With its beginnings as a stop-over for traders who ply the road between the old Spanish fort-town of Zamboanga on the southwestern tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula and other bigger towns to the north of the old Zamboanga Province and apart from its sheltered bay and good fishing grounds, it was not a place where anyone imagined that a city would be founded on it as it is situated on steeply rolling terrain. In the course of its local history, waves of different kinds of people came to stay and eventually called among themselves "Pagadianons."
The iconic symbol of Pagadian is its uniquely designed tricycle built to adopt to the city's hilly terrain. It is the only place in the Philippines with a public transport inclined at about 25-40° angle.
Origin of the name
The city proper and surrounding areas of Muricay, Tawagan Sur and White Beach was originally named "Talpokan," an indigenous word that means "a place of numerous springs." The officially accepted origin of its name are words taken from the Iranun dialect, "pagad" (wait) and "padian" (market) which shows that Pagadian had been a trading area in the past. Other theories suggest that it was named after a bird that the native inhabitants call "Gagadian or that the city's name came from the word "Pangadyi" (Prayer), later to be known as "Pangadyian" (A place to pray or The Land of Prayers).
The native inhabitants in the area were the Subanens. Then came Muslim settlers who converted the people to Islam. A sizeable number of "lumads" who refused to be converted eventually settled in the highlands.
The early Bangsamoro settlers were under the leadership of Datu Akob, an Iranun Datu whose daughter caught the fancy of Datu Macaumbang also an Iranun (Sultan of Taga Nonok) from Malabang, Tukuran, Pagadian City and he was the son of Shariff Apo Tubo - Tubo who came from the bloodline of Shariff Kabungsuan (1st Sultan of Maguindanao Sultanate). With the approval of Sultan Datu Akob, Datu Macaumbang married Bai Putri Panyawan Akob the beautiful daughter of the Royal Datu of Pagadian City and Royal Bai Putri of Raya.
Upon the death of Datu Akob also known as "Datu Mimbalawag", his son-in-law, Datu Macaumbang (Sultan of taga Nonok) assumed leadership; he established the territorial boundaries of the present city proper, from Balangasan River in the west of Tawagan Sur River in the east. Beyond the river of Tawagan Sur was the territory of Datu Balimbingan. At one time, Datu Macaumbang requested the assistance of the Philippine constabulary due to the dreaded banditry and piracy. A detachment led by Col. Tiburcio Ballesteros stationed at Malangas landed at the place and stationed themselves at Dumagoc Island. The arrival of the soldiers restored peace and order, thereby attracting the influx of settlers from far-flung regions of the Visayas, Luzon, and, the neighboring places of Mindanao.
Spread of Christianity
Christian settlers started arriving in the early part of the 20th century, most of which came from Cebu, as evident on the veneration of the Santo Niño de Cebú. The increasing Christian population prompted the creation of the Parish of Pagadian in 1938 and was administered jointly by the Jesuits, Columban and Filipino priests. The original Sto. Niño Church of Pagadian was right across the city plaza, built on the site where the San Jose Parish church now stands; Fr. Sean Nolan,SSC served as the first parish priest. The present Sto. Niño Cathedral is now located in Santiago District and was built in 1968.
Pagadian Parish became a diocese on November 2, 1971 and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Ozamiz. Msgr. Jesus B. Tuquib served as the first bishop and was installed on February 24, 1973. At that time, the Columban Fathers took care of the apostolic services for the first 13 parishes in the newly-formed diocese.
As of 2008, the Diocese of Pagadian had 24 parishes.
The city celebrates its Annual Fiesta every third Sunday of January in honor of its patron saint, the Holy Child Jesus (Sto. Niño) which coincides with the feastday of Cebu City.