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SPECIAL REPORT: The economics of plantas in Nabunturan and where the town’s gold is sold

JAN 6-12, 2011

By Cha Monforte

Located near to Reserba, Barangay Mainit, Nabunturan and delineated by theManatRiver, the mineral processing zone seems to have its covert and lively presence having some 30 plantas of varying production tonnages.

The plantas are actually the carbon-in-pulp cynidation plants, locally fabricated plants that were endogenously cocooned out and made effective during the over two decades of small scale mining development in Compostela Valley Province.

 Found mostly in Mainit mineral processing zone are 15-ton and 20-ton plantas. There are only few 25-ton, 30-ton and 40-ton plantas.

Each planta has its set of crushers or ballmills which would mill and pulverize into sands the half bags of raw gold ores, the locals called as puyong, from tunnels somewhere, before the sands are poured down to the plantas for carbon-in-pulp cyanidation processing.

Allan Bollifer, plant manager of Kilovolt gold processing plant, said in an interview that at the average the 15-ton planta and the 20-ton planta have capacity to load 280 and 400 puyongs, respectively.

For the 15-ton planta, in a six-day gold production processing cycle, the half bags of ores are first milled for three days, after which the sands are loaded to the plantas for 72 hours of processing. The plant’s output is “carbonized gold” or the gold captured by the carbon. The “carbonized gold” then undergoes the “firing” or it, lying on kalans (ceramics), is blown over by fire so that when the carbon disappeared what remains is the unrefined gold.

“For that, we charge P3,000 per ton or P45,000 for the 15 tons, besides that the customers pay the cost of chemicals, cyanide and carbon,” Bollifer said.

Plantas are heavy power consumers. Kilovolt plant, for one, averages to pay Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative P75,000 monthly.

Plantas are processing gold ores if possible on cash basis. “But if the miners ask for credit, the planta gets the first priority in the order of payment or refund of overall expenses in tunneling after the gold is sold and before the corpo (group of miners consisting of capitalist and manual laborers) have their net shares,” Bollifer said.

“We would not also process if they have no assay rating of their gold ores. The assay rating from known assay laboratories is needed to determine if they could pay us. A rating of 5 percent gold content of 150 grams of gold ores is considered to be only good to pay for the funds invested by the tunnel financier, and none for the manual corpo members. It can pay us though. A rating of 10 to 12 percent is at least good enough that corpo laborers can share a modest income,” Bollifer added. 

In his estimate, their planta has already processed gold ores worth not less than P50 million since they started February 2010

 “We don’t process graba (ores from tunnels) that turned out to be pughok (no gold content). So we custom mill only those which have good assay rating to be sure that they (miners) can pay us,” said Allan Bollifer, plant manager of Kilovolt gold processing plant located in Mainit mineral processing zone, home of at least 30 plantas of varying tonnages.

Other sources said that some of the plantas are owned by Korean and Japanese nationals and businessmen from as far asDavaoCity.

But elsewhere in the province, being a mineralized region, plantas have been put up. Sources said there said there are individual plantas in the nearby barangays of Kao, Tagnocon and up there in Masaraline barangays in Mawab-Maco-Mabini-Pantukan territories, in barangays going to Maragusan as well as in other towns like Maragusan which has experienced a gold rush with the opening of Pamintaran mining site. NewBataanis also known to have good mining sites in Barangay Camanlangan and nearby villages and thus is also hosting plantas.

“Oresupplies from Pamintaran are no longer plenty, but more ore supplies from Tagnocon, Bugac of Mainit, Log Cabin and Kabinuangan of Bukal keep on coming. Pag awop sa Pamintaran, mi-boom na pod ang Bangkal sa Tagnocon (when Pamintaran goes bust, Bangkal goes into boom),” Bollifer said in vernacular.

He said that their planta is required of a dampakans, dug outs into where wastewater from the planta exits and is trapped to be left open under sun exposure. He said that with it the wastewater from the plantas could not drain into the river.

At press time, he said that prices of unrefined gold fetch to P1,400 to P1,500 per gramo in local miners’ lingo, which is actually 1 milligram of gold, “depende sa kilatis (depending on the goldsmith’s quality)”. If refined, gold prices can go as high as P1,900 to P1,950 per gramo.

All roads of Nabunturan-processed gold would seem to lead to one direction where the established gold buyers are-TagumCity. Among the gold buyers in  the city, sources said, are Golden Palace Hotel, Eagle’s View Hotel, Grandcop, RB, BL, Naro, Simbajon, Milay, Doreng’s, Hero pawnshop, and a diesel station near the terminal.

In time of “sharing” tunnel financiers and manual corpo members- mostly the abanteros would accompany their gold to Tagum City and wait for the cash to be shared by them after the deductions of all expenses during the production cycle, with usually the financiers getting two (or more) shares after the refund of his financing (“back finance” as they say) and with each of the corpo members getting one equal share.

In reported sharings, it is a penny if corpo members get only P50,000 each for the three to four months of mining cycle. But various reports said that there have been many sharings where each corpo member gets a bonanza at least P100,000 equal share, or at times P300,000 equal share for each lucky corpo member. (cha monforte)

Comval, one untouched by Spanish conquest

dec. 2006
By Cha Monforte

If Compostela Valley so really suffers obscure and scarce records about its share of Spanish conquest as they now are, then at the moment all roads lead to a generalization that present-day 11-town Compostela Valley was truly a Lumad and Moro land untouched by Spanish conquests in the yesteryears.

At the rate available archives scantily mention the province in the pages of history, Comval even if its present geographical grouping was expanded by the province’s makers in 1998 who attached the southern coast that‘s part of the Davao Gulf and the surrounding higher cordilleras where Maragusan and Laak nestle in isolation could still lay claim for the title of being an unconquered land by Spanish conquistadors.

Had the province’s making not constrained by area requirement in the makers’ gerrymandering act in 1998, otherwise institutionalized by a law on the division of administrative jurisdiction, or had it officially stood as the six-town mainland, Comval could have been most consistent in the historical referencing of Spanish colonizers and chroniclers who originally referred the fertile plain as either Monkayo Valley or Compostela Valley.

The mainland itself, composed of Mawab, Nabunturan, Montevista, Monkayo, Compostela and New Bataan, was one swath of truly Lumad land than being a mixed Lumad and Moro Land. It’s the annexed southern coast which provided Comval the mix of being also a Moroland. In fact, the rancherias (landholdings) in Hijo, Maco and Madaum, Tagum were considered as the last bulwark of the Moros at the time of the conquest of the early Davao City.

