Laag ta Compostela Valley Province
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ComVal’s hidden treasures… islands to the highlands Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

          IN 1983 a Mandaya gold prospector stumbled on a big find in Mt. Diwata, Monkayo in the northeast of the then Davao province and what is Compostela Valley today.

          The find led to the discovery of one of the biggest gold deposits in the country and in Asia, spurred a mad rush from all over the country of adventurers, fortune-hunters, prospectors, and ordinary folk who dream of cashing in on the wealth of the mountain, to the mineral-rich highland.

         The gold rush gave Mt. Diwata a new name, Mt. Diwalwal, literally describing the    tongue’s uncontrollable hanging condition as a result of the extraneous efforts of the panting miner negotiating the steep hills and canyons and braving strong river current while hunting for potential gold fields. 

          The gold rush gradually petered out more than two decades later.

          The treasure is still there, deep within the bosom of Mt. Diwalwal and the other mountains and plains of Compostela Valley.

          The treasure of the valley is not all gold, though.

          It is also its untapped wilderness from the coastal towns of Maco, Mabini and Pantukan to the towering misted mountains of Maragusan and New Bataan.

          It is forests and strange wildlife, rushing rivers and placid lakes, thundering waterfalls, labyrinthine caves, and sulfuric springs.  

          It is the elusive rafflesia mira, the spitting banakon cobra, the enchanted mountain lake of Kandalaga and the myth-shrouded island of Lunod, the endangered monkey-eating eagle, the durian, a ride on board the land-based skylab, and a tunnel exploration.

          It is rich culture, customs, and traditions.


Comval’s corridor charms

         It is advisable to take off from Nabunturan in the early morning hours to savour the adventure along the Mawab-Maragusan-New Bataan-Compostela-Montevista-Monkayo-Nabunturan eco-corridor.

        This is in fact the second tourist corridor, an eco-adventure journey to the heart of Compostela Valley.

         Species of pre-historic giant ferns compete with ancients forests. A tropical green wall drapes the hill slopes on one side of the winding old well-traversed roads, and trails and steep ravines on the other, plunging hundreds of metres into snaking rivers below.

         The first stop is the Mainit hot spring. A large cottage offers rest before the visitor takes a dip into the therapeutic steaming warm water fed by tiny rivulets oozing out from the earth’s crust high above rocky ledges.

         At several points along Maco’s Panoraon-New Leyte narrow dirt road carved on the hillsides, mining tunnel adits dot the slopes.

         The undulating road ends at Lake Leonard, a small lake formed from the crater of an ancient volcano and below the mining village of New Leyte. Rare butterflies can be found around it. Bulrushes grow profusely from the banks of the lake whose waters host schools of healthy tilapia and other freshwater denizens. A concrete open building on a short promontory serves as a resting place.



        The trip along the dirt road to Maragusan traverses the highlands and offers a view of the lush forest walls, dizzying mountain crevices, sheer drops into rushing rivers, and exotic flora.

        Maragusan is Compostela Valley’s well-kept secret, nestled on the valley of the province’s highest mountains.

        From Maragusan to New Bataan natural wonders never cease.

The Mt. Tagub-Mt. Manurigao-Mt. Kandalaga range is an unexplored pristine world of nature.

        From the mountain range 30 waterfalls cascade, some of the best in Davao region, falling from scores of metres to almost a kilometer below and from one ledge to scores of ledges.

       The most well-known are Kandalaga’s Tagbibinta, Marangig, and Py’alitan falls, New Bataan’s Malumagpak, Compostela’s Kumaykay, and Monkayo’s Magdagandang.

The three peaks are sites of national, regional, and local annual mountain climbs and nature watch during the Holy Week and October.

Visit Maragusan between September and October to join the annual Rafflesia Watch, the watch for the blossoming of the species of the world’s biggest flower.

       The municipality sits 2,099 feet above sea level. Because of its geographical location, its veritable wall of mountains, and lush forests, Maragusan feeds the headwaters of six major rivers of eastern and southeastern Mindanao – the mighty Agusan that flows hundreds of kilometers downstream into Butuan Bay, the Caraga and Lupon rivers of next door Davao Oriental, the Masara and Hijo rivers of Maco and Davao del Norte, Manat river of Nabunturan, and Kingking river of Pantukan.     

        As a result of these vast natural bounties, Maragusan became the home of the Mansaka tribe, the second major ethnic population of the rich valley.

