The Municipality of Monkayo was part of the wilderness of the northern frontier of the old Davao province and the southern fastnesses of the Agusan and Surigao provinces.
The name Monkayo is believed to have been derived from the name of a gigantic tree towering over the Tandawan mountains adjoining a portion of the Agusan river. Natives called the tree the Mondabon Kayo or Mondabon tree. Through the years the name was shortened to Monkayo by the first settlers.
In another version, folks believe the first missionary priest assigned in the territory, Fr. Ladour, christened the area Monkayo for his hometown in Spain to give a historical perspective to his missionary work in this part of the world.
The origin of the name notwithstanding, Monkayo has officially existed for more than 90 years and has underwent significant socio-cultural and political gains since then that transformed it into a flourishing and progressive community with a stable investment climate.
Monkayo has been the home of indigenous peoples dominated by the Mandaya alongside the Manobo, Mansaka, Manguangan and Dibabawon. The natives led a primitive way of life and subsisted on kaingin farming, hunting, and fishing long before Spanish conquistadores penetrated deep into Mindanao in the middle part of the eighteenth century.
Each tribal group was led by a bagani (warrior). They wore clothing and used bladed weapons and bows and arrows for hunting and tribal wars.
They sang hymns called “Tudom” and long narrative songs called “Owaging”. Like other tribal Filipinos, they have their own dances, rituals, and feasts. Like other indigenous peoples, they chew beetle nuts.
The arrival of Spanish missionaries changed many of the tribes’ old ways. Many were receptive to Christian teachings and embraced Christianity.
Today Monkayo hosts a major concentration of the province’s Mandaya. The other tribes either left Monkayo or went deeper into the mountains and neighbouring municipalities.
Monkayo became a municipal district in 1917 headed by a district president. The first local appointed was Adolfo Mongado, the first Mandayan educator who served from 1917-1925. After Mongado came Ignacio Cervantes (1926-1933), Ildefonso Labrador (1934-1935), and Pedro Aroma (1936-1937). The position was renamed district mayor in 1938.
The first district mayor was Jose Ibañez (1938-1939). He was followed by Feliciano Cervantes who held the position from 1940 up to the end of World War II. Monkayo was an important military outpost in World War II. The 81st Military Division under the command of Col. Kangleon was set up in the Poblacion and was named Camp Kalaw.
On September 4, 1954, Monkayo became a municipality through Presidential Executive Order No. 65 issued by then President Ramon Magsaysay. Its first appointed mayor was Angelo Ortiz (September 1954-October 1955. The first elected mayor of Monkayo was Severino Lacson (January 1956-November 1964).
Monkayo is composed of 21 barangays. It is a first class municipality inhabited by the Cebuano, Boholano, Ilongo, Waray, Muslim, Ilocano, Tagalog, Zamboangueño, and the Mandaya.
The municipality is projected to have a population of 139,919 in 2010, increasing its density to 202 per square kilometer.
Manuel B. Brillantes, Jr. is the present mayor of Monkayo. He was elected in 2001. He was reelected in the 2007 and 20120 elections.