These rancherias were Moro settlements into where the legendary Datu Bago retreated in 1848 following his defeat in a three-month battle against the Spain’s mercenary-cum-entrepreneur Don Jose Oyanguren from the Moro settlement that once thrived in the mouth of the Davao River.

In the funded book Davao History by Ernesto I. Corsino, other scattered Moro settlements chronicled to be existing along Comval’s shorelines were Matiao in Pantukan which was considered “an important racheria, being the landing place for small boats that ply between Liboac…in Samal to the eastern shore of the Gulf” and the neighboring places of Kingking and Canipa and the small racherias of Cupiat and Laji. The Moros in these parts were subject to the rule of Datu Lasad whose dataria (district ruled over by a datu) in the Gulf started in Lasan (Lasang) river.

The province is unlike the present Davao Oriental, Agusan del Sur and Surigao that have abundant stories about Spanish expeditions and colonizing conquests dating back to as old as 1500.

Like most of the rest of Mindanao, the province had only witnessed Spanish colonizing efforts- although they were too scant in Comval’s part- in the later part of the first century of Spanish colonization in the country. That, after the Spaniard conquistadors consolidated their rule in Luzon and Visayas chain of islands in 1572.

At hand, Comval has dearth of Spanish colonial attachment by sharing only brief historical incidents, bits of information from being a part of the bigger Davao geo-political configuration, and few mentions of Comval’s coast as inclusive part of the domain of Sultan Qudarat of Tamontaca, Maguindanao and about Quinquin (Kingking) in Pantukan- where the present Comval Governor Jose Caballero hailed from- having a river sweeping down gold, which the natives panned. “…Gold was extracted from the alluvial deposits coming from the mountain of Quinquin,” writes Fr. Juan Bautista Heras, S.J. who visited Nueva Guipuzcoa (Davao’s first old name) around 1860.

Except for the Moros’ sporadic resistance and hostilities to the rule and pacification-build up campaigns in Davao City by Oyanguren and his successors, among which were instigated by the Moros in Tagum and presumably along with the Moros in Comval’s coast, the province had generally quiet and peaceful colonial associations than what other provinces and areas had gone through like Moro raids to cottas and slaves-taking, bloody battles between the Spanish colonizers and Moros and natives and revolts over the polo (taxes). Even then there’s dearth of chronicles about evangelization activities of missionaries in the province.

The east coast particularly bannered by the establishment of Spain’s mission station in Caraga, Davao Oriental that influenced Baganga, Cateel, Manay and Mati was the most prominent among other subject areas of Spanish colonization in today’s Davao Region. The east coast served as the base in the subsequent early conquest of Davao City and other Gulf areas and was also deemed the major entry point in the migration of people to Gulf areas.

But Caraga’s mission station was a by-product in the earlier evangelization and colonizing activities that took the northeastern route from Alubijid, Misamis Oriental then eastward to eastern coast of Surigao down to Tandag and Bislig and to the east of Davao Gulf.

But was Comval first approached by Spanish colonizing efforts through the northern door in Agusan del Sur or through the southern coastal gateway that connects to the more historic east coast?

There was that scarce mention in Corcino’s book that pointed the province’s Agusan door as the entry point of Spanish evangelization. In 1595 the first Jesuit mission house in Mindanao was established in Butuan City and from there, Jesuit missionaries “reached Fort Linao (the present-day Bunawan, Agusan del Sur) and Monkayo Valley in 1608.”

But in the next breath it tells that just as the Jesuits were making “headways” in their missionary works they abandoned these as they had to be replaced by the Recollects to comply with the church order dividing Mindanao which directed the Jesuits to concentrate evangelizing in the western side of Mindanao.

We still don’t know if the Jesuits’ “headways” in missionary works had converted many native souls in Monkayo-Compostela Valley before they left or whether the Recollects who took over what the Jesuits left in Fort Linao had made more advances to the valley. It appeared to be a mission aborted as there was neither a Spanish mission station nor a Spanish fort that was mentioned to have been established in the valley. Perhaps the missionary works referred to were only brief forays and visits, that we still don’t know.

But the book hinted of northern migrants to the valley from Christian converts like the tribal ruler in Carhaga (old name of Surigao) who was baptized as Antonio Galvan by a Portuguese layman Francisco Castro. “The descendants of Galvan still reside in Monkayo up to this day,” writes Corsino in 1998. In most probability Galvan’s descendants could have taken the Agusan door than the faraway east coast in migrating to the valley inasmuch that there were also religious mission stations along Agusan River Valley and in Fort Linao.

This rare mentioning on evangelization still doesn’t negate the assertion that Comval was virtually untouched by Spanish conquests unlike to the bountiful historical events in the east coast, Agusan del Sur and Davao City.

Which brings us to the province’s name Compostela. Is the name Compostela plainly mythical without the necessary colonialism in placed at the ground like in the postulated case of Comval? Or it might be mere semantical play of early Spanish explorers, chroniclers or conquistadors made from a distance and in reference to Compostela of Spain in their penchant to name frontiers they conquered and those yet to be conquered after the names of places and patron saints in their Spain homeland. The present Compostela town of Cebu may have gotten its name in like manner.

Ranged against our earlier postulation that especially the mainland Comval was unvanquished one, the Kampo de Kastila version (read: that the town or the six-town mainland which was then collectively called as Compostela as a single entity was once or a host of a Spanish camp or fort) stands to be farfetched than the version that Compostela name came from “a Spanish friar from the east coast bringing with him the statue of Santiago de Apostol, the patron saint of the friar’s birthplace”.

Maybe, while we don’t discount the possibility that in the 260 years of the evangelization activities of the Recollects from Tandag to Fort Linao and to the east coast there was one among them who managed to visit the old and bigger Compostela. Or the friar, if ever he was for real, might have used Comval’s northern Agusan door.

But then if the latter version be insisted, this could better be asked: Where’s the original statue which could not be found at present as definitely it is not only a historical but also religious item worth to cherish? Taken by the natives who were the subject of colonization in their flight to higher reaches of the mountains when the great Visayan migration dawned in the mainland? Or whatever; we still don’t know.

Still the present Compostela town that is less of the other five towns may not have been trekked on by friars given its remote and interior location compared to the proximity of Monkayo to Fort Linao. Besides why was Compostela Valley otherwise called as Monkayo Valley?

It could be ventured here that missionaries may have made evangelization attempts indeed in the mainland but for sure, via Agusan river, they had to pass first Monkayo before reaching the present Compostela. For all we know the old and bigger Compostela that was referred to began right at the doorstep of Monkayo, from where the whole mainland was then alternately called Monkayo Valley or Compostela Valley.