        A three-day hike will take you to the mountains of Bahi. You will find a community of the Mansaka whose rich culture, customs, and traditions have remained intact and undiluted by the pressures of modern influences. The fastness hosts the one-hectare enchanted mountain Lake of Kampalili where the visitor is cautioned from making loud sound at its approach to avoid disturbing the spirits that dwell there in peace and silence.

        Another Mansaka tribe, as well as a community of Manguangans, continues to keep their cultural heritages in the mountains of Manurigao in New Bataan.

        Accomodations are not a problem in Maragusan or New Bataan. Inland resorts provide cold and hot springs for swimming or bathing and cottages surrounded by forests.



        A skylab is a single motorcycles with added contraptions not unlike the wings of an airplane. It has a roof above to protect the passenger 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 a view of the chasm below and the vista beyond.

        Skylabs are the means of transportation to villages inaccessible by four-wheel drives. They are normal modes in Montevista and Monkayo where villages are tucked in upland nooks and dirt roads wind on the sides of mountains.

        It is not a ride for the uninitiated. The faint-hearted may settle for a trisikad ride in Compostela and absorb the sights, smells, and sounds of an urbanized community.

        The skylab may also take you to a rough ride to Mt. Diwalwal via Monkayo, some 20 kilometres from the poblacion. A moderate type of skylab sans the seesaw features, the humble habal-habal, is also available. It may be the best means of transport to negotiate the uphill and abrupt downhill, winding and twisting narrow dirt road to the gold-rich and jewelry centre village formerly dubbed the “wild, wild west”.

         The hills of Diwalwal are pockmarked with tunnels that go all the way to and crisscross the bowels of the earth for that fleck of gold. Houses and hovels, makeshift shelters and concrete buildings sit precariously, side by side, on small ledges carved from the hillsides.

        Tunnel tours are available, one of the unique tourism offers of Compostela Valley. For precaution, a guide will brief the visitors on what to wear and how to go about the tunnel tour.

         The visitor is advised to complete the tour before sundown. Night descends fast here so he or she must leave the village as early as four o’clock in the afternoon for the two-hour ride back to poblacion and onward to Nabunturan.

         You may refresh yourself in any of the lodging houses like ComVal Hotel just along the national highway in the capital town or proceed to Toyozu Hot Spring Resort for a wellness and overnight rest.

         If you prefer to take your rest in Tagum City, take the P30 bus ride or proceed with your car. But stop at Bibingka City in New Sibonga, some six to seven kilometers from town. Or stop at the highway fruit stands of Mawab along the national highway to taste the province’s delectable products. Then, off to Tagum City.


         The corridor offers spelunking trips to some of the hundreds of caves of Compostela Valley. The ideal ones are the Mahayahay cave of Mawab near the border with Davao del Norte, the San Vicente cave of Nabunturan, and the Kumbilan-Casoon cave of Mon kayo. Then there is Bongloy cave in Sisimon, Laak. It is so far the only known and recorded untouched cave in the province.

The resort corridor

         The most convenient route to Compostela Valley’s shoreline municipalities is via Tagum City.

         First stop is Maco, some 17 kilometers away. The other two towns of the resort corridor are Mabini and Pantukan. The shoreline from Maco to Pantukan is dotted with excellent beach resorts.

        For example Mabini has the Omandac Beach Resort, Manaklay Beach Park & Resort, Beach View Resort, Manaklay Beach, Sentro Beach, Jark/Casilac Beach, Mampising CARP Beneficiaries Coop. Inc. (MCBCI), White Beach Resort, Tortuga Valley Plantations, Inc. (TVPI), Batiano Beach, Ybals Beach Resort, Mangrove Cafè,  and Tagnanan Beach.

        Off the coasts are Kopiat Island and the mythical island of Lunod or St. Anthony Island.

        Lush mangrove forests cover almost the whole island’s 17-hectare Lunod island. It is a 15-minute motorized banca ride from the coast.

        Pantukan has  Lawigan Beach Resorts 1,2, & 3, Arrow Mines View & Paraiso Beach Resort, Matiao Beach Resort, Bislig Beach Resort, Magnaga Waters, Gloria Beach, Salvosa Falls, Lahi Hot Spring, Arancon Beach, Cocobarn Beach, Pajo Beach, Rey Uy Beach Resort, Lanipao Hill Complex (convention facility), and Via Veritas Et Vita Seminar House.

