The Northwestern Coast of the Philippines is what we call "Ilocandia," occupied by the hard working nomadic Ilocanos. They are of Indonesian/Malay stock who settled in the coast and probably carried by the northern drift, the wind direction of the original Urdaneta sailing route. The land environment and the harsh wind of the China Sea shaped the character of the Ilocanos. It is for this reason that you will find them very industrious, thrifty, daring, but they are also very patient. The land is sun drenched and difficult to cultivate but tobacco can be produced. The coast is too exposed and bare for an agriculture that can sustain any further growth in population. The early settlers were mostly fishermen. As the number of families increased, the children immigrated to different parts of the Philippines. They comprised most of the early Filipino immigrants to the farms of Hawaii and California. Internal immigration started much earlier when family groups went down to Pangasinan Region and continued to the other side of the Cordillera Mountain. As late as the 1950's, the Ilocano were going south to Mindanao to settle. The Cordillera Central Mountain range and the China Sea sandwich the Ilocos tiny stripe. It is so small that you can view the sea from the western slopes of the Mountain Provinces over its entire length. Summer vacationers to Baquio will vouch for this as they head home; they can clearly see the coast of Lingayen Gulf as it points north, especially if they take the Ilocos side on the way down.
Cordillera are the mountain provinces. People came earlier than the waves of marine immigration from the Malay peninsula. They probably traveled on foot by the land bridge connecting to the Asian mainland. Traces of Chinese features will even support this conjecture. They settled and claimed the mountain for good. The altitudes provided a rich climate to grow abundant produce,(particularly strawberries and cabbage) as in the high region like Tagaytay in the South. On the eastern slopes one will find the greatest agricultural achievement of all time, the Banaue Rice Terraces. Further down east is the rich Cagayan Valley. Cagayan Valley and Ilocadia run alone on opposite sides of the Mountain Provinces. Nature has been kinder to the Cagayan Valley. All water streams flowing down the Cordillera goes east to the valley except for one. The valley is geographically protected on the East by the upper range of the Sierra Madre coastal mountain system that runs through its length. This also provides a natural windbreaker against tropical storms that gather strength in the Pacific Ocean. The 120-mile long Cagayan river irrigates the length of the nature valley. The river was used for limited transportation earlier. During the Spanish regime, the Spanish officials collected taxes along its banks. The inhabitants kept their distance by living on the hillsides, thus, preserving their culture. Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino lie on the southern base of the Cagayan Valley. Quirino used to be part of Nueva Vizcaya before it became a new province. On the lower base, the Caraballo Mountain connects the Cordillera and Sierra mountain ranges. A green fortress guarded the access to this rugged but enchanted valley for years and allowed passage only for those who wanted to live on higher ground. The wild terrain guaranteed that only brave souls with strong determination would be rewarded to live in the folds of the peaks and valleys: natural selection in place.
Nestor Palugod Enriquez