It may have been the place guessed to have been visited by the statue-carrying friar, as it is preposterous to guess now he might have taken the mountainous and lengthy route of Cateel in the east coast to Compostela where the timid and wild bahag-wearing natives abound in both sides of the eastern cordillera. Or whatever; we still have to dig deeper.

The prominence though of the smaller Compostela area for being reputed as the most lively and thriving throughout the valley due to its vast abaca plantations, which most probably started during the American colonial period just like the timeline of the Japanese-controlled abaca boom in Davao City, may have later subsumed the Monkayo Valley reference and given also the migrants’ quest for religiosity and township.

Comval coast was though better in prominence than the interior mainland as to the real spread of faith when many Moros in Hijo were touched and converted by the amiable and dialect-speaking Fr. Saturnino Urios, SJ in 1896. It was Fr. Urios who forged peace and cooperation between the Moros and the Christians in the Davao Gulf areas. Yet his headways in Comval coast only came when Spanish rule in the country was already about to end.

One thing is sure: the dramatic turning out of Comval municipios as bulwarks Catholicism was not the making of the early friars in the yesteryears but by the already Catholic migrants from the early-colonized Visayas and Luzon who slowly trickled, trekking into the landlocked valley truly starting during the ensuing American colonial period. The dominantly Visayan in-migration evidently came in faster rate especially after the construction of the road stretching from Magugpo to Agusan in the late 30s. The organized Catholicism in the province was well mainstreamed only much later by the Maryknoll (PME) foreign priests starting in the 50s, but this is worth for another essay.

Thus, at hand and pending retrieval of more historical records possibly from foreign and national archives, in most probability mainland Comval was one virtually untouched and one unvanquished land by Spain conquest, while the seven-year-old province as a whole was a quaint Lumad and Moro land during the country’s first colonial timeline.



A gem in the valley

By Cha Monforte

It was not a walk in the park when the elegant, sleek and space-effective Capitol of Compostela Valley was realized four years after the Separation of 1998. In fact, the issue that its construction was illegal reached no less than the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s ruled on January 14, 2004 that the pioneer Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Resolution No. 07, series of 2001 authorizing Compostela Valley’s third-termer Governor Jose R. Caballero to sign the contract with the Allado Construction Company, Inc. to construct the Capitol was null and void on the grounds that the SP erred in voting for a lack of quorum.

But the Supreme Court’s verdict on the petition filed by an opposing SP member in 2001 came too late as too soon the four-story Capitol building was completed during the first incumbency of Governor Caballero.

It came to pass that on February 26, 2001 seven members of the 14-man SP moved to give the go-signal to the governor to construct the Capitol building thinking that their number constituted the majority for the quorum while the SP had only 13 members as one member was on foreign travel.

The issue reached to a Regional Trial Court, which ruled favoring the act of 7 SP members. So the construction went on unimpeded by the absence of any restraining order or injunction while the case was elevated to the Supreme Court.

Todate, the governor is optimistic that the Supreme Court would sooner lay to rest the ruling that by the reality’s passage of time and by the Capitol’s early realization rendered it moot and academic.

And for it was such as feat that the Capitol was completed in a governor’s first three-year term, by far in record time outpacing other capitols in Mindanao.
On March 8, 1998 Compostela Valley was separated, carved out from the mother province of Davao del Norte, and following the May 10, 1998 polls provincial officials and employees had first to be packed in tight and cramped elementary classrooms, shared municipal offices and governor’s residence while the organizing of the new province began virtually sans a scratch of paper.

For three years they endured until December 2001 when the Capitol edifice finally emerged virtually finished, sitting majestically leonine in an open ground much bounded by coconut trees and green bushes. On December 5, 2001 the building was blessed no less than by Papal Nuncio Most Reverend Antonio Franco, DD and five after provincial employees wore big smiles on their faces when they started transferring to the Capitol the Comvalenyos could call their own.

Who could have thought that the once cocoland expanse in Barangay Cabidianan in today’s thriving capital town, Nabunturan would host an palatial civic structure that has become an imposing landmark in the entire province?

The travelers, who have looked to Comval as the country’s gold ore capital and the province of a hundred of cool, pristine waterfalls, going for leisurely conquests in provincial interiors would first be enthralled by the road zigzags in Mawab in penetrating the mainland of Compostela Valley from Davao City. After a couple of hours from the metropolis, they have to traverse eastward down the main avenue of the Nabunturan downtown to the concrete Mainit road, and for a minute or two they are flushed to the open in the left where the standing Capitol is a view to behold.

From the steel fence and gate leading to a rotunda, the edifice is post-card perfect. There’s tropicana effect radiated by the lined palmera trees along the main alley towards the rotunda and Capitol’s main entrance. The Capitol Grounds sprawls in an 11-hectare expanse of land, compliments from the philanthropic donation of Don and Mrs. Francisco S. Dizon and family and the Melendres and Gil Indino Sr. families, which contributed seven and four hectares, respectively.

Largely still an open area, the Capitol Ground is progressively being developed based on planned resources and along with the governor’s vision of carving a loftier ground where governmental structures abound, interplaying with ecological theme parks, convenient walkways and passages. Its frontage is strewn with chic lampposts, a circular structure for a forthcoming fountain and at its east lies the functional Freedom Stage. At its rear will rise up the 4,000-seater Astrodome and the two-story PAGRO-PHO building, definitely another governor’s legacies in the making in his final term.

The Capitol structure is without doubt modernist. There’s awe, mystique and fascination that there stands a modern edifice in a rural setting cut from the town’s heartland. Designed by contractor Architect Daniel Briones, Capitol building has a four-story main building connected with two three-story wings at each side. It configures to be a footed cross-shaped structure with the glass-encased and administration’s offices protruding as the head when seen at the top.

Its six big round pillars inlaid in a lowly elevated ground floor still defines that it is a civic structure in rough physical state ahead of the older neoclassical buildings. Its stylized CV-shaped structure embellished before the front steps is a signature for Compostela Valley, or to some, for Caballero Victory over the once entrenched politico-economic family that reigned even before the province’s creation.

From the central porch opens up the elegantly spacious Capitol Lobby accented by a high ceiling that stretches up to the ceiling of the second floor. The two big low rectangular pillars covered with black granite tiles in the inner part of the lobby are given more prominence by the commemorative inscription of the building on golden plates. The glass encasing of the lobby effectively combine with the excellent tile works on its floor that rival to those of the city malls.

From both edges of the lobby floor starts the circular spine of stairway with simplified ironwork in its railing. But the overhang of the stairway from the second floor uniformly twirled to taper off steeply up to the fourth floor that gives an artistic accent to the lobby gleaming with squares of dominant pastel colors and shades.