Laak, special tourist corridor

        Laak is the largest municipality of Compostela Valley. Due to its almost isolated location, it is targeted to be a special tourist corridor.

        It has the most number of rivers at nine and one magnificent lake, Lake Buhi. Plans are afoot to tap the municipality’s vast forest resources. The plans include the setting up of a tree park and wildlife sancturary and to become a centre for scientific research and studies.

        But that is in the future. For now, Laak is open to any visitor for backpack walks along native trails through its forests and mountains.

How to get to Compostela Valley

        From Butuan City or Surigao City, take any of the air-condition or non-air-condition 24-hour bus ride. The fare is PhP1.00 per kilometer. After a less than 300-kilometre comfortable ride, you will arrive at the sprawling bus terminal of Nabunturan, the capital of Compostela Valley.

        The usual access though is from Davao City, 90 kilometres away from Nabunturan or at least a two-hour ride by bus and less than that by car. You may stop in Tagum City, 30 kilometres from Nabunturan for refreshment or overnight lodging. It is only a 30-45-minute ride to the valley.

        All trips to any destination begin in the capital town. From there different buses, single motorcycles, and passenger jeepneys will take you to any destination in the province at pre-arranged fare rates. (J.P. Abayon/PGO-Tourism Services Section)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
Caldera Lake Leonard Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

          More than 1,800 years ago or some 200 years after the Christian Era, a cataclysmic shifting of the subterranean Philippine-Pacific plates beneath a dormant stratovolcano in what is now the Amakan-New Leyte highlands of Maco in Compostela Valley sent shock waves out of the bowels of the earth that transformed the pent-up energy into a massive destructive force equivalent to scores of hydrogen bombs.


          The subsequent massive explosion regurgitated molten rocks and pyroclastic debris, shooting above and flowing down and out and gave birth to what are today the mineral-rich forested hills and fertile valleys straddling the Masara district.


          Centuries after that gigantic explosion, physical signs remain in the form of a steaming sulfuric waterfall in Brgy. Mainit, the emerald serene waters of caldera Lake Leonard, the hilltop crater at Amakan, and rich mineral deposition that attracted gold-hungry companies right after the first quarter of the 20th century.


          It was not the first eruption of this ancient volcano, one of some 22 active Philippine volcanoes forming part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.


          For centuries afterwards rain and sun weathered the barren landscape and slowly, life returned to what it was before the explosion. Forests blossomed and carpeted the valleys, hills, and mountains. Wildlife and biodiversity thrived. Soon, humans ventured into its confines and discovered a rich land fringed by heavily forested hills and valleys teeming with food.


          The first recorded human presence was that of the Mansaka tribe, who may have fled further into the highlands of what is now Compostela Valley to escape depredations from Moslem incursions and later, Spanish adventurism in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and settled in isolated communities not far from the wide tranquil lake they called danaw or linao and over the hills where cold mountain springs mixed downside with the steaming waters of sulfuric hot springs spewed from earth vents and cascaded as a rushing hot sulfuric waterfall.


          Decades later came the logging and mining companies and the itinerant migrants from Luzon and the Visayas who, between them, cut, hewed, and stripped the forests, bulldozed and mined the hills, and built farms amidst the rich wilderness of the valley.


Crocodile Lake


         Before its present name, Lake Leonard was known as crocodile lake. Mansaka folk legend spoke of the presence of the dreaded reptilian species that teemed on its shores and sowed fears among the tribal communities before the poisonous mine wastes dumped by mining operations into the huge pool killed them off. The legend also spoke of a Mansaka crocodile hunter named Habana whose exploits in the 1960s confirmed the presence of crocodiles on the banks of the serene lake waters.


         P.H. Ortega, Jr., personnel manager of Inco Mining, predecessor of the Apex Exploration and Mining Company, whose start-up copper mining operations in 70s to 80s had made Masara a boom mining village, 5 kilometres west of New Leyte, further confirmed the presence of a thriving community of crocodiles by the “hundreds of thousands” around the lake marshes.


Leonard Kniaseff

         Ortega said the caldera was later named Lake Leonard in honour of Leonard Kniaseff, a mining prospector, who became the first general superintendent of Samico when the company opened its Masara mining operations after the war.


         The writer said Kniazeff stumbled on the lake while he was prospecting for minerals in the 1930’s within a 15-kilometre radius of his base in pre-war Davao Gold Mines based in Hijo.


