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When the Spanish first encountered them in 1572, the inhabitants of Ilocos (then called "Samtoy") were living in large villages at sheltered coves or rivermouths and were trading with the Chinese and Japanese.
Ilocano has become the lingua franca of northern Luzon, as Ilocano traders provide highland peoples with their primary link to the commerce of the outside world.
According to one Ilocano origin myth, a giant named Aran built the sky and hung the sun, moon, and stars in it.
Although massive churches in a distinctive style give evidence of Spanish-Ilocano collaboration, the colonial period was marked by frequent revolts; the most famous of these was that led by Diego and Gabriela Silang during the British occupation of Manila in 1762–63.
Ilocanos were prominent in the nationalist movement, and many rose to high office in the central government.
Under their light, Aran's companion, the giant Angalo, could see the land, which he then molded into mountains and valleys.
The giants found the world they had created windswept and desolate.Most of the population is concentrated along a narrow coastal plain that has only a few good harbors.This environment is harsh, forcing Ilocanos to be hard-working and thrifty.They were the first Filipinos to immigrate to the United States.In the Philippines, every Ilocano town has a number of men known as "Hawaiianos," returned migrants from the United States.The bamboo washed up on the shore of the Ilocos region, and from this couple came the Ilocano people.