The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Luzon

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LUZON, or Luçon, an island in the Pacific, belonging to Spain, the largest and most important of the Philippine archipelago, lying between lat. 12° 30' and 18° 46' N., and lon. 119° 50' and 124° 10' E., separated from the island of Samar by the narrow strait of San Bernardino; length N. W. to S. E. 520 m., greatest breadth E. and W. 140 m. ; area, about 40,000 sq. m.; pop. about 4,500,000. The island consists of two divisions, connected by an isthmus not more than 10 m. wide, and the northern of which is much the larger. The coast line of the northern division is in general very regular, except where indented by the bay of Davilican on the east, and the gulf of Lingayen and the bay of Manila on the west. The coast line of the southern division is broken here and there by numerous bays and inlets, the principal of which are the Bahia de San Miguel and the Seno de Albay on the north, and the Seno de Ragay and others on the south. The face of the country is very mountainous; two chains, the Caravallos on the east and the Sierra Madre on the west, both of volcanic origin, traverse the whole of the northern division, with little interruption on either side; the mean elevation of both systems is about 4,000 ft. above the sea, and nowhere exceeds 7,000 ft. These chains unite southward, and trend along the isthmus in a single ridge of inconsiderable height; but the southern division is roughened by numerous hills and volcanic peaks. Among the principal volcanoes at present in activity in the island are Mayon in the southwest, an eruption of which destroyed the town of Malinao, and injured Albay and four other towns, in 1766, and in 1814 completed the ruin of Albay; Bulusan, at the extreme south, which serves as a beacon to navigators; Albay, which has had many destructive eruptions; and Taal, in the midst of the lake of Bonbon, which constantly emits dense volumes of smoke. Between Taal and Mt. Mainit (which signifies hot), about 15 m. distant, subterranean communication exists; and the waters of numerous thermal springs, bursting from the base of Mainit, rush to the lake of Bay (100 m. in circuit), darkening the air with such clouds of steam that the lake at a distance appears to be in continual ebullition. The crater of the extinct volcano of Socolme, which rises island-like from the bosom of Lake Bay to a height of 1,500 ft., is now filled with water, forming a most picturesque lake; and the crater of Mt. Maijay, one of the loftiest peaks in Luzon, also contains a lake of unfathomable depth. The lava which once flowed from the crater covered up numerous cavities, easily recognizable by the hollow sound; and inundations or earthquakes at times form in the crust vast fissures, which the natives call the “mouths of hell.” In the district surrounding San Pablo are numerous circular lakes and heaps of rotten stones, basalt, and various species of lava, attesting the former existence of violent volcanic influences. Between the mountain ranges in the northern division are extensive plains of great fertility, watered by a large number of rivers, chief among which are the Apari or Cagayan, in the province of the same name, falling into the sea at Apari, after a course of 180 m., and the Pasig, issuing by seven branches from the lake of Bay and emptying into the bay of Manila. Both of these streams are navigable for vessels of considerable size. There are two distinct seasons: the wet, from June to December, when the S. E. winds prevail, and the rains are so copious as to cause the rivers to overflow and inundate the plains; and the dry, embracing the remainder of the year, in which season water preserved in reservoirs during the summer is used for irrigation. The soil is very fertile, and gives abundant harvests with little care. All the mountains are clothed with a magnificent vegetation, and especially the volcanoes, on whose declivities flourish dense forests of gigantic trees, with palms, rattans, lianas in great variety, and particularly the wild sugar cane, often rising to a height of 12 ft.; while in the bosom of the hills are rich gold, copper, iron, and coal mines. Among the chief products are rice, of which more than 30 kinds are grown, wheat, indigo, tobacco (in Nueva Ecija and Cagayan), vegetable silk (abacá, from which are manufactured various kinds of tissues), coffee, cacao, cotton, the sugar cane, pepper, bamboos (from which are made weapons and instruments as sharp as those of steel, pots for boiling food, and from the filaments hats, baskets, and ropes), the cocoanut palm, and an endless variety of leguminous plants. The manufacture of tobacco is monopolized by the government, which at Binondo (its principal establishment) alone employs from 15,000 to 20,000 hands, making cigars for home consumption and export. To the manufactures already mentioned should be added matting of great fineness and brilliant colors, straw hats, cigar cases, baskets, cambric finer than that of France, coarse earthenware, side arms, and carriages. Ships are built; clever workers in gold, silver, and copper are common; and the native women are expert at fine needlework. The island is divided into 24 provinces. The capital is Manila, and other towns of some importance are Cavite, Apari, and Santa Cruz. (See Philippine Islands.)