Once the only first class municipality in the province, Tuguegarao is now a component city, its conversion affirmed in a plebiscite held on December 18 1999.
Though not a big municipality in terms of area, with just 14,480 hectares in its name, Tuguegarao boasts of a very high rate of socio-economic development.
The word "tuguegarao" was developed from either of the following: "garao" (swift river current), "taraw" (a specie of palm tree whose trunk is used for many things) and "tuggui gari yao" (this was cleared by fire). The last seems plausible if interpreted to mean that the areas pointed to by the natives to the first Spaniards was a "kaingin."
The written history of Tuguegarao begins with its founding as a "mission-pueblo" on May 9, 1604, with Fray Tomas Villa, O.P. as first vicar. He initiated the construction of a temporary church with Saint Peter and Saint Paul as patron saints.
It was in 1724 when the San Jacinto Chapel, the first structure to be made of brick and mortar, was constructed by the Dominicans. Then Father Antonio Lobato, O.P. laid out and developed the straight, east-west/south-north oriented streets of Tuguegarao. And in 1761, Father Lobato started the construction of the Saint Peter's Cathedral which was finished in 1768. Father Geronimo de Zamora, O.P. was at one time parish priest of Tuguegarao. He later became Rector of the University of Santo Tomas and first president of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
The most important act the Spanish authorities made was the transfer of the provincial capital in 1839 from Lallo to Tuguegarao, in recognition of this town socio- economic progress catalyzed by the opening of the Cagayan-Manila road in November, 1738 by Fray Jose Martin.
With the provincial government came the Spanish civil and religious officials, more soldiers and the Guardia Civil. The Spanish Governors were: Don Rafael Martinez, 1886; Don Ignacio Chacon, 1890; Don Enrique Altamirano, 1894 and 1898; Don Antonio Marquez, 1895; and Don Demetrio Caminas, 1896.
During this formative period of Tuguegarao, the trend in its development was on education. In 1896, Don Vicente Nepomuceno (the man who wrote the history of Cagayan in Ybanag dialect) venture to open a school in the later part of that year. Don Ricardo Tuyuan and Don Vicente Pagalilauan were the first instructors. Spanish grammar, Latin, Greek, geography and mathematics were the subjects taught.
In 1907, the Dominicans opened another, the Colegio Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, exclusively for children, it was run by the French Religious Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres. Another school, this time for the public, was built during the term of municipal president Esteban Quinto. After further investment on educational institutions, the far-sighted Cagayanos reverted their interest to Fourth Estate. The following publications were considered reputable: El Porvenir, Don Pablo Salo's Noticiero, Don Honorio Lasam's El Voz del Pueblo or La Verdad (also published in Aparri), and Don Nicanor's Sinceridad.
The United States entered the Philippine picture when President Mc Kinley passed the initiative to the U.S. Congress on April 11, 1898. At this time, General Emilio Aguinaldo who had been living in exile in Hong Kong returned to the Philippines and led a patriotic declaration of independence from Spain. The First Philippine Republic, with Aguinaldo as President, became operative in January 1899. But almost immediate, trouble started between the United States troops and Filipinos who had grown weary of foreign colonizers.
Unites States troops led by Bachelor occupied Tuguegarao on December 12, 1899 and billeted themselves at the San Jacinto College. Colonel Hood, by wire from Washington, was appointed military governor of Cagayan, dispatched soldiers to augment Bachelor's force.
In 1902, the Filipinos were finally convinced by American assurance of Filipino self- government through peaceful means. Simultaneously, improvements in Tuguegarao were realized. The first Provincial Capitol was built during the administration of Governor Pablo Guzman. It was completed in 1909 by Governor Antonio Carag. The town hall was built during the administration of Don Antonio Soriano. The public market was built during the incumbency of Don Honorio Lasam.
The municipal board, during the administration of Governor Gracio Gonzaga, purchased the residence of George Weber, to house the provincial high school. The Cagayan Trade School was founded by Claude Andrews, an American educator. Governor Fermin Macanaya constructed the Cagayan High School building in 1922, completed by Governor Proceso Sebastian in 1923.
The peaceful life given by the Americans to the people of Tuguegarao and all Filipinos turned into chaos when Japanese forces in a simultaneous attack on the United States and the Philippines, landed in Luzon in December 8, 1944 (Immaculate Conception Day). Tuguegarao was bombed on this day.
Governor Marcelo Adduru transferred the provincial government to Tuao on December 10, 1944. The Japanese Imperial Army occupied Tuguegarao on December 12. The people evacuated the town, but returned, late in 1942 and early 1943, the Japanese occupation command appointed Nicanor Carag as Governor and Domingo Gosiengfiao as Municipal Mayor. The Kempetai (Japanese military police) instituted judgement without the benefit of any trial. Potential spies were tortured to death.
United States Air Force planes began bombing Tuguegarao in December 1944 and relentlessly continued the air raids, reducing the town to complete rubble, including the Cathedral. Early in June 1945, Filipino Guerillas entered Tuguegarao and found the Japanese had gone. Tuguegarao was officially liberated in June 25, 1945.
President Sergio Osmeña, Jr. appointed Governor Marcelo Adduru as Secretary of Labor in his cabinet, and appointed Baldomero Perez as provincial governor. After Independence, President Manuel Roxas appointed Engineer Peregrino Quinto as governor of Cagayan in the 1947 elections, Attorney Nicasio Arranz was elected governor and Dr. Venancio del Rosario, Sr. as mayor of Tuguegarao.
Worthy to mention was the holding of the Philippine Interscholastic Athletic Meet on April 9, 1949, here in Tuguegarao, which was officially opened by no less than President Elpidio Quirino.
The Provincial Capitol at Alimannao was constructed under the administration of Governor Nicasio Arranz and the provincial offices transferred to the new building in 1954 at the beginning of the administration of Governor Jose P. Carag.
Tuguegarao has been serving as the Provincial Capital of Cagayan since 1893 because of the notable socio-economic progress of the town.
In 1975, having adequate facilities and amenities aside from being the region's geographic center and having capabilities of serving as the administrative seat of government for the Region, Tuguegarao was declared the regional Capital of Region 02.