         As late as 1940, the Census Atlas of the Philippines had not mentioned the lake in its list of lakes found then in Mindanao.  Its first official existence was subscribed in the US Army Map, Series 711, compiled in 1956 from the 1947 to 1953 photograph entries of the Bureau of Construction and Geodetic Survey of the Dept. of Public Highways.


         Following Kniazeff’s death in 1952, Alfred G. Vellguth, Samico director and operations staff of Davao Gold Mine named the lake Leonard as a tribute to the mining prospector.


The tragedy of Lake Leonard


          Mt. Leonard Kniazeff rises 1,190 metres or 3,904 feet above sea level. It lays serene on the basin of a wide fertile valley flanked by the highlands of the municipalities of Maco, Mawab, and Maragusan. 


         A stratovolcano, it last erupted in 120 AD take or minus 100 years. The Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) describes Mt. Leonard Kniazeff as an active volcano.


          The area of the lake alternately expanded and shrank with time and man’s interventions. Its width varied from 11 hectares and a basin of about 194 hectares to 18 hectares in the 1970s.

The basin gradually expanded to some 210 hectares following the operation of North Davao Mining Corporation (NDMC) until its pullout in 1992.


          From 1981 until it stopped operation, NDMC dumped into the basin thousands of tons of toxic tailings and wastes from its Amakan strip mining that killed the lake.


          In the wake of the transformation of the lake into the mining company’s waste pond, the barangay New Leyte community that developed in the lake’s fertile basin relocated to the uplands.

          Residents claimed the caldera lake further doubled its size when a disastrous flashflood hit Amakan river on October 10, 1980 that left 200 deaths and hundreds homeless, two years before NDMC started full operation..


            Today only echoes of the NDMC heydays remain, haunting the width and breadth of its abandoned territory five kilometers from Lake Leonard. (By Jimmy P. Abayon - PGO-Tourism Services Section)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
Transportation and Tourism Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

         Right after Arturo T. Uy was elected governor of Compostela Valley in May 2007, he reorganized the province’s tourism office into an investment-driven arm.

         Aware of the significance of a viable transportation industry in the growth of tourism, appointed tourism officer Dompor enhanced the office’s linkages with local transport groups and identified their weaknesses and strengths. Through this, she hoped to mobilize the transport groups - from the habal-habal to Montevista’s skylabs to passenger mini-vans to the buses - into a major tourism stakeholder.

         But she needed data, those that would immediately translate into action by the community. The tourism officer believe the academic sector could help at the same time  recognize the research study as an official product of their students with its corresponding awarded academic units.

        The USEP-Compostela Valley accepted the challenge and approved the action research study approach in place of the thesis required of graduating students.

         At that time, the USEP-Compostela graduating students in BS Management were Angelei R. Evangelista, Princess M. Fernandez, Ana Rose L. Goniabo, Rene Joseph P. Abarquez, Leah Fe O. Parantar, Jeremias M. Lacson, Jr., Dave V. Damalerio, Gerlie E. Quintos, Grace S. Jamaquilan

Lina Mae B. Paderes, Analiza I. Panimdim, Glenn T. Guillano, Lailanie M. Amoguis, Melanie S. Milay, Jasper John T. Espada, Jasmine Louise P. Colong, Beverly Jane V. Parajele, and Jojie mae T. Cerenio


The Findings

         The research on the quality of bus services in Compostela Valley began in January and its findings were assessed and evaluated for presentation  by the end of February. Its purpose was to promote a sustainable transportation development through a community-based approach. It focused on three issues: the environment, socio-cultural-political, and economic.

         Diboa begins its first trip at 3:00 in the morning daily and ends it at 4:00 pm. Metro Shuttle  leaves its base at 3:30 am. Its last trip is 6:00 pm.

         Seven percent of the respondents travel by bus daily, 27.5 percent once a month, and 19 percent once a week. The majority or 46.5 percent seldom travel via bus.

         The overriding concern centered on the bus preferences of the 200 respondents and why. Of the total number of respondents 114 were female and 86 were male. In terms of age 65 percent were 31 years old and below and 59 percent were married.

         Majority or 57.5 percent of the respondents prefer Metro Shuttle to Diboa for several reasons. More than half  expressed  frustration with Diboa buses’ many stop-overs and overstaying in every terminal. As well, Diboa has no air-conditioned buses compared to that of Metro Shuttle. Other concerns raised were bad odor inside some of the local buses, discourteous or rude bus personnel, untidy driver or conductor, and overcrowding.