The flesh color of the interiors reflects the familiar color characterization of a Filipino working office and the light blue combination in offices exudes a relaxed, intimate and hospitable working atmosphere.

The wings of the building which were constructed as part of the Phase II by the administration after the main building was built by the contractor Allado Construction Company, Inc. have long arcades in each floor. Particularly, the first and second floors of the wings have open walkways to catch the fickle tropical breeze from a countryside valley.

The design of main building seemed retro by its typical play of four-sided structures when seen at its rear. But the side balconies and openings in its higher stories make it also a graceful forward-thinking structure for the possible extension in the future.

In all the P80-million Capitol building has an area of 6,297 sq. meters effectively laid out with well furbished, illumined and ventilated provincial offices, functional rooms and corridors. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall, which is located at the second level’s center, is superb in its ambience and layout that diminutively mimics the physical design of the Philippine Congress.

From there the level’s stairway leads up to the equally furbished Governor’s Office and the graceful Conference Hall and spacious Social Hall. The elegant Governor’s Office, glass-encased in its frontage affords guests and visitors a panoramic view to nearby hills and mountains as well as the frontage lawns.

October last year the stairway took a second role for busy bodies when the elevator started functioning. It is the first throughout the province affording a convenient ride to the workers and foremost the public. The roofdeck remains raw but it is designed to be a helipad. The huge arch incised in its fašade’s loft typically amplifies the building’s colossal motif of governance.

After Gov. Caballero’s regular nurturing of the edifice through all those year since his first term, definitely it is a legacy of a mastercraft honed by the governor’s erudite taste and instructions since when it was first designed and constructed.

While it reflects a distinctive modern character interfacing with the indigenous arts and lore in tapestries and the resource grandeur of the province, the Capitol architecturally symbolizes the longing of the Comvelenyos for strength, unity, peace and progress in the province and in the country as well. It pulsates with aesthetic and historical accents. But for kindling a pride of the Comvalenyos and constantly impressing people todate quite indeed the Comval Capitol is a gem, a crown jewel in Compostela Valley.



Comval BM lawyer send two Comvalenyos to law school as scholars

(May 31, 2009)- Compostela Valley boardmember and 2000 bar exam topnotcher Dexter Lopoz is sending two of his provincemates to study law as his own scholars beginning this semester.

"Comval needs more lawyers now who would serve and work for efficient administration of justice. Eleven years after the birth of our province, we only have one Regional Trial Court, abnormally saddled with over 3,000 cases, more than half of which is handled by only two lawyers of the Public Attorneys Office," Atty. Lopoz explained the rationale of his own law scholarship.

"Moreover, we have only three fiscals serving seven courts in the province and one court in Tagum City, while the Dept. of Agrarian Reform's Bureau of Legal Assistants has only one lawyer," he added.

He said that lawyers serving these offices are heroically overworked and overstressed.

By now, his law scholars Ian Enterina, a resident of far-flung barangay Casoon in Monkayo, and Francisco Maynaban, poblacion Compostela resident, are already enrolled with the newly-established law school in Tagum- the Saint Thomas More College of Law, which commences its operations this semester.

As scholars, their matriculation and and tuition fees would be shouldered by the boardmember, with the two having only to pass all their subjects in each semester to maintain their scholarship.

Lopoz said that his two scholars are only for the start and he planned to have one to two scholars in each year of law studies as they move on in years.

The search of Lopoz law scholars had been going on two months ago and more than a dozen of applications were received from usually fresh college graduates.

Lopoz picked Enterina and Maynaban as his start-up law scholars for their good grades in college and high potentials in service orientation and community leadership. The scholar must also be a bonafide resident and registered voter in the first district of Comval.

The law scholarship of a boardmember is known ot be first in Mindanao and in the country.

Atty. Lopoz placed Top 2 in the 2000 bar  examinations and remains yet unsurpassed in his record of placing the highest thus in the bar exams as a law graduate from a law school based in Mindanao. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)

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For comments and reactions, e-mail: comvalenyo@yahoo.com


OPINION: “The Submerged Valley Theory”

JAN 6-12, 2011


By Cha Monforte

As heavy rains pounded on since over the weekend to Tuesday, the sort of “conspiracy theory” about the submerging of the fertile valley of the present Compostela Valley Province came back to my mind. Sort of a “bad dream” coming back. But I should now share. The valley consists of the plains of the towns of the erstwhile First District of the undivided Davao del Norte, less the highland Maragusan, or particularly the plains of the towns of Mawab, Nabunturan, Montevista, Compostela, New Bataan and Monkayo. (The six towns plus Maragusan can be lumped to be called as the Comval mainland to differentiate to Comval’s 3 coastal towns- Maco, Mabini and Pantukan, and the separated upland town of Laak. Really, the province has this geographical infirmity when it was created in 1998 by act of gerrymandering. The geographical infirmity is like its own birth defects). A day after the worst bardown-landslide-fire calamity that struck Diwalwal on May 30, 1989, as a young covering reporter-editor of the defunct weekly Northern Star of Cesar Sotto Jr, father of now Nabunturan Councilor Mario Angelo “Dodong” Sotto I got the opportunity to ride a military chopper and in the process got a wholesome view of the fertile valley.

The valley looks like a stretched kawa where the poblaciones are and is dotted inside by smaller mountains and hills while enclosing it are the towering mountains of Montevista going to Canidkid connecting to New Corella’s high mountains then to the Masaraline (Mawab) mountains connecting to the apex of Maragusan and highland boundaries of Cateel then to the high mountain ranges where the present Mt. Diwata sits and bordering Agusan del Sur. About 90 percent of this enclosing high forest ranges, east of the national highway, is primarily threatened now by small scale mining as it is known to be a mineralized, gold-rich region. Small scale mining via hardrock tunnelling has timber requirements to buttress portals and adits (destinos), while often gold strikes happen in higher portions or top of the mountains where there is freezing temperature.

Needless to say, timber poachings and illegal cutting of trees have been happening inside and around small scale mining areas. Against the poverty and lack of work and livelihood opportunities in the lowlands, and considering the higher stage of development that the small scale mining has attained after over two decades of mining beginning in the known Diwalwal and Boringot gold rushes, with the vast army of miners and even their children already knowing so much of the trade, small scale mining will continue to scour, explore and mine Comval mainland’s mineralized forest ranges. The march of the small scale industry to denude the mainland’s dominant eastern region is irreversible. This as illegal logging activities and kaingin farming have been going on in the area.

