I use Laravel because it has integrated unit testing that making TDD a breeze. Having a View (Blade engine) making me easier to work without too many efforts in front-end.
I do recommend going into the root of programming once getting stable on any framework. Go beyond Symfony, go beyond PHP, go into the roots to the mother of programming; c++, c, smalltalk, erlang OTP. Understand the fundamental principle of abstraction.
A framework is just a framework, it helps in getting feedback quickly; like practicing dancing in front of a mirror. Getting fundamentals right is the one true key in doing it right. Programming is not hard, but abstract-programming is extremely hard.
I use Laravel because right now it's really hard to find someone using native PHP without a framework. Also learning a framework easier than native for newcomers. Also; I was not supporting frameworks before but after start developing a core with one I saw i can find many new people for the projects.