Compostela Valley: Province of natural wonders

Monday, 13 September 2010 08:00
Despite what you may have read in newspapers and seen on your television sets, Compostela Valley – more popularly known as Comval – is a haven.  As a tourist destination, it’s blessed with nature’s magnificent work of art. It brims with natural attractions like beaches, waterfalls, forests, mountain ranges, caves, lakes, rivers, hot and cold springs.  Name it, the province has it!
Government officials believe in marketing tourism responsibly.  “We want our guests and visitors to explore and revel in nature’s finest without destroying the environment,” says Comval tourism officer Christine T. Dompor.
“Their choices within the province are almost limitless,” she adds. “We believe that we have something that caters to everyone’s enthusiasm – all waiting for the adventurous spirit in you.”
No wonder, the province is being promoted as an eco-adventure destination.  Once you are in, you will understand why its tourism tagline is “Conquering Compostela Valley.”  At one time, a travel writer described the province as “rough, rugged, and mostly undeveloped” – but these are qualities that attract the pioneering, adventurous, and bold who travel off the beaten path.
The newest province of the Davao region, Comval lies in the mid-eastern section of Mindanao and has a total land area of 4,666.93 square kilometers.  It is bounded by Agusan del Sur n the north, Davao Oriental in the east and south, Davao Gulf in the southwest, and Davao del Norte in the west and northwest.
Although the province is touted to be a valley, at least three towns are located near the shores: Maco, Mabini, and Pantukan.  Mabini, being the center of the three municipalities, has the most number of beach resorts, including Beach View, Manaklay Beach Park, Centro Beach Resort, and Berioso Beach Resorts I and II.  In Pantukan, the two most noted resorts are Wellborn’s and Magnaga Waters.
Each resort has its own way of attracting guests and visitors.  Bern Berioso, for instance, is not only for swimming but also has a function hall that reminds one of a ship.  At the Welborn’s Beach Resort, the sea bed is flat and there are no stones or coral that make barefoot walking dangerous.
Beach View Resort has the most modern cosmopolitan bar among the beach resorts and offers exotic food and beverages.   It is the nearest access to the wonderful 95-hectare Kopiat Island, which is about 300 meters away from the resort.
Kopiat Island has clear and calm waters, which are ideal for a range of water sports activities.  It has wide sections of shorelines blanketed by fine white sand.  In addition, it has unspoiled reef areas with rare beds that serve as sanctuaries for exotic tropical fish and other aquatic resources like endangered marine turtles.
Not far from Kopiat Island is Lunod Island (also known as Saint Anthony Island), whose 17-hectare area is covered with lush mangrove forests.  A motorized banca ride is about 15 minutes away the Mabini coastline.   The island is an ideal marine life sanctuary and eco-tourism park; it is a haven for scientific researches.  “At night, the place turns into a magical wonder as the whole area is lighted with fireflies,” says Ms. Dompor.
If you have had enough of beaches and islands, try going to the town of Mawab up in barangay Mainit whose steaming waterfall is a sight to behold.  There is a cottage that offers rest for visitors who want to take a dip in the therapeutic steaming warm water fed by tiny rivulets oozing out from the earth’s crust high above rocky ledges.  This place is not known outside of the province as it has not been promoted so well.
Over an hour travel from Mawab is the municipality of Maco.  In the highland barangay of New Leyte, you get a glimpse of Lake Leonard, a caldera of Mount Leonard Kniasseff, one of the 22 active volcanoes in the country whose last eruption was reported in the second century A.D.  The 200-hectare lake was used before as a dumping ground for mining wastes fro the Amakan copper extraction of the North Davao Mining Company from the 80’s until it ceased operation in the early 90’s.
If you’re looking for more adventure, proceed to Maragusan.  This summer capital of the Davao region is home to 30 majestic waterfalls and 300 cold springs and two hot springs.  Its lake is situated about 7,800 feet above sea level.  Its total land area of 39,427 hectares is typhoon-free as it is surrounded by mountain ranges, home to the world’s largest individual flower, Rafflesia magnifica.  Not to forget are its bananas which have an atypical sort of sweetness!
One of its famous waterfalls is the Tagbibinta Falls in barangay Coronobe.  It has a series of seven falls, the first one measuring approximately 70 feet in height.  “The falls was named as such because the place used to be the business center,” said Dennis B. Radin, the town’s tourism officer.
Other noted falls are Marangig, Pyalitan, Miyaya, Pyagabunan, Manabas, Tarago, Maputi, Lahi, Mabuganao, Kyalinawan, Kolon, Kasigpitan, Gipadpalan, and Tangcalao. “However, some of these falls are too far to visit,” Radin said.
Comval is known for its gold.  It all started in 1983 when a Mandaya tribal elder struck gold in Mount Diwalwal.  Today, Monkayo, the site of Mount Diwalwal, is the most populous town in the province and is considered the socio, economic, political and cultural hub of Comval.  (For trivia fanatics: In 2007, Hollywood actor Josh Hartnett filmed scenes of an independent movie, I Come with the Rain, in the mining area).
Since gold made Comval famous, it is but fitting to pay tribute to the famous metal.  On the 10th anniversary of the province, the provincial government launched the Bulawan Festival to drum up its aim to be the Jewelry Capital of the Philippines. (Bulawan is the local dialect for gold.)
Nabunturan, the province’s capital, is home to the country’s biggest gold ring.  The 18-carat, two-toned Solidarity Ring measures five inches in diameter, weighs 1.3 kilos and is housed in a glass case with its own guard at the provincial capitol. Local officials, miners, and private individuals from Comval and Davao del Norte reportedly donated gold to forge the ring.
Nabunturan, by the way, is touted to be the Spelunking Capital of the province.  Its claim to fame: San Vicente Cave, which boasts of unique stalactite and stalagmite formations.  However, only four caves are open to the public.
Another must-visit for those love caving is the town of Laak.  According to some reports, more than 100 caves can be found in the municipality.  Recently, the speleological society of Davao City visited some of the caves, thus making Laak a potential caving destination for tourists.
How to get there? Comval is accessible by air, land, and sea transportation.  Davao City, 979 kilometers from Manila, is the gateway to the province. On arriving at the airport, take a taxi or a bus ride to the Davao City Overland Transport Terminal in Ecoland to board a bus to Nabunturan, the capital town, 90 kilometers away and a two-hour ride. In Nabunturan, vou can transfer to any public utility vehicle for another ride to any destination in the province.
Single motorcycles and/or habal-habal, locally-known as skylab, are available in any major point of the province.  Here’s what you need to know about this special means of transportation: “A skylab is a single motorcycle with added contraptions not unlike the wings of an airplane to carry additional passengers.  It has a roof to protect passengers from the rain or the sun and can carry up to ten passengers.  It is also not unlike a flying seesaw where passengers are treated to an exhilarating ride as the motorcycle careens up and down rocky roads and climbs slopes, allowing you to view the chasm below and the vista beyond.”