On the other hand, the mainland’s western region, about 10 percent only, is also threatened by illegal logging and kaingin farming. There is also now the propensity of the rural farmers and landowners in the highlands to go for the production of cash crops- cardava bananas, coconuts while Stanfilco has long been on cavendish and senorita banana plantation farming up there in Maragusan. It’s the natural tendency of the highland farmers to respond to their stomachs by planting immediate cash crops. This propensity ultimately results to topsoil erosion, landslides and river siltations that reach the downland communities in the mainland.

Back to my theory on submerged valley. It was in the 90s that backflows of riverwaters of the major Manat River and Batoto River was first reported, I recall, and this submerged low lying areas of Monkayo, Compostela, New Bataan and as far as the Barangay Magsaysay of Nabunturan. It was a portent of more floods to come caused by the backflows almost yearly especially when heavy rains struck continuously for many days. Most of the mainland rainwaters drain to Agusan river down to coast of Butuan City. Rainwaters from Masaraline (Mawab) highland areas drain to Hijo River down to the coast of Tagum City, to Davao Gulf.

Now if the mainland’s dominant highland, mineralized region and forest are badly denuded in the future, more volume of rainwaters from the mainland’s highlands would rush down overflowing the silted rivers but these could not further surge on for an exit to Butuan’s coast as backflows have been happening already, with the water overflows and water backflows meeting to create one Big Flood that would submerge the valley and what remains not submerged are the dotting smaller hills and mountains inside the stretched kawa.

The Big Flood would strike like a thief in so disastrous scale victimizing millions of residents, giving high death tolls with many climbing over their houses’ roofs, damaging billions of pesos for destroyed private properties, valley farms and government infrastructures and installations- a worst scale the many never imagined. The Big Flood is the flood that simultaneously hit the towns of Mawab, Nabunturan, Montevista, Compostela, New Bataan and Monkayo, with the floodwaters covering almost the plains of the valley. Great heaven forbid- this should not happen. I’m no Nostradamus.  I just venture to pose my “Submerged Valley Theory” You may buy it or not. But my challenge now to authorities is to put this in simulations via geographic information system (GIS) by UP urban planning experts now before it’s too late. And we’ll see if this isn’t farfetched. (e-mail: chamonforte@yahoo.com)


The disputed boundary at 8 parallel (8 deg. 0 min.) of North latitude

Joint Comval-DO SP session to settle boundary dispute

April 21, 2005

By Cha Monforte, Rural Urban News

A joint legislative session of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provincial boards has been agreed to be conducted next month to finally start resolving the territorial boundary conflict between the two provinces.

This agreement was reached during the visit of Davao Oriental Vice Governor Edgardo Lopez to the Comval Capitol in Nabunturan last week, bared Comval Vice Governor Ramil Gentugaya.

He said that both provincial boards would tackle on the boundary conflict between Boston, Davao Oriental and Monkayo, Comval particularly in the area covered by the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order No. 66.

Also to be discussed is the funding mechanism for the ground survey by the Land Management Bureau (LMB) of DENR which in 2002 was estimated to cost about P325,000. Lopez proposed that the survey cost should be equally shared by the two provinces.

Salem Kanda, Comval SP assistant secretary, bared that there are at least four boundary conflicts involving also other border towns in the two provinces.

The Comval-Agsur boundary conflict, which was inherited already by three Comval SPs from the erstwhile undivided Davao del Norte, involves the present demarcation of 7 degree 55 minutes North latitude which runs counter to the official stand of Comval Province to demarcate the disputed boundary at 8 parallel (8 deg. 0 min.) of North latitude.

Though Comval’s demarcation was short of only 5 minutes in the compass, estimates on encroachments of Agusan del Sur under the present boundary point a quite huge chunk of land covering the border village areas of Veruela, Trento and even a portion of the poblacion of Sta. Josefa town.

Joint SP sessions of Comval and Agusan del Sur were already conducted in the past resulting to the conduct of the ground survey for the 8 parallel boundary. The ground survey funded by congressional funds though was not completed after the Agusan del Sur’s previous SP stalled it sensing that the survey could favor Comval, while it called for the surveying of the other boundary favoring its province, it was learned.

As shown in Comval's updating, territorial areas of towns, provinces in the country may be erroneous

February 2, 2005

The territorial areas of towns and provinces in the country may as well be found erroneous as the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources implements its "universal data" system in updating administrative boundaries like the case of Compostela Valley.

The Land Management Services (LMS) of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (XI) recently found out that the areas of all eleven municipalities of Compostela Valley and hence of the entire province are erroneous as far as its "universal data" is concerned.

Engr. Roderick Calapardo, DENR (XI)-LMS chief on regional surveys, insisted that not one town in the province could be spared from corrections of territorial area following recent resolution of the Comval provincial board requesting for a status quo in the larger areas that have long been officially used by local government units.

He said that in September last year DENR Secretary Michael Defensor issued directive to LMS offices to adopt "universal data" to update administrative areas of all LGUs nationwide.

He said that they have already submitted the LMS findings and forwarded the Comval SP resolution while it would be still up to the DENR central office in Manila to decide.

DENR’s universal data on areas came from analytical studies from various documentary sources, such as the laws and executive orders of the towns’ creation, various surveys and use digital mapping through Geographic Information System (GIS), he said.

The LMS earlier disclosed that using DENR’s Land Management Bureau (LMB) data as against the recent LMS findings, the province’s area is greater than 39,377 has. as caused by the bloated areas of most of the Comval municipalities. The province has 408,600-hectare land area in LMS, while it has 447,977 has in LMB.

Calapardo clarified that the LMB, which is a special office based in Manila, has its own set of data drawn from regional office among which are non-updated data while LMS has been updated from time to time, which explains the discrepancy.

But based from official papers, it is found out that Comval LGUs are actually using their respective total areas much different from LMS and LMB data.

Except for Nabunturan and Compostela which have greater areas than those found out by LMS, the rest of Comval towns would have their areas decreased from the lowest 3,769 has. affecting Mawab to highest 14,377 has. affecting Mabini. The province officially used 466,693 has, which would greatly decrease by 58,093 has. if the LMS is followed.

Calapardo said that the LMS areas "are more or less the exact, nearest to the truth" citing that LMS used various surveys starting in the 1990s, aerial photographs and on "best interpretation" of area delineation based on compromise agreements in cases involving boundary conflicts, on natural boundaries in cases involving unspecified delineation and on the laws and executive orders on the creation of LGUs.

Earlier, the LMS finding was vehemently objected by several town mayors, who called for thorough review and status quo in their respective administrative areas.