          In terms of cost and quality, 41 percent said quality of service follows low cost fare and 39 percent are not bothered by the higher fare of Metro Shuttle because of its “good quality service”.

Metro Shuttle collects P155 per passenger from Compostela to Davao for an air con bus and P120 for the non-aircon. Diboa collects only P100.

          The researchers recommends that the local government must pass ordinances to, among others, impose penalties on bus operators that do not observe the solid waste management law, passenger overcrowding, disallowing many stop-overs, and the issuance of bus tickets. The local government must also regularly monitor the sanitation of the bus terminal and the buses as well as the hygiene of  bus personnel.

          For the local buses, the researchers recommend  that operators should monitor daily the cleanliness of their buses before they depart, improve their facilities, avoid overcrowding, observe departure time, extend their trip schedules, and change their old units that emit thick black smoke.

          Compostela Municipal Councilor Teofilo Arcales, one of the two remaining operators of Diboa, admits the shortcomings of the association. He said the lapses were already known to them. Moreover, the councilor said, he has already reminded the operators about the system’s defects. The operators, he said, have delegated the operation of Diboa to other people because of their other business concerns.

          On the other hand, Arcales said, Diboa will continue to “survive” if only to provide a cheaper fare alternative to the people of Compostela. 

        Evelyn believes there is still hope for Diboa to arrest the erosion of  its passenger base. The solution must come within the group itself and intervention from the local legislative council, she says. (Jimmy P. Abayon/PGO-Tourism ComVal)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
Transport group struggle to survive – innovative research Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

          COMPOSTELA, Compostela Valley (March 29) -- Evelyn, 19, rides a bus every Sunday to Tagum City where she is studying and taking a course on business management in one of the tertiary academic institutions there. She regularly goes home to Compostela, a sprawling town in Compostela Valley, every Saturday morning if her class schedule permits.

          She seldom rides one of the cheaper fare buses of the Davao Integrated Bus Operators Association (Diboa) because she can not stand the unkempt and smelly condition of some of its units as well as the discourteous and at times, rude, attitude of some of its workers and non-observance of regulations on waste disposal. She usually takes a Metro Shuttle bus which operates a Tagum City-New Bataan route in traveling to and from the city, some 60 kilometres away.

          Mostly, she is in a hurry and taking a Diboa bus almost always worsens her frustration of arriving in Tagum City late because some of its buses do not observe fixed schedules and stop over several times to pick up passengers overcrowded or not.

          Evelyn is only one of some 200 people surveyed by a group of graduating students of the University of South Eastern Philippines (USEP) in the municipality of Compostela, province of Compostela Valley. The survey is an extension and community-linkage project of the Provincial Governor’s Office-Tourism Services Section (PGO-TSS) of Compostela Valley to study the transportation condition prevalent in the province.

          Christine T. Dompor, provincial tourism officer and holder of a master’s degree in public administration, explained the study is a pioneering attempt on action research she learned during her three-month scholarship study on community-based tourism in Japan last year.

          “I would have settled for the conventional system of doing research like that for thesis or dissertation. But I find the system too time-consuming, too academic and theoretical, and will take months or, in many cases, years to finish. It is very costly for struggling students in communities. In the tourism business, we need action…and fast…so we can put in reforms within a certain time frame.

         “We need research results that are realistic without the usual lengthy discourses and padded feasibility studies.  That’s why I find the action research study the better approach if we want research studies to be of use to real life. It is very practical, applicable, and realistic because it promises direct social change,” Ms. Dompor further explained.

         And the survey by the 18 USEP graduating management students promises just that.

King of the Road

         Diboa blasted into the transport scene of Compostela with a fleet of 120 buses in 1975. It was practically the acknowledged King of the Road and penetrated the inland municipalities of the swath of land of Davao province for as long as the roads were passable.

         That Diboa surfaced in Compostela was unsurprising and a given. Compostela has always been  the trade and commercial hub of what is now Compostela Valley. It is also where townsmen who have amassed wealth prefer to invest resources to their community to investing outside. So it was natural that five local families set up their transportation business and subsequently organized themselves into a monopoly.

