Lucena City was originally a barrio of Tayabas town, then the capital of the Province of Tayabas (now Quezon) which was explored by Captain Juan de Salcedo in 1571 & 1572. The town was founded by the Franciscan fathers, Juan de Plasencia & Diego de Oropesa between 1580 & 1583.
It was then called by the Spaniards "Buenavista" (beautiful scenic spots) because of its awe-inspiring scenic beauty.
It was then changed to "Oroquieta" in honor of the Spanish Gov-Gen. Oroquieta. Then in the 17th Century it was changed to "Cotta" meaning a strong fort because forts or cottas were built to defend it from Muslim piratical raids. Spanish records mention the existence of cottas (Tagalog: kuta) along the coast of Lucena, particularly in Cotta itself and in the Barrio of Mayao, though these structures are no longer extant. Finally, on November 5, 1897, pursuant to an Orden Real Superior Civil, the community was named "Lucena." It became an independent municipality on June 1, 1882, coinciding with the growth of local maritime trade facilitated in the Cotta port and with the final defeat of Moro pirates plying the Luzon and Visayan waters.
Popular knowledge attribute the origin of the name "Lucena" to the town of Lucena, Andalucia where the late Reverend Mariano Granja, the Franciscan pioneer parish priest was said to have earlier served (some even say that he was from this town). But according to the monumental work (Catalogo Biografico de los Religiosos Franciscanos de la Provincia de San Gregorio Magno de Filipinas), of a fellow Franciscan, Eusebio Gomez Platero, Fr. Granja was born in Paredes de Nava, diocese of Palencia, distant from Andalucia. Records also show that he had no previous post as priest of Lucena, Andalucia.
During the Philippine Revolution in 1896, the captain municipal of Lucena, Jose Zaballero, led the local revolutionaries. However, the local revolutionary government was organized by Manuel Argüelles, with José Barcelona as president. After the declaration of Philippine Independence, Gen. Malvar took over Tayabas Province on Aug. 15, 1898. Don Crisanto Marquez was elected municipal president during the first elections.
Lucena was the site of bloody struggles at the outbreak of the Filipino-American War in 1899. Upon the establishment of a civil government in the Province of Tayabas by the Americans on March 12, 1901, Lucena was made capital of the province after a bitter debate between Tayabas-born and Lucena-based officials. The decision to make Lucena as capital was primarily based on its strategic location. Unlike the former capital town (Tayabas), Lucena has access to the sea.
During WW II, Lucena was not spared from the grim realities of war at the hands of the Japanese who occupied the city on Dec. 27, 1941. Fortunately, however, the city was not devastated by the war. The Hunter ROTC guerillas succeeded in driving out the Japanese on January 25, 1945. Quezon Province was formally liberated by joint Filipino & American troops on April 4, 1945.
On June 17, 1961 by virtue of Republic Act No. 3271, sponsored by Cong. Manuel S. Enverga & Cong. Pascual Espinosa, Lucena became a chartered city. The City of Lucena was inaugurated on Aug. 20, 1962 after the occasion of the 84th birth anniversary of the late Pres. Manuel L. Quezon during Aug. 19.
Today Lucena is home to a population of 220,834 people (as of 2005) and is fast flourishing as an urban community and planning to build an Economic Zone.