HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 64 no. 1 (2018)

Northern Luzon: Historical Interpretations of Regional Space

Maria Nela B. Florendo



Northern Luzon as a geographic construct may be traced to the arrival of the Spaniards. The earliest reorganization of the Philippine colony was on the basis of ecclesiastical organization. Cagayan, Ilocos (with the Cordillera region between them) and Pangasinan were under the Bishopric of Nueva Segovia, with its seat in Lal-lo, Cagayan. Felix Keesing’s The Ethnohistory of Northern Luzon (1962) and William Henry Scott’s The Discovery of the Igorots (1974) explored events and cultural elements that integrated the Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan and Pangasinan into a coherent historical narrative. The Tobacco Monopoly in the Philippines: Bureaucratic Enterprise and Social Change, 1766-1880 by Ed. C. de Jesus (1980) is an economic history of Northern Luzon. These are just some successful attempts at finding historical connections of geographically contiguous spaces. The recent decades produced historiographies that may be considered significant contributions to the reconstruction of Northern Luzon. This paper draws inspiration from Resil Mojares’ paper, “Is there a Visayan Historiography?,” delivered as a keynote address during the Philippine National Historical Society’s 2006 Conference on Local and National History in Tacloban City, Leyte (The Journal of History 2007). In reviewing the post-Keesing/Scott historiographies on Northern Luzon, I pose similar questions in this paper: Is Northern Luzon a unit of study? Have historiographies on the region or its constituent units explored integrative elements that would transcend state-defined geopolitical and ethnic boundaries? Are there other events and elements that may be pursued as research questions that could contribute to a region-centered historiography? How can local histories contribute to a regioncentered historiography? This paper is a survey of the historiographies of Northern Luzon and addresses the main issue of whether or not Northern Luzon as a regional entity is contrived.