         For three decades Diboa dominated the transport industry of Compostela Valley province and the Compostela Valley-Tagum-Davao passenger traffic. But along the way, some of its basic services deteriorated, older buses were allowed to rot, and the serviceable ones were not upgraded. This  was caused perhaps by the indifference of its operators lulled by the easy confidence that it was the only mass means of travel to and from the interior of the province. Gradually, from a fleet of 120 and five operators, the once mammoth Diboa reduced to only 20 buses and two operators with another operator servicing only the Compostela-Cateel, Davao Oriental route.

         The last of the several remaining nails to the coffin of the former mighty transport monopoly came in 2006 when Davao Metro Shuttle opened a Davao-Tagum-Monkayo-New Bataan route. It was the end of  the once-proud King of the Road. Nevertheless, with its remaining buses, it refused to give up the ghost. (By Jimmy P. Abayon - PGO-Tourism Services Section)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
DOT-XI pushes turtle plan for ComVal beach resort Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

          MABINI, Compostela Valley (May 12) – Tourism regional director Sonia Garcia pushed for the adoption of a turtle conservation plan along the beaches of Compostela Valley and the island of Kopiat to protect  the rare and endangered marine creature  which breeds in the Mabini protected seascape  of Davao gulf.

          Garcia was speaking at the opening of the new cosmopolitan bar of Beach View Resort in Pindasan, Mabini and the 2nd summer beach festival of Compostela Valley on May 8 where she was the guest speaker.

          The festival, an annual summer sports project of the province’s association of hotels and resorts, the provincial fitness and sports council, and the provincial tourism was launched successfully last year with a series of beach sports events including  water volleyball.

          “It’s high time that Comval took advantage of its coastline to promote its ecotourism program and to join the advocacy to conserve the rare turtle species that have made the coasts and the nearby Kopiat and Lunod islands their spawning ground,” Garcia said.

           Impressed by the investment Beach View Resort has poured into its operations, the tourism director said the resort could enhance its growth further by embracing a turtle conservation advocacy program that would tap the endangered species as an icon.

          Garcia said Beach View Resort, founded in 1991 initially as a private  resort of the Omandac family, could organize a tour package that will feature a turtle exhibit, beachcombing and monitoring the turtle breeding grounds of Kopiat island, and a fireflies tour to and mangrove immersion in nearby Lunod island.

         The DOT regional director said she had been pushing for what she called a “punta pawikan” initiative among beach resorts in Davao region and was happy that Beach View was open to the idea.

          Eliza Omandac, owner of Beach View, said years ago the resort featured a marine turtle viewing but had long ago stopped it after they freed the creature back to the sea.

          “If the plan pushes through, we would be proud that we in tourism have helped protect these endangered species at the same time promote eco-tourism and the general tourism industry of Compostela Valley,” Christine Dompor, provincial tourism officer said later.


ComVal’s shoreline

          The shoreline of Compostela Valley forms the northern beach strand of Davao Gulf and stretches for some 50 kilometres from the boundary of Tagum City in the coastal town of Maco to Pantukan at the boundary with Davao Oriental. Mabini lies at the centre of the two Compostela Valley towns with Pindasan hosting the most number of resorts including Beach View, Centro Beach Resort, and Berioso Beach Resorts I & 2. They are just some of the 20 beach resorts dotting the provincial coastline including Magnaga Waters and Welborn in Pantukan.

          Off the coast of Mabini are the hawksbill nesting islands of Kopiat and Lunod.

          Travel to Kopiat takes about 20 minutes by motorized boat and a tour of the 87-hectare island takes about 45 minutes. A portion of the island encircles a seven-hectare lagoon. Unknown to many, the island hosts unspoiled reef areas with rare coral beds that house exotic marine life.

          The island is a breeding ground of some of the marine turtle species found in Davao Gulf:

the Hawksbill, Oliver Ridley, Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead, and the Leatherback.

         Lunod island, a name derived from the Visayan dialect to mean being submerged, is surrounded by thick mangroves. It has an area of 17 hectares, more than half of which is a submerged mangrove forest and rich coral gardens,  spawning grounds for fish, crustaceans, and other marine life that teem the Mabini seascape.

          It takes 15 minutes to reach the island from any point of Mabini. A night tour of the island is a wonderful experience with the glittering tiny lights from fireflies that abound there.

          Philippine Environmental Governance Project 2 (EcoGov), a technical assistance project in the Philippines funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said  Davao Gulf  is feeding ground to 11 species of cetaceans including sperm whales, killer whales, and bottle-nose dolphins.

