Lucena City history began with the years 1571 and 1572, when Capitan Juan de Salcedo first explored the province of Tayabas. The Franciscan priests Juan de Plasencia and Diego de Oropesa between 1580 and 1583 founded its town, also named Tayabas. Lucena was just one of its barrios.
The Spaniards of the 16th century called the present site “Buenavista” because of its awe inspiring scenic beauty. Several years later, the barrio was renamed “Oroquieta”. A century later, Muslim pirates began terrorizing the entire Philippine coastline, and Oroquieta was not spared from the notorious raids. The barrio folks built forts along the seashores to defend it against the attacking pirates. Hence, the place became known as “Cotta” which is the Spanish name for “fort”.
Finally on November 5, 1879, the Orden Superior Civil officially adopted the name ‘Lucena” in honor of a Spanish friar by the name of Father Mariano Granja in Andalucia Spain. Fr. Granja was responsible for the development of the barrio that became a Parish in 1881. Lucena became an independent municipality on June 1, 1882.
During the heat of the Philippine Revolution in 1896, the people of Lucena showed their brand of patriotism. Jose Zaballero led the local revolutionists
and helps their own force under the barrage of Spanish muskets. Later, Miguel Arguilles with Jose Barcelona as President formed a revolutionary government in Lucena.
After Aguinaldo proclaimed the nation’s independence on June 12, 1898 in Kawit Cavite, Gen. Miguel Malvar, as Commanding General for Southern Luzon, took over Tayabas Province on August 15, 1898. Don Crisanto Marquez became Lucena’s first elected Municipal president during the first Philippine Republic.
Lucena’s fertile soil became soaked with the blood of many Filipinos and Americans at the outbreak of the Fil-Am War in 1899. The foreigners established a civil government in the country, and on March 12, 1901, the provincial capital was transferred from Tayabas to Lucena.
During the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial Force occupied Lucena on December 27, 1941, 19 days after they set foot on Philippine soil. But the underground resistance movement was so tenacious in Lucena that by January 25, 1945 (even before the Americans have returned), the Hunters ROTC guerillas penetrated into the town and successfully drove out the Japanese. The rest of Quezon Province (new name of Tayabas Province) had to wait for the American Liberation forces to hand freedom on April 4 of that same year.
On June 17, 1961, by virtue of Republic Act No. 3271, Lucena was made into a Chartered City through the efforts of the late Congressman Manuel S. Enverga. It was officially inaugurated on August 19, 1962, during the 84th anniversary of Manuel Luis Quezon. On July 1, 1991, Lucena became a Highly Urbanized City.