[34]

Province Capital Population (2020)[35] Area[36] Density Cities Muni. Barangay
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
  Ilocos Norte Laoag City 11.5% 609,588 3,418.75 1,319.99 180 470 2 21 559
  Ilocos Sur Vigan City 13.3% 706,009 2,596.00 1,002.32 270 700 2 32 768
  La Union San Fernando 15.5% 822,352 1,499.28 578.88 550 1,400 1 19 576
  Pangasinan Lingayen 59.7% 3,163,190 5,450.59 2,104.48 580 1,500 4 44 1,364
Total 5,301,139 12,964.62 5,005.67 410 1,100 9 116 3,267

• Figures for Pangasinan include the independent component city of Dagupan.

Governors and vice governors
Province Image Governor Political Party Vice Governor
  Matthew Marcos Manotoc Nacionalista Cecilia Araneta Marcos
  Jeremias C. Singson NPC Ryan Luis Singson
  Raphaelle Veronica Ortega-David PDDS Mario Eduardo Ortega
  Ramon Guico III Nacionalista Mark Ronald DG. Lambino
  •  †  Regional center
  •  ^  Independent City



Poverty incidence of Ilocos Region


Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]

Although the economy in the southern portion of the region, especially Pangasinan, is anchored on aquaculture, agro-industrial and service industry akin to its Central Luzon neighbor, the economy in the northern portion of the region is anchored in the agricultural sector. The economy in Pangasinan is driven by agro-industrial (particularly in inland towns) and aquaculture (in coastal areas) businesses, such as milkfish (bangus) cultivation and processing, livestock raising, fish paste processing (bagoong), and others. Income in the Ilocos provinces or northern portion mostly come from cultivating rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, and fruits; raising livestock such as pigs, chicken, goats, and carabaos (water buffalos).

The distribution of the economic activity in the region may be seen from the collection of tax revenue of the national government. The bulk of the collections come from Pangasinan, which posted 61% of the total.[47]

The service and light manufacturing industries are concentrated in the cities. Dagupan, a major financial, commercial and educational hub in the north, is mostly driven by its local entrepreneurs, which have expanded its network up to the national level such as the CSI Group, Magic Group, BHF Group, Guanzon Group, St Joseph Drugs, and Siapno-Tada Optical, among others. San Fernando in La Union also has an international shipping port and the upgraded San Fernando Airport. While Laoag in Ilocos Norte has an international airport.[citation needed]

The tourism industry, driven by local airlines and land transportation firms in the area like Pangasinan Solid North Bus, Dagupan Bus Company, Farinas Transit Company and Partas, focuses on the coastal beaches and on eco-tourism. There are fine sands stretching along Lingayen Gulf area notably the historic Tondaligan Beach in Dagupan and the rest of the region's coastal areas.[citation needed]

Additionally, the Ilocanos are known for their dark-colored clay burnay pottery and blanket weaving.[48]


Population census of Ilocos Region
YearPop.±% p.a.
1903 948,935—    
1918 1,210,909+1.64%
1939 1,459,294+0.89%
1948 1,685,564+1.61%
1960 2,042,865+1.61%
1970 2,488,391+1.99%
1975 2,726,220+1.85%
1980 2,922,892+1.40%
1990 3,550,642+1.96%
1995 3,803,890+1.30%
2000 4,200,478+2.15%
2007 4,546,789+1.10%
2010 4,748,372+1.59%
2015 5,026,128+1.09%
2020 5,301,139+1.05%
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[49]



The Ilocos provinces are the historical homeland of the Ilocanos. In the 2000 Census, the Ilocanos comprised 64% of the region, Pangasinan people 32.5%, and the Tagalogs 3%.[6]