In LMS recent finding comparing LMB data, the municipalities whose areas would be reduced are Pantukan by 17,914 has., Mabini by 13,152 has., Maragusan by 11,438 has., Montevista by 5,573 has., Compostela by 1,787 has., and Mawab by 427 has..

On the other hand, municipalities that would have increased areas are Laak by 5,080 has., Nabunturan by 3,195 has, Maco by 1,555 has, Monkayo by 1,003 has, and New Bataan by 81 has.

Meanwhile, pending resolution of the issue, Comval local executives are sticking to an agreement that they would have to remain using the officially used areas (cha monforte).

Those daredevil Skylab drivers in Montevista, Comval, Philippines

By Charlie V. Monforte

COMPOSTELA VALLEY- They seem to glide and fly with their fast, winged TMX single motorcycles.

They’re tough and agile in taking a highly risk-taking ride on rough and steep road of the interior highland villages in Montevista, Compostela Valley Province.

Not even the rainy season when the road becomes all too muddy and slippery could dampen the daredevil “Skylab” motorcycle drivers of Montevista. The motorcycle ride on the ascending road leading to at least seven highland barangays east of Montevista poblacion may just peanuts to the town’s Skylab driver, who with one single motorcycle could carry a maximum load of 10 passengers.

This isn’t for Ripley’s. True enough, the Japan-made single motorcycle built supposedly for a single or two passengers has undergone serious evolution here for the past two decades out of local ingenuity and road’s necessities.

But the road’s hazards posed by stones and rocks, cliffs along during dry days, the slips during rainy days and the possibility of a tumble and mishap often give a frightening experience than a thrill for the first-time passengers of the some 80 Skylab motorcycles in town.

The Skylab motorcycle started to evolve as an alternative means of people’s transportation during the Martial Law period. It later earned its moniker “Skylab” with the town folk joking on the vehicle’s figure as similar to the wrecked US Skylab space shuttle that went back crashing to earth in the early 80s.

At the height of the country’s scare to the falling debris of the space shuttle, the town’s Skylab was establishing itself as the popular means of transportation of the highland barangays.


Montevista Skylab motorcycle first appeared to be “winged” by its flat wooden plank rope-tied at the driver’s back seat. Later the plank was screwed tight to the cycle’s rear with protruding wooden hump fit to hold passengers’ buttocks during descent, and bolted with steel handgrip.

At present, the town’s Skylabs seem to have already come full circle of its evolution when drivers started to mount three years ago a slender plastic cover to shield passengers from the rain or scorching sun rays.

Other designs have two rows of elevated cubicles balancing both at the motorcycle’s sides to enclose passengers’ feet that are always left hanging while on the road in the usual designs.

It was the few hog buyers in motorcycles who put the plank to carry and deliver the hogs they bought down to Montevista poblacion for slaughtering, recalled Buenaventura Toledo, farmer in barangay Canidkid.

“But the Skylabs started with perennially bad roads leading to the barangays of San Vicente, Camantangan, Sambayon, Lebanon, New Dalaguet, New Sibulan, Prosperidad, Canidkid, Mayaon, Banlasan and Camansi,” he said.

Some of these villages especially the remote ones were known as no-man’s land sometime and mass base areas of the New People’s Army during the 70s and 80s.

Montevista’s Skylab was the first and the model pattern of other similar vessels which were later plying routes in other upland areas like those found in the near San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, in Babak, Samal Island, in some areas of Misamis Oriental or in other parts in Mindanao.

Eufrosenio Nalangan, a former kagawad of Barangay Canidkid, said that he was first afraid to ride the vehicle especially when scaling about 45 deg. ascending road. Later he said he developed acquaintance with the Skylab’s fittings and would just ride in the timing of the driver’s balance, with breath held on for a moment of thrill especially when there are loose rocks and stones in so uphill paths.


Nalangan now says the vehicle is so indispensable to barangay people’s mobility, their products as well as for nighttime emergencies like the ferrying of a mother about to give birth or an ill person needed to be brought fast to the hospital downhill.

Roel Dablo, a Skylab driver for eight years now, said that since when he started driving he did not heard of any passenger being crashed to death. He said he knew only of at least two Skylab accidents in the past where passengers sustained serious bone fractures.

Regularly heard however here are unfortunate passengers getting bruises, cuts and sprains particularly from incidents of Skylab’s falling down at its side especially when negotiating uphill climbs.

Most of these side falls have been driven by a newcomer or start-up drivers, Dablo said. “The unfortunate passengers just shrugged off the accident as part of the ride.”

But the Skylab offers the fastest means of conveyance compared to the few public utility jeeps that tried to operate a few years ago in the highland barangays here, which would only start running after getting many passengers. Later the jeeps were no longer seen anymore while plying Skylabs keep on picking up passengers and cargoes on the road, Nalangan said.

As the town’s Skylab now proves to be the king of the road traversing the once hotbed villages of the longest-running Maoist insurgency, there’s also sustainable livelihood generated from it.

A Skylab operator-driver in town earns a daily average of P200 to P300 during normal days and P500 to P600 during Saturdays when villagers go to Montevista poblacion for the tabo (market day), said Dablo with a smile. (Sunstar-Davao July 20, 2004)


The fierce tribal warrior of Korambog
by Cha Monforte

If some historical accounts are considered, Compostela Valley is one thriving with legendary exploits of its own native people.

Mabini town in the northeast coastal side of the province was originally peopled by the Mansakas who respected a native Bagani (warrior) Maglintang. During the pre-migration times the place was then called Korambog for the beetle nut that was abundant in the place. In dialect we call korambog as mama which is leisurely chewed by older natives.

Bagani Maglintang was said stocky, taller in height and a silent type. He spoke direct to the point- authoritatively. He always wore a red headdress, tucked his waist a kampilan, the sword of the natives, and at times carried spear, bow and arrows.

The warrior’s protected territory in the province was said to extend from the coast of Hijo in Maco up to Tibagon in Pantukan and from there towards the northern mountains and the rivers of Beregyan and Palale.

Bagani Maglintang was a warrior protective of his people and by his role as the punisher to the abusive members of the tribe he was feared at even by outsiders who wanted to enter into Korambog territory.

Accordingly, Malintang’s resistance to foreign colonizers was recorded in a book that can be found in the library of the University of the Philippines in Manila. A part of the book chronicled about Maglintang denying entry to a horde of American soldiers at the moment they reached Korambog’s shore.

The American gringos who wanted to negotiate with the tribe were said to be confronted by Maglintang with his baganis and told to leave from the Korambog territory. Faced by battle-ready Mansaka warriors with their native armaments, the Americans left at Maglintang’s forceful verbal behest.

