Last updated on September 30, 2019
The region of Bicol was closely allied with the Kedatuan of Madja-as confederation, which was located on Panay island. According to the Maragtas, two datus and their followers, who followed Datu Puti, arrived at Taal Lake, with one group later settling around Laguna de Bay, and another group pushing southward into the Bicol peninsula, placing the Bicolanos between people from Luzon and people from the Visayas. An ancient tomb preserved among the Bicolanos, discovered and examined by anthropologists during the 1920s, refers to some of the same deities and personages mentioned in the Maragtas.
Depiction of the visit of Governor-General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa to Nueva Caceres (present-day Naga City) in 1845.
In 1573, on his second expedition to this region, the conquistador Juan de Salcedo landed in a village and named it Naga because of the abundance of narra trees (naga in Bikol).
In 1575, Captain Pedro de Chávez, the commander of the garrison left behind by Salcedo, founded on the site of the present business centre (across the river from the original Naga) a Spanish city which he named La Ciudad de Cáceres, in honor of Francisco de Sande, the governor-general and a native of the city of Cáceres in Spain. It was by this name that it was identified in the papal bull of August 14, 1595, which established the see of Cáceres, together with those of Cebú and Nueva Segovia, and made it the seat of the new bishopric under the archdiocese of Manila.
In time, the Spanish city and the native village merged into one community and became popularly known as Nueva Cáceres, to distinguish it from its namesake in Spain. It had a city government as prescribed by Spanish law, with an ayuntamiento and cabildo of its own. At the beginning of the 17th century, there were only five other ciudades in the Philippines. Nueva Cáceres remained the capital of the Ambos Camarines provinces and later of the Camarines Sur province until the formal creation of the independent chartered city of Naga under the Philippine Republic.
For hundreds of years during the Spanish colonial era, Naga grew to become the center of trade, education, and culture, and the seat of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Bicol.