The northwestern coast of Luzon is exposed to the southwest monsoon and is shielded by the Cordillera mountain ranges from the northern and northeastern air currents. The result is a well-marked wet and dry season that bring in excessive rains and extreme droughts. The narrow coastal plain with highly eroded soil and dense population has made for the development of a very hardy group of people. The Ilocano are in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, and Cagayan. They are highly concentrated in areas near the mouths of the Laoag and the Abra Rivers. While the population is generally homogenous, a northern and a southern dichotomy may be postulated in terms of dialect differentiation, if not a sociological one as when northern Ilocano would refer to those in the south as “those across the river.” As late as the nineteenth century, there were eight to ten dialects known.

       The total national population is 5,915,557, with concentrations in the Ilocos region distributed in Ilocos Norte (460,684), Ilocos Sur (519,273), and La Union (548,251). In Cagayan there are some 557,442 Ilocano; in Pangasinan, 909,970; and in Isabela, 744,915 (NSO 1990). Ilocanos are found in all provinces of the country.

       The people are essentially rice producers who also indulge in extensive agriculture with cash crops like tobacco and garlic. There has been a continual migration of labor to different parts of the country to the southernmost reaches, and even to other places like Hawaii and California. Outmigration was caused by dense population pressures in a land with limited agricultural potentials. It is one of the most densely populated regions in the country. The agricultural production is not sufficient to meet local needs thus much of the population went into the labor market and interregional trade. Tobacco is the leading cash crop. The textile industry in the area has a long tradition. Fishing is second only to agricultural production.

       Among the more dominant of the ethnic groups, they have figured prominently in the political, educational, economic, religious, and other sectors of society. Intensely regionalistic like most of the other major groups, the Ilocano take pride in their roots and language.


Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces
(Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population (1990) 5,915,575
Total in Ilocos Region 1,528,208
Ilocos N. 460,684
Ilocos Sur 519,273
La Union 548,251
Abra 136,326
Agusan N. 2,872
Agusan S. 5,985
Aurora 49,283
Aklan 466
Albay 932
Antique 492
Basilan 307
Bataan 9,681
Batanes 159
Batangas 2,569
Benguet 170,936
Bohol 200
Bukidnon 15,978
Bulacan 14,650
Cagayan 557,442
Camarines N. 956
Camarines S. 1,917
Catanduanes 198
Cavite 9,604
Cebu 1,193
Davao 21,730
Davao S. 11,452
Davao Or. 2,066
E. Samar 219
Ifugao 20,328
Iloilo 1,036
Isabela 744,915
Kalinga-Apayao 80,149
Laguna 8,417
Lanao N. 1,111
Lanao S. 4,420
Leyte 1,162
Maguindanao 8,807
Manila 56,247
Marinduque 8,807
Masbate 501
Misamis Occ. 246
Misamis Or. 1,664
Mt. Prov. 6,628
N. Cotabato 58,022
N. Samar 145
N. Ecija 294,787
N. Vizcaya 189,132
Occ. Mindoro 29,964
Or. Mindoro 12,055
Palawan 17,368
Pampanga 15,561
Pangasinan 909,970
Quezon 2,486
Quirino 87,158
Rizal 23,273
Romblon 256
Samar 449
Siquijor 73
Sorsogon 438
S. Cotabato 53,801
S. Leyte 120
S. Kudarat 69,492
Sulu 147
Surigao N. 537
Surigao S. 1,631
Tarlac 375,582
Tawi-tawi 221
Zambales 136,515
Zamboanga N. 1,621
Zamboanga S. 15,102
Mandaluyong 7,112
Marikina 11,862
S. Juan 4,429
Kaloocan 28,981
Malabon 4,977
Navotas 1,266
Valenzuela 11,620
Las Pinas 7,102
Makati 22,686
Paranaque 6,585
Pasay 10,245
Pateros 795
Taguig 10,750

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