Bagani Maglintang was said to be a fierce warrior who had killed abusive migrants in Korambog. He is the youngest in the brood of three sons of Matikadong (elder) Tibos. His brothers Konat and Oyangus were also leaders of the tribe as the judge and warrant officer, respectively. Maglintang was considered as the berdugo defender of the tribe.

Once the three sons were involved in dramatic event that involved a native who committed a grave offense in the tribe. Konat, the tribal judge sent Oyangus to get the offender. Brought to the balcony of the house of Oyangus, the offender immediately kneeled down before Oyangus crying and asking pardon for what he did. The forgiving Oyangus also cried knowing that the person was one of his bosom friends in the tribe.

Hearing of Oyangus pardon, the offender tried to jump over the balcony to go out but Bagani Maglintang, who was around in the vicinity, could not accept his brother’s verdict, and then and there he threw a spear to the offender killing him in the process.

It was witnessed in full view of the tribe and the brothers were forced to render oratories before the dead body. He who had not sinned deserved neither death nor punishment.

Learning lessons from the death of the offender, Oyangus called on tribe members to cherish the principles of closeness, cooperation, sharing and mutual defense and protection.

Konat, who was also around, preached for observance of tribal laws primed by their father Matikadong Tibos which he said were anchored on giving respect to each other, standing up not to be oppressed and on not taking advantage from others.

The ever-protective Maglintang had his say and stressed that all able-bodied Mansakas in the tribe have the obligation to protect their race, homes, properties, rights, limbs and lives from abusers, oppressors and invaders.

Bagani Maglintang was said to have 14 wives, Oyangus with 10 wives and Konat with 1 wife, from whom the number of the descendants of Makatidong Tibos has continued to swell on at present. Tibos descendants came to comprise the officials of Korambog as it was beginning to shape into Mabini township.

On Sept. 15, 2000 the descendants of Maglintang, Oyangus and Konat had their grand reunion filling to the rafters the jampacked municipal auditorium of Mabini town. The descendants organized themselves into Ompo Konat, Oyangus, Maglintang (OKOM) Tibos Mansaka Clan.

Chronicles like these are enlightening considering the neglect made by the National Commission on Indigenous People to trace the history of tribes and who the legendary leaders were of each tribe we have in the provinces.

More preoccupied in the present vogue of determining the ancestral domains and lands of the indigenous folk, the NCIP forgets to look back the past of the tribes without which we can’t be reminded that the lumads along with the Moros were the original inhabitants in this island.

The history of whatever town in this island is ought to begin with the lumads or the Moros. They’ve been here after the time of Adam and Eve, said Tagum diocese Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz in one occasion in Comval. Unfortunately, their history was long buried by tides of Visayan migration.

Always a Mindanao town’s history was written on the vista of the migrants, making a great leap over the pre-colonial history of the lumads and the Moros, starting right on the settlers’ opening of the frontiers in every nook and corner in the island. For that, the history of each Mindanaoan town is ought to be re-written.
(Source of Maglintang chronicles: Visayan narratives written by Cesar “Sarx” M. Lanos, a living descendant of Bagani Maglintang)

(Brown Edges is one of the views of the Rural Urban News (RUN), a community news edited online based in Compostela Valley seizing up the seamless advantages of Internet, e-mail technologies. For reactions, e-mail to: ruralurbanews@yahoo.com)

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Machine inventions to make organic fertilizer, push MRF recycling deep fried in the backwoods of Compostela Valley

By Cha Monforte

In his way of contributing to contain the country’s pestering waste management problem, an inventor based in Compostela Valley has come up mobile machines that could potentially boost production of organic fertilizer and recycling of biodegradable and organic materials for individual livelihood purposes.

Arthur A. Benedicto, an awardee inventor of the Dept. of Science and Technology, has recently designed and initially sold his mobile “all-in-one” shredder, mobile organic fertilizer mixer and rotary aerobic composter to various end-users including local government units of Panabo City, Asuncion in Davao del Norte, Trento, Agusan del Sur and the Davao Oriental provincial government.

“The shredder can shred organic materials from kitchen refuse, banana stalks and fruit peelings, rice straws to inorganic ones like plastics and cellophanes,” said Benedicto, an inventor who has long been based in the province’s capital town of Nabunturan.

The plastic shreds can then be used as cushions for pillows or a mixture of hollow block, the peelings or rice straws for fertilizer for one’s livelihood.

But to make complete organic fertilizer, the mixer and composter of Davao Techno Craft, Benedicto’s firm, are best appendages to the shredder.

“The mixer on the other hand mixes for your own organic fertilizer formula in only 10- to 15-minute mixing time,” he added.

Both the shredder and mixer run on fuel-efficient 7-horsepower diesel engine.

The aerobic composter does a mechanized way of composting that shortens the composting period by 50 percent.

“It is safe and contains and eliminates harmful bacteria to avoid spread of diseases, besides that it eliminates the unwanted weed seeds,” he said.

A customer entrepreneur Ely Miguel in Trento town said that he has recently sold his first 1,000 bags of fertilizer in his new livelihood out of Benedicto’s shredder and mixer which he bought last September.

Benedicto’s latest three machines are now positioned in the market to be the processing machine requirements of an operational material recovery facility (MRF) that has been required in every barangay or cluster of barangays under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, that until now lags behind in the government’s full implementation target to address the country’s continuing garbage crisis.

“The cost of each machine is just within a small barangay budget,” he said.


Also, Benedicto is currently completing an environment-friendly integrated gold processing system ordered by a small-scale mining firm operating in the town’s Barangay Mainit mining district.

“Unregulated, polluting gold processing will take turn for a best with the processing machine that uses the feed water over and over again… than allow it to exit to pollute our rivers, waterways and eventually the seas,” Benedicto enthused.

In its complete design, the gold processing system rolls on 10-horsepower capacity with two giant 10-ton per day ballmill ore crushers, filtering, sorting and draining components and cynidation leaching plant all geared to extracting the maximum gold content of the ores under a most time-and cost-efficient and zero-waste management principle.

The system is apt for a province known of its gold-rich Mt. Diwalwal and many mineralized districts where many gold strikes and finds by mere shallow diggings have been reported since the rise and intensification of small-scale mining in the 80s.

Besides Benedicto has recently completed a portable abaca stripper with clutch and brake as the government renewed its campaign in the recent years to boost abaca production in the countrysides.

Through all the 34 years that this eccentric inventor has been tinkering steel and designing machines, and noted first by his agricultural machines, he has never moved out from his headquarters from the backwoods of his town.

But his machines have already reached as far as Ecuador and Malaysia, and acquired or used by multinational firms, agriculture department, local government units, cooperatives, private corporations and private end users across the country.