          A number of these species regularly swims the channel between Kopiat and Lunod to feed on the seascape’s seagrasses, rich planktons and krill. It is also a nursing ground to five endangered turtle species including the hawksbill, the leatherback, and olive ridley.

          But sightings of these endangered marine mammals have become rare in the last years. The Davao Gulf Management Council, has warned that some of the world’s most vulnerable and threatened animal species found in Davao Gulf are being pushed further to the brink.

          The council blames the situation on the lack of concerted initiatives to address environmental concerns in this key biodiversity area (KBA) in the Philippines, listed as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.

          KBAs, which are considered "globally significant sites," are building blocks for conservation programs that maintain effective ecological networks and prevent biodiversity loss.

          The gulf council, the coordinating body for initiatives to address environmental concerns in the gulf  and composed of 23 local government units, said fragmented initiatives by national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) that deter integrated coastal management, and weak inter LGU mechanisms for coastal and fishery law enforcement were some of the pressing concern.

          "The pressures of economic and social growth have to be addressed through a concerted effort by gulf stakeholders, especially LGUs, because Davao Gulf is the source of livelihood for the people around the gulf," says Save Davao Gulf Foundation president Leo R. Avila III.


Beach sports festival

          The tourism office of Compostela Valley came out with the idea of a summer beach festival in 2009.

          “It was born out of the common desire of Governor Arturo Uy, the resorts owners, the Provincial Tourism Council, and the sports and fitness council of Compostela Valley to tap the province’s coastline as a summer sports site for the youth, promote more local tourist visits, and raise awareness on the need to protect the rich marine biodiversity of the Mabini  seascape,” Dompor said.

          “That’s why on our second beach sports fest we introduced a marine-themed body paint contest, a regatta, and the Kopiat swimming challenge. Through these sports, we hope to make the visitors aware of the sea’s contributions to life. This, I believe concretizes the concept of eco-tourism,” the ComVal tourism officer said.

          The festival actually and unofficially opened last May 1 with the Magnaga Girl of Summer Bikini Open. Last May 8, Beach View Resort in Pindasan Mabini held the grand opening of its Beach View Bar and hosted a press conference attended by regional Philippine Information Agency Director Efren Elbanbuena and regional tourism director Garcia.

          It was one of the most attractive events along the Maco-Mabini-Pantukan coastline and feature the Kuntaw Ethno Band, Manong’s Island Fire Dancers, an art exhibit, a small bazaar, bonfire lighting, henna tattoo, and a fireworks display.

          The official 2nd Summer Beach Festival officially will open on May 15 at Beach View Resort with a men’s beach volleyball competition  in the morning and the fire dance competition, beach dance  riot, and a reggae band contest in the afternoon and evening. Beach View will also host the women‘s beach volleyball on May 16.

          The other events are: May 22 the Kopiat Challenge, a 700-metre swimming contest to Kopiat island from Beach View;  Body painting competition and regatta sailing contest on May 23 in Berioso Beach in Pindasan; water volleyball in the morning and amazing race at Welborn Beach resort in Pantukan; and Bankarera at Magnaga Waters on May 30. 

          The Kopiat Challenge, Body Paint, Dance Riot, and Fire Dance contests are the latest competitions introduced to the beach festival following the success of the initial beach sports festival last year.

          We plan to institutionalize the Kopiat swim challenge and open it to swimming lovers all over the country. We hope we can attract sponsors for a silver Kopiat cup and a bigger prize to the annual winner…maybe next year,” Dompor said.

          Dubbed The Paint, the body paint is a body art competition all about painting the body based on marine environment themes. “We intend to promote the human skin as a perfect expression our love for the sea that gives us life and for art,” the provincial tourism officer said.

          The Regatta is a competition of the ordinary and gaily-decorated out-rigger or non-outrigger boats with colourful sails to conquer the changing wind and sea conditions. “It is our way of paying tribute to the seafaring skills of Filipinos,” she explained.

          The fire dance is a competition of dancers dancing and gyrating to loud music while swirling and throwing fireballs on string.

         “Of course, this is the first such event in Davao region and we hope to gradually attract many people and visitors to join us in the future so they will have a taste of what Compostela Valley has in store for them in terms of culture, adventure and ecotourism,” Dompor said.  (By Jimmy P. Abayon - PGO-Tourism Services Section)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
ComVal’s race to save the turtles of Davao Gulf Print E-mail
Written by delight   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

          NABUNTURAN, Compostela Valley (May 21, 2010) –  So near, yet so far away.

