Abstract The silicic volcanic rocks in Central Luzon show a temporal and spatial relationship with its geochemistry. Volcanic centers dated to approximately 5 Ma are silicic in geochemical composition whereas those between <5–1 Ma expose basaltic to andesitic rocks. Volcanic centers dated <1 Ma are characterized by a wide range of geochemistry encompassing basaltic through andesitic to dacitic signatures. Aside from changes in geochemistry through time, the areas (i.e. fore-arc to back-arc region) where the volcanic centers are formed also vary. The shift in the location of the volcanic centers in Central Luzon is attributed to changes in the dip of subduction of the South China Sea crust along the Manila Trench. Flat subduction resulted from the subduction of the Scarborough Seamount Chain, an oceanic bathymetric high along the Manila Trench west of northern Luzon. However, collision of Luzon with Taiwan in the north and Palawan in the south resulted in steepening of the subduction angle. The silicic volcanic centers in the forearc (Ce/Yb = 20–140) and back-arc (Ce/Yb = 20–60) regions are generally characterized by higher Ce/Yb compared to the basaltic-andesitic volcanic rocks in the main volcanic arc (Ce/Yb = 20) and back-arc (Ce/Yb = 20–30) regions. This across-arc geochemical variation highlights the contributions from the slab, mantle and crust coupled with the effects of geochemical processes that include partial melting, fractionation, magma mixing and mantle–melt interaction.