Region of the Philippines

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Central Luzon is one of the 17 regions of the Philippines.

This "super region" is in the north of Manila. Home to seven provinces, this region has different and distinct cultures.

Provinces

 
Map of Central Luzon
 
Provinces of Central Luzon
 Aurora
Named after the wife of President Manuel Quezon, this province is one of the last frontiers of Central Luzon; with its wide area of forest land and 328 km of pure beaches, Aurora's gems are yet to be discovered
 Bataan
World War II left a huge mark on this province; aside from its beaches, you'll find different markers and shrines scattered around the province that commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers
 Bulacan
The birthplace of the first constitutional democracy in Asia, cradle of the country's noble heroes, nostalgic Spanish-era churches, heritage houses, colorful festivals and sweet delicacies
 Nueva Ecija
Dubbed the "Rice Bowl of the Philippines"; also boasts breathtaking mountains and the Philippine Carabao Center, where you can try fresh carabao's (water buffalo's) milk
 Pampanga
The "Culinary Capital of the Philippines"; it used to host the largest American military facility outside the United States, which has been converted to a major business and tourism hub
 Tarlac
Home to the "Monasterio de Tarlac", where you'll find a smaller version of the Christ the Redeemer statue of Brazil; this province is also popular for its whitewater kayaking activities
 Zambales
172 km of beaches, untainted mountainous landscapes, challenging waves and pristine coves, this province is definitely worth a visit.

While Pangasinan is historically and culturally part of this region, it is now part of the Ilocos Region (Region I), and included in that article.

Cities

  • 1 Angeles - a thriving regional city partly due to the former U.S. Air Force's Clark Airbase which has been converted to a business and leisure hub with world-class casinos, resorts, hotels, shopping malls and duty-free shops
  • 2 Cabanatuan - Nueva Ecija's largest city features the Camp Pangatian Shrine and the General Luna Statue and Marker, both are historical sites.
  • 3 Malolos - the provincial capital of Bulacan, popular for its historical landmarks, old churches, ancestral houses and of course sweet delicacies!
  • 4 San Fernando - the regional capital of Central Luzon, it is famous for its "Giant Lantern Festival" during the month of December

Other destinations

  • 1 Baler - a surfer's paradise also famous for its history and rugged coastlines
  • 2 Pilar - the location of the Shrine of Valor (Dambana ng Kagitingan), a national shrine atop Mount Samat
  • 3 Subic - a former U.S naval base which is now a popular tourist destination home to beaches, eco-parks, industrial parks, resorts and casinos

Understand

The region lies in a largely flat area north of Metro Manila, and provides much of the rice grain sold in the Philippines, but there are also some mountain and Foothill areas. Mountain ranges separate the coastal provinces of Zambales and Aurora from the mostly flat interior.

The region has a population of over 11 million, but is disproportionately concentrated in Bulacan and Pampanga, all along the North Luzon Expressway, an important transport corridor between the region and Metro Manila. The province of Aurora is the least dense and populated.

The region's major ethnic groups are the Tagalogs, the Kapampangan, the Pangasinan, and the Sambal. The Kapampangan form the majority in Pampanga and Tarlac, and the Tagalog dominate the remainder. Pangasinan forms the second largest ethnic group in Tarlac, due to much of the province being formed out of areas of Pangasinan. The Sambal are the majority in the province of Zambales, but the Tagalog now dominate there. There are also Ilocano communities, mostly found in northern Nueva Ecija and Aurora, Tarlac, and southern Zambales.

The Aeta (Negrito) are the indigenous inhabitants of Central Luzon, but land-grabbing, discrimination and assimilation threatens their lifestyle, culture, and language.

Talk

Tagalog is the primary language of the region, and is the native tongue of many residents of the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales. The dialect of Tagalog spoken in Central Luzon is similar to the one spoken in Manila, and is the basis of the national language Filipino, though there are a few dialectal terms that persist in the region, such as ere ("this") in Bulacan. There is not much distinctive with the Central Luzon Tagalog accent, but one common stereotype is of Bulacan Tagalog speakers pronouncing the name of their province as bul-lahk-KAN.

Kapampangan, a language that looks like a divergent dialect of Tagalog at first sight, is spoken by about 2 million in Pampanga and Tarlac. Sambal, which Kapampangan is more related to, is spoken by a few in Zambales; it has been largely supplanted by Tagalog.