          That is Kopiat, an 87-hectare insignificant island of powdery white sands off the coastline of the province of Compostela Valley on the northernmost tip of Davao Gulf and a nesting site of two of the world’s most endangered marine turtle species – the hawksbill and leatherback.

          On Saturday (May 22) some 45 swimmers from all over Davao region and Surigao will swim the almost one-kilometre channel between Kopiat island and Mabini in the 1st Kopiat Swim Challenge competition launched by the provincial tourism office, the province’s resorts association, and the provincial sports council of Compostela Valley.

          “We hope to raise public awareness about the need to protect  the turtles of Kopiat and Davao Gulf… this  swimming competition is Compostela Valley’s contribution to this effort, after all ecotourism is anchored on a healthy environment. And turtles, like dolphins and whales are a barometer of the state of our natural marine ecosystem,” explains Compostela Valley tourism officer Christine Dompor.

          Before the start of the competition, the swimmers will be briefed about its environmental purpose and the state of Davao Gulf so they will understand values about the environment, Dompor said.

          The competition will start from Kopiat island at 9:00 o’clock in the morning and finish at Omandac Beach View Resort, the nearest shoreline from the island. For safety reasons, they will be grouped into two batches and rescue and medical teams will be on stand-by while four motorized boats will accompany the swimmers.

          The swimmer that clocks the lowest time will be declared the winner of the swimming challenge.

Mabini protected seascape

          Kopiat island, including a smaller island near it is part of the Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape that covers approximately 3,433 hectares inclusive of the mangrove wilderness area of  Kopiat and starts from the Maco-Mabini municipal boundary monument southward to the Mabini-Pantukan municipal boundary.

          The area was declared a landscape and seascape protected area through a proclamation by then President Fidel Ramos in 1997.

          The proclamation underlines a series of activities earmarked to secure the seascape from further degradation including the conserving of its declining mangrove resources, its unstudied coral reefs, and seagrasses.

          Since 1997, though, there has been no official comprehensive inventory about the area’s marine biodiversity, much less any viable concrete program and projects by the coastal local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

          Mabini Mayor Haj. Amir Munoz, in an earlier talk with the provincial tourism office, lamented the present state of the seascape caused by destructive fishing methods despite the presence of bantay dagat. He believes something should be done to pursue the objectives of  proclaiming the marine area a protected seascape.

          Eliza Omandac, owner of Beach View Resort which is hosting this year’s series of events of Compostela Valley’s 2nd Beach Sports Festival including the Kopiat challenge noted several sightings of whales along the channel.

          A few years ago, Omandac said, the resort had a female hawksbill turtle and aware of its migratory and nesting habits she had to let it go back to the sea.

          After last week’s opening of the resort’s cosmopolitan bar, Omandac is entertaining an idea hatched by Davao regional tourism director  Sonia Garcia, who graced the event, to use the turtle as its icon and contribute to the protection and conservation of the endangered species.

         Davao Gulf is feeding ground to 11 species of cetaceans including sperm whales, killer whales, and bottle-nose dolphins.

         A number of these species regularly swims the channel between Kopiat and Lunod to feed on the seascape’s seagrasses, rich planktons and krill. It is also a nursing ground to five endangered turtle species including the hawksbill, the leatherback, and Olive Ridley.

         But sightings of these endangered marine mammals have become rare in the last years. The Davao Gulf Management Council, warned a few years back that some of the world’s most vulnerable and threatened animal species found in Davao Gulf were being pushed further to the brink.

         The council blames the situation on the lack of concerted initiatives to address environmental concerns in this key biodiversity area (KBA) in the Philippines, listed as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.

          KBAs, which are considered "globally significant sites," are building blocks for conservation programs that maintain effective ecological networks and prevent biodiversity loss.

          The gulf council, the coordinating body for initiatives to address environmental concerns in the gulf  and composed of 23 local government units, said fragmented initiatives by national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) that deter integrated coastal management, and weak inter LGU mechanisms for coastal and fishery law enforcement were some of the pressing concern.

          "The pressures of economic and social growth have to be addressed through a concerted effort by gulf stakeholders, especially LGUs, because Davao Gulf is the source of livelihood for the people around the gulf," says Save Davao Gulf Foundation president Leo R. Avila III.  (By Jimmy P. Abayon - PGO-Tourism Services Section)


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 July 2010 )
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