In 1578, Fray Juan de Plasencia and Fray Diego de Oropesa, two Franciscan missionaries from Spain founded the town of Tayabas in order to spread Christianity to its natives. Prior to the occupation, however, the native Tayabenses lived in rural settings typical to those times, with barangays headed by village chiefs and councils of elders. During this time, ancestral stones and rocks that the people believed to be homes of nature spirits were turned to stone crosses due to the influx of Christianity. These rocks were worshiped by Tayabas ancestors as deities or gods. These stone crosses exist up to this day, however, many have been stolen, uprooted, sold and destroyed due to the belief of foreign treasure hunters that each cross contains treasures. Historians and archaeologists have disproved these claims by treasure hunters and have found no treasure in any archaic stone crosses in Tayabas. The destruction and uprooting of these crosses has endangered the stone cross tradition of Tayabas.

From 1605 to 1901, Tayabas was the capital of the Province of Tayabas, now known as Quezon. In the 19th century, Tayabas was among the biggest towns in the country. Its Minor Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, which was enlarged in the mid-1850s, is the longest church in the country and is a lasting testament to its glorious and historic past.

In more than three centuries of Spanish occupation, only eight cities and towns were given the title of Villa, and Tayabas was one of them. These are La Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus de Cebu in 1565, La Villa de Santiago de Libon (Albay, 1573), La Villa Fernandina de Vigan (Ilocos, 1574), La Villa Rica de Arevalo (Iloilo, 1581), La Noble Villa de Pila (Laguna, 1610), La Muy Noble Villa de Tayabas (Tayabas, 1703), La Villa de Bacolor (Pampanga, 1765), La Villa de Lipa (Batangas, 1887). Tayabas was given the title of ‘most noble’ villa which means it was put in the ranks of nobility.

In the book “The Philippines”, written by French traveler Jean Baptiste Mallat, and published in 1846, it appears that Tayabas had more than 21,000 people at that time. This was reduced to 16,000 when Lucena became an independent town in 1879. Due to low population growth during the Spanish period, this number remained unchanged until the coming of the Americans.

During the Philippine Revolution, a Spanish garrison occupying the massive church and convent buildings was besieged by Miguel Malvar’s forces from June 15, 1898 to August 15, 1898, exactly 2 months, for which it was forced to surrender.

Tayabas is at the center of the province’s long-settled heartland, which possessed the best lands, the oldest parishes, and the most active commercial centers. The provincial heartland was described by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon as having the “richest and gayest places in the province.”

Tayabas has many places of interest. Its Casa Comunidad, a centuries-old building, is the place where Apolinario “Hermano Pule” Dela Cruz was tried and sentenced to death in 1841. It was restored in the 1990s through funds donated by the “Friends of Casa Comunidad,” an organization of affluent Manila-based Tayabenses.

Its numerous Spanish-era bridges mirror its rich architectural past. Two of the longest are the Malagonlong and the Malaoa bridges. Malagonlong’s high arches and its solid design are some of the reasons why it was declared a national historical site. It is so strong that it withstood the dynamites planted there to stop the Japanese advance during World War II.

Tayabas suffered a terrible blow near the end of World War II when it was completely burned to the ground after a bombing raid on March 15, 1945. Prior to that, the old houses of Tayabas rivaled those of Vigan’s Spanish-era structures.