On northern Tarlac, Pangasinan is widely spoken. There are also Ilocano-speaking communities in Central Luzon, especially in the northern parts of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Aurora.

Get in

Central Luzon lies within the approximately 200 km (120 mi) radius of Manila, and transportation is not hard to find.

By plane

While many travellers come through Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the south, Clark International Airport (CRK IATA, formerly but also called Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) has both domestic and international flights. It is smaller, but better and convenient, without the long lines and corruption you may encounter at Manila airport.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines and its regional subsidiary PAL Express has domestic flights to most points in the Philippines, and an international flight to Seoul. Budget carriers such as Cebu Pacific (and regional subsidiary Cebgo) and AirAsia also have both domestic and international flights from Clark as it has lower landing fees. Some international carriers such as Asiana Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Emirates, and Qatar Airways also have flights to Clark.

By bus

Victory Liner, Five Star, Genesis Transport and Philippine Rabbit provide bus service to most of Central Luzon from Manila.

By car

The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) connects the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga with Manila. Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) connects Subic port with Tarlac, hence the name, while SCTEX's physical connection Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) provides access to the rest of Tarlac province. NLEX and SCTEX meet around Angeles, at the suburb of Mabalacat.

Get around

Central Luzon's major destinations are served by many bus routes, the bulk being operated by companies such as Victory Liner (most destinations in Zambales, including Olongapo), Philippine Rabbit (Angeles, most destinations in Tarlac), Baliwag Transit and Golden Bee (most destinations in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija, except those served by suburban bus routes from Manila), and Genesis (most services to Bataan and Aurora).

The region has a decent network of highways, the main ones being the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), Maharlika Highway (Rte 1/AH26 Jose Abad Santos Avenue (Rte 3) and the Santa Rosa–Tarlac Road (Rte 58). A third expressway, the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CCLEX, aka Central Luzon Freeway) has been partially opened, but only between Tarlac City and the rural municipality of Aliaga; continuing to Cabanatuan still involve drives through the older highway. Mountain roads link Aurora with the rest of Central Luzon

See

Pampanga may be on the top of the head of most visitors due to its history and culture, and Clark Airport being there, but the provinces also have their share:

  • Bulacan has many historical sights, mostly related to the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War
  • Bataan was the last strongholds of Filipino and American as the Philippines fell to the Japanese during the Pacific War. The Mount Samal National Shrine, with the cross-shaped Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) as its centerpiece, is established in memory of both Filipinos and Americans who died in the war. Mariveles, a port town at the tip of the peninsula, served as the starting point of the infamous Bataan Death March, which ran for 102 km up to San Fernando. Bataan also hosts the Philippines first and only nuclear power plant, which remained inoperational; it remains open as a museum. Bagac on the western coast is home to Las Casas de Acuzar, a living museum home to various old buildings and structures from the Spanish colonial era.

Do

  • Climbing, trekking and off-roading at Mount Pinatubo
  • Climbing Mount Arayat
  • Surfing on the Aurora coast. Baler, its capital is known as the birthplace of Philippine surfing culture.
  • Bird-watching at Candaba Swamp and Balanga
  • Island-hopping at Magalawa Island in Palauig, Zambales.

Eat

Drink

Stay safe

 
Flooding on the Candaba swampland in Pampanga

Central Luzon is prone to weather extremes, from blistering heat in the dry season (summer), and heavy downpours and typhoons in the wet season. Places like Nueva Ecija are prone to sweltering heat during the hot months, with heat indexes soaring to the 40s to 50s bracket. The rainy season between late May to late Septembers brings heavy rain, also risking floods on the plains and landslides on mountainous areas, and typhoons can further exacerbate the danger, with wind gusts and more rain.

While many people in the region still recall a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake in 1990 and the climatic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, leaving prominent remarks like lahar-buried buildings and land, parts of Central Luzon are seismically active, and earthquakes or volcanic eruptions are all concerns. The latest major earthquake since the deadly 1990 quake is a magnitude 6.1 quake in April 2019, resulting to various degrees of damage in the region and some casualties from collapsed structures. Coastal areas, like places in Aurora and Zambales, are prone to tsunamis, including from distant sources, as in the cases of the 1960 Great Chilean earthquake and the 1962 Good Friday earthquake, where the tsunamis those quakes produced slammed the coasts of these provinces, causing some damage and deaths.

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