When prized singer-songwriter Sting released the hit single Fields of Gold, he could have been referring to Compostela Valley, a province carved out of the northeastern towns of Davao del Norte in 1998. Nicknamed ComVal, it is the proverbial fields of gold because of the precious mineral which abounds practically everywhere.
With 11 towns spread out in 4,480 sq. km., it will be renamed into Davao de Oro later this year in keeping with its Davao heritage and being a land of gold. It can be reached via the Davao City Airport, which is about two hours away by modern buses from the Ecoland terminal.
Travelers would be pleasantly surprised to note that commuting in Mindanao is organized with centralized public transport terminals and touristy buses that will make the journey to ComVal a breeze.
Pit Stop 1. Nabunturan. The provincial capital, this once sleepy roadside town is the hub of transport, commerce and tourism establishments such as boutique hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars which lend a semblance of nocturnal life. A classy but inexpensive place to stay on your journey is the newly opened Qi Xiang Business Inn, which has the basic comforts equivalent to a one-star hotel.
A must-see for jewelry lovers is the Solidarity Ring at the Capitol Building, a 99-percent gold ring worth P1.5 million forged from coins and nuggets contributed by townsfolk which symbolizes their unity and aspiration for a prosperous life.
Just last month, the town was abuzzed with tourist activities and special events as it celebrated the Bulawan festival, a province-wide celebration showcasing its rich cultural heritage, and its 21st founding anniversary. Literally meaning “gold,” Bulawan also put the spotlight festivals of the 11 municipalities, as well as the way of life of indigenous peoples such as the Manobo, Mansaka, Mandaya, Dibabawon, and Mangguangan tribes.
Pit Stop 2. Mawab. About 21 km. south of Nabunturan is this town which hosts Camp Manuel T. Yan Eco Military Park and Tribal Village, a section of the sprawling base of the Army’s 10th Infantry (Agila) Division where guests can get military-type fun like shooting, boodle fight meals, treks, obstacle courses and challenging trails.
Also within the camp is the Mahayahay Cave, the habitat of small bats, a rubber plantation, wild deer and bird sanctuaries, a model waste management system, bamboo and lawaan forests, and view decks.
Pit Stop 3. Maco. The town’s main attraction is Mainit Hot Spring which is surrounded on three sides by forested slopes where the spring cascades into a hot waterfall. While under the municipal jurisdiction of Maco, the spring is actually closer to Mawab. A few minutes south of the spring is the panoramic Lake Leonard Eco-Tourism Park, a 200-hectare caldera lake at the basin of a lush valley which forms part of the 1,190-meter Mt. Leonard Kniazeff.
Pit Stop 4. Maragusan. Further down south is this upland municipality which is regarded as a summer getaway because of its altitude and series of refreshing waterfalls and inland resorts. An ideal base to explore the town is Heaven’s Peak Highland Resort, perched on a hilltop which gives you a commanding view of Comval’s gold-rich peaks. A must-try is its cable car, among the few of its kind in Mindanao, which provides magnificent views of the Maragusan Valley.
Heaven’s Peak grows organic vegetables and raises chickens, goats, and pigs, to offer a healthy farm-to-table dining experience. With its cool crisp mountains air, it is best to spend the night here at the tribal-themed rooms to give you ample time to discover the towns great outdoors—the 2,402-meter biodiversity-rich Mt. Candalaga which is part of the Mt. Tagub-Kampalili Ranges Protected Landscape, and the trilogy of Pyalitan, Marangig and Tagbibinta Falls.
Pit Stop 5. Mabini. This coastal town is the beach capital of the province with its vast stretch of powdery sand dotted by resorts designed for family and friends.
A few minutes across the mainland is the 87-hectare white sand Kopiat Island at Davao Gulf which is a nesting site of two endangered marine turtle species—the hawksbill and leatherback. Along with Lunod Island (St. Anthony), it is part of the 3,433-hectare Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape which is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The heart of the island is Lubi Plantation, a posh leisure complex which includes the Lubi Beach Club and Lubi Resort Hotel, a 184-room property managed by the prestigious Thailand-based Dusit Thani group. Named after the coconut, this 36-hectare flagship leisure project of Torre Lorenzo Development Corp. is a master-planned British-style township and a low-density facility to ensure guest’s privacy. It boasts of an exclusive beach, first-rate amenities, gourmet restaurants, a swimming pool, recreational and watersports facilities, a wellness center, and an educational nature program around Kopiat.
The new luxe resort aims to lure tourists to the island and serve as an alternative gateway to ComVal with a convenient and stylish 30-minute speedboat transfer from the Dusit jetty in Lanang, Davao City.
With its hidden natural wealth which shines like a precious mineral, Compostela Valley (or Davao de Oro) is undoubtedly Mindanao’s fields of gold.