Compostela is one of the municipalities that comprise the vast plain of Compostela Valley. Its development started before World War II when the area was still heavily forested. Its fertile land was washed by Agusan River that flows from the towering green and misted mountains of the highland municipality of Maragusan.
There are no written records on how Compostela got its name. Old residents believe the name might have been stuck on the place dating from the time when Spanish conquistadores erected a temporary Spanish settlement, “Campo de Castilla”, in the area on their way to the hinterlands from the east coast. A conquistador was said to have brought with him a statue of Senior Santiago de Apostol, patron saint of his birth place Compostela in Spain.
Before the outbreak of World War II, what is Compostela Valley today was administered by the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes for Mindanao. The office was based in Dansalan, Lanao and headed by Teofisto Guingona, Sr. The bureau exercised government control over the provinces and municipal districts of Mindanao.
The bureau was abolished after the war. The valley was organized into the Compostela-Monkayo Districts and subdivided into three small districts: Monkayo, Compostela, and Camansa. Compostela was governed by Mr. Bonifacio Garcia, the District Mayor appointed by the governor of Davao. Today’s Davao provinces, including Compostela Valley, were then one province with the Capitol in Davao City. The governor performed all local government functions while the district mayors were only ceremonial heads.
Except for the Davao-Agusan national highway that stretched from Davao City to Camp Kalaw, a Philippine Constabulary detachment in the municipality of Monkayo, road arteries to the hinterlands were non-existent. Compostela Proper (the popular name of Compostela then) was accessible via Agusan River. The embarkation point was at kilometer 106, today’s Brgy. Bankerohan Sur of the municipality of Montevista.
As years passed, migrants from Luzon and the Visayas settled in Compostela, lured by a promise of vast and fertile agricultural lands for the determined and able-bodied.
When World War II broke out in 1941, most of the people left their homes and farms and evacuated to the hinterlands of the Compostela valley. The Philippine Civil Assistance Unit (PCAU) established a civil government at kilometer 90 in what is now Nabunturan and installed Juanito Regaña as Mayor of Compostela.
After the war in 1945, the people returned to their farms and homes to discover the forests were reclaiming the land. They tilled the soil back and settled permanently in the place. Davao Governor Antonio Lanzar appointed Mr. Formoso Piansay Mayor of Compostela.
In 1949, all municipal districts were abolished and new municipalities were born. Compostela with its seat of government in Km. 90 became a regular municipality. Mayor Lauro Arabejo was appointed mayor. Compostela Proper then was a barrio of the original Compostela Municipality. The new municipality was accessible by motor boat plying the Agusan river. Travelers disembarked at Km. 106 and from there hiked or rode to the government center in Km. 90 in Nabunturan.
The road linking Compostela Proper to the Davao-Agusan highway started in the early 1950’s along Km. 102 in what is now Montevista. One of the engineers of the Bureau of Public Highways was Engineer Prospero S. Amatong who later became Mayor of Nabunturan, Governor of Davao and Compostela Valley, and congressman of the Second District of the new province. .
When Nabunturan broke away from Compostela in 1957, the latter was an incongruous mix of wooden-roofed houses dotting the landing area of the bank of Agusan river and was informally called “dungguanan”. The area later became Compostela’s center of trade and commerce.
Today Compostela is one of the most progressive and First Class municipalities of Compostela Valley. It is a bustling urban centre with a thriving business centre controlling the east-west commercial traffic to and from Cateel in Davao Oriental and enjoys a flourishing vegetable trade with Maragusan. Its vast plain became the major rice production area of the old Davao Province after the National Irrigation Administration and Asian Development Bank (NIA-ADB) built an irrigation system in the early part of 1970. Here, cavendish banana are produced by the Ayala Conglomerate and Multi-National DOLE (Stanfilco), Philippines, Incorporated.