Isabela is a province of the Philippines, the second largest province in the country next to Palawan. It is located in the Cagayan Valley region in the island of Luzon. Its capital is Ilagan City and borders, clockwise from the south, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao,Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Cagayan. This primarily agricultural province is the rice and corn granary of Luzon due to its plain and rolling terrain. In 2012, the province was declared as country's top producer of corn with 1,209,524 metric tons.
It is the 10th richest province in the Philippines in 2011, the only province of Northern Luzon to be included in the list. The province has four trade centers in the cities of Ilagan, Cauayan, Santiago and the municipality of Roxas.
Prior to 1856, the Cagayan Valley was divided into only two provinces: Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The Province of Cagayan at that time consisted of all towns from Tumauini to Aparri in the north. All other towns from Ilagan southward to Aritao comprised the Province of the old Nueva Vizcaya. In order to facilitate the work of the Catholic missionaries in the evangelization of the Cagayan Valley, a royal decreewas issued on May 1, 1856 creating the Province of Isabela consisting of the towns of Gamu, Old Angadanan (now Alicia), Bindang (nowRoxas) and Camarag (now Echague), Carig (now Santiago City) and Palanan, all detached from the Province of Nueva Vizcaya; whileCabagan and Tumauini were taken from the Province of Cagayan. The province was placed under the jurisdiction of a governor with Ilagan as the capital seat, where it remains up to present. It was initially called Isabela de Luzon to differentiate from other places in the Philippines bearing the name of Isabela. The new province was named in honor of Queen Isabella II of Spain.
Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it is in Palanan that the final pages of the Philippines Revolution was written when the American forces led by Gen. Frederick Funston finally captured General Emilio Aguinaldo in the area on March 23, 1901. Isabela was re-organized as a province under the American regime through Act No. 210, passed August 24, 1901.
The Americans built schools and other buildings and instituted changes in the overall political system. However, the province’s economy remained particularly agricultural with rice replacing corn and tobacco as the dominant crop. World War II stagnated the province's economic growth but it recovered dramatically after the war. In 1942, the Japanese Imperial forces occupied Isabela. In 1945, liberation of Isabela commenced with the arrival of the Philippine Commonwealth troops under the Philippine Army, Constabulary and USAFIP-NL units and recognized guerrillas attacked by the Japanese Imperial forces in World War II. Today, Isabela is the premier province of the northern Philippines, the richest in the valley and one of the most progressive in the country.
A new wave of immigration began in the late 19th and 20th centuries with the arrival of the Ilokanowho came in large numbers. They now constitute the largest group in the province. Other ethnic groups followed that made Isabela the “melting pot of the north”.
In 1995, Republic Act Number 7891 was passed legislating that Isabela be divided into two new provinces: Isabela del Norte and Isabela del Sur. A referendum was held on the same year with a strong majority voting not to separate the province.
In 2012, the capital town of Ilagan officially became a city, after winning 96% of the votes in the plebiscite conducted in August 11, 2012. The night after the plebiscite, COMELEC Commissioner Armando Velasco declared Ilagan as the new component city of the province.
Isabela comprises an aggregate land area of 10,665 square kilometres (4,118 sq mi), representing almost 40 percent of the regional territory. It is the largest province in the island of Luzon and the second largest province in the Philippines in terms of land area. It is located on the right-most part of the Northern Luzon facing the Pacific Ocean and encompassing parts of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Isabela is one of the typhoon-prone provinces in the country due to its location.
The 34 municipalities and 3 cities of the province comprise a total of 1,055 barangays, with Rizal in Santiago City as the most populous in 2010, and Catalina in Cauayan City as the least. If cities are excluded, Bugallon Proper (Poblacion) in Ramon has the highest population, and Uauang-Tuliao in Santo Tomas has the lowest.