Pangasinan is the historical homeland of the Pangasinans. The population of Pangasinan comprises approximately 60% of the total population of the region. The Ilocanos started migrating to Pangasinan in the 19th century.[50] Pangasinan was formerly a province of Region III (Central Luzon) before President Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 1, 1972, incorporating it into Region I. Part of the historical homeland of Pangasinans in Ilocos Region is south La Union. Minority groups include the Tingguian and Isneg communities that inhabit the foothills of the Cordillera mountains, and Sambals who settle in west Pangasinan, part of the historical homeland of the Sambals. The few Tagalogs mostly live in southeast Pangasinan bordering Tagalog-speaking Nueva Ecija, mostly descendants of settlers from Nueva Ecija itself, with the rest from Bulacan and Aurora. Other minority groups not native in the region include Maguindanaons, Maranaos, Tausugs, Kapampangans, Cebuanos, Hiligaynons and foreigners and their Filipino-born descendants such as Chinese[51]and Indians.[52]



Ilocano is the main language of the majority in the region, with La Union recognizing it as an official language since 2012.[53] It is also spoken in neighboring regions of Cagayan Valley (Region II), Cordillera Administrative Region and parts of Central Luzon (Region III) as the lingua franca among Ilocano and non-Ilocano residents. Ilocano is also recognized as a minority language in Mindoro, Palawan, and Mindanao (particularly in some areas in Soccsksargen), where Ilocanos had have been significant residents since the early 20th century. It is the third most widely spoken language in the Philippines, estimating 11 million speakers as of 2022. The language has many speakers overseas, including the American states of California and Hawaii.[54]

Another major regional Philippine language spoken in the region is Pangasinan (a native language in the eponymous Pangasinan province among the ethnic group of the same name). It is the official and the indigenous language of Pangasinan and is the most spoken language in the region's highly urbanized area, Central Pangasinan. Spoken natively in urban centers such as Dagupan, Lingayen, San Carlos, among others. Native speakers can also be found in nearby Tarlac, La Union and Benguet. Significant provincial languages such as Bolinao and Sambal languages in western Pangasinan, and Cordilleran languages (near the borders of the Cordillera Administrative Region) are spoken in the region. Tagalog is spoken by residents in towns along the border with Nueva Ecija, and its standard dialect Filipino and English are also spoken and understood in the region, utilized in business, education and media.

Languages not native in the region are also spoken there such as Maranao, Maguindanaon, Tausug, Kapampangan (which Bolinao & Sambal languages are related to), Cebuano and Hiligaynon to varying degrees by their respective ethnic communities within the region.



The population is predominantly Roman Catholic with strong adherents of Protestantism such as the Aglipayan denomination further north of the country where it is originated. There are also adherents to other religions, such as Iglesia ni Cristomakes up 3rd largest religion in the Region has 10 ecclesiastical districts in 4 provinces comprising 5-6% adherents , Mormons, and the like. There is also an undercurrent of traditional animistic beliefs especially in rural areas. Islam is a significant minority religion in the region especially in some urban areas adhered by minority Maranaos and other Moro communities, with some former Christian Ilocanos converted to that religion either by study abroad or contact with Moro migrants from the southern Philippines. The small mercantile Chinese and Indian communities are primarily Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.[citation needed]

Culture and the arts

Tampuhan by Juan Luna

The Ilocos region is noted for its distinctive culture, shaped by the austere demands of its geography.[55]: 55 

The region has given birth to numerous artists who have won national acclaim - among the most notable being writer and activist Isabelo de los Reyes of Vigan who helped publish the earliest currently-extant text of Biag ni Lam-Ang; Badoc-born Philippine Revolution era activist and leader Juan Luna; and Binalonan-born Carlos Bulosan, whose novel America is in the Heart has become regarded as "[t]he premier text of the Filipino-American experience."[56]

The region is also home to several National Artists of the Philippines, including National Artist for Theater Severino Montano who was conferred the honor in 2001,[57] and National Artist for Dance Lucrecia Kasilag, who was conferred the honor in 1989.

In contemporary arts, The Galila Arts Festival, which features Pangasinense artists and tourist spots in the fourth district of Pangasinan, was inaugurated in 2023. Aside from encouraging arts in the province, the festival also aims to attract tourists.[58]

Notable people

A view of San Fernando, La Union

See also



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