Benedicto, now 52 years old, started from a scratch. He was barely 19 years old when he decided to quit college and pursued his fling of inventing something to help farmers in his town.

He has been fond of tinkering farming machines of his late farmer father and for  being associated with rice farmers in youth days in the farm, two years after, on meager P1,000 financial support of an older brother, he produced his own rice thresher out from metal scraps. He had it rented to the farmers for a fee.


From the mid 70s he has produced this range of farming machines and equipment: turtle power tiller, rice thresher, corn sheller, multigrain processing device, multigrain mechanical dryer, mobile multigrain winnower, corn seed dryer, rice and corn milling set, coconut decorticator, feedmill and more in various designs and models at the urging and want of buyers.

“These have been designed ala deep fried for coming out from ideas pursued with the people in our localities,” he said.

“Yes, there’s that passion to invent, I am just working then and now, designing is work and occupation to me,” says Benedicto, now evidently seen as the leader inventor-designer based midpoint in the northern phalanx of Davao Region’s provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Caraga region’s Agusan del Sur.

He got his first recognition as an inventor in 1987 when he was named as one of the national awardees of DoST, and by the Philippine Productivity Movement for his multigrain processing device, a rice thresher and multigrain sheller combined.


He invents, designs and innovates whatever people want him to make based on their specifications and suggestions.

“I come up a good design and better product since the idea is pursued collectively with the ones who make the order. I always consult them. I make observations. I read a lot of books and reading materials before. I weigh the pros and cons. I’ll tell the idea is not feasible when it isn’t feasible. I improve when there’s room for improvement. It cannot be that inventors would not listen to others,” Benedicto said.

And how he thanks now that he can easily browse the Internet for layers of knowledge on idea pursued in creating something good for country.

“I remain in my town since it’s here where I grew up and where my friends are, and besides there’s now no barrier in communicating your ideas with the world outside,” he said. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)

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Destroyed by mine tailings a decade ago, Compostela Valley's Lake Leonard, the Crocodile Lake rehabilitates itself

By Charlie V. Monforte

NEW LEYTE, Maco, Compostela Valley Province (July 2003)- The diminutive but wondrously hidden Lake Leonard of Barangay New Leyte of Maco town in this province has been persistently recuperating by itself for a decade now after it was left a huge pond for the thousands of tons of toxic and poisonous tailings and wastes of a mining company.

Lake Leonard- named after an intrepid mining prospector Leonard Kniaseff in the pre-war period was also then known as a Crocodile Lake, with its teeming crocodiles that once lived along with the wild geese, deers, boars, daytime bats, rare flora and fauna,freshwater fishes and birds of various species.

At 2,572 feet above sea level, Lake Leonard is ensconced in a small valley atop Compostela Valley's southern mountains straddling the highland barangays of the towns of Maco, Mawab and Maragusan. Then the lake was still about 11 hectares with basin of about 194 hectares, although pioneer settlers here reckoned that the lake in 1970s covered at least 18 hectares.

The lake was smaller then until it widened with a basin covering some 210 hectares after the North Davao Mining Corporation (NDMC)used it as a company's tailings pond for eleven years. That after relocating the entire Barangay New Leyte from the once so fertile plain just beside the lake to its present location atop a nearby mountain.

NDMC stopped its mining operations since 1992 until present at Amacan area here due to losing mining ventures. It is now a government subsidiary corporation under the Privatization Management Office (PMO), formerly the Assets Privatization Trust (APT).

But prior to the lake's conversion as tailings pond the NDMC separately figured in a disastrous flashflood in neighboring Amacan river that claimed over 200 lives on October 1980 during the preparatory works of the company. Residents here said that the lake had at least doubled in size.

Nevertheless, it is still a dwarf compared to 4,000-hectare Lake Lanao and smaller than 304-hectare Lake Maughan of Tiboli, South Cotabato. It is yet famous for being small and hidden by high mountains in the surrounding villages of Masara, Amacan and New Leyte. It can be reached in a largely uphill drive via the all-weather barangay road passing Barangay Andili in about an hours from Mawab poblacion, or through the landslide-prone and steeply village routes for an hour and a half from Maco poblacion.


Maco Mayor Miller L. Alaba, MD said that since when the NDMC stopped its operations in the area since 1992 the lake has been largely undergoing a persistent process of natural rehabilitation, adding that in fact it is now a good source of fish of the host community.

He said that the host barangay and Maco local government have been launching community efforts in trying to restore and promote the lake. While the municipality has already declared the lake and its environs as protected area and a lake development plan is forthcoming, the mayor said that he is currently drumming up support to develop the lake area as a summer capital in this part of the country to the likes of the known Tagaytay or Baguio.

Because of the lake's highland location, cool environment and picturesque view, an agri-eco-tourism themed development can be pursued in the area, he said. Log cabins and cottages can be built around the lake and run by organized women, as its widened water body is good for leisure boating, while a sustainable fishing, vegetable farming and raising of wild ducks can be developed out from the lake's environs, the mayor muses in drawing out quick ideas in promoting the lake that was already considered dead in early 1990s.

The mayor said he has recently extended a P200,000-worth of
agricultural support intended for vegetable farming for the barangay including the remaining arable land in the lake's area, which was known as a vegetable bowl before it was destroyed then. He said that periodic tree planting activities have been launched by the barangay and the municipal government in the area, and last June 15 Araw ng Maco the lake became for the second year the starting point of the mountain biking race.

Since the recent years, the provincial government of Compostela Valley, in trying to restore people's livelihood derived from the lake have been seeding it with tilapia fingerlings. In 2000 it made regular monitoring following a report that the lake's huge water was spilling out from its basin as the NDMC dam in the lake was about to collapse.

The report however turned out to be false as confirmed by the inter-department and interagency task force created
by Gov. Jose R. Caballero. The task force found out that the dam is a highly engineered structure which has a spillway for excess water to exit down to Masara river especially during rainy days.


New Leyte barangay kagawad William Taculod, in an interview with this writer in the company of Ang Peryodiko Comval weekly publisher Virgo Baguio last June 24 at the lake site, said that from 1993 to 1996 following NDMC's closure New Leyte villagers did not eat fish coming from the lake fearing poisoned catch due to mine toxic wastes. Now everyday villagers get their viand from the lake without
one them being poisoned or getting sick, he says.

Taculod recalled that during the NDMC's operations the barangay folk were prevented by the company guards not to fish in the lake forewarning about mine tailings. Residents here recalled that they heard about cyanide being thrown in the lake along with the mine tails. But Taculod said that there were still few brave souls in the barangay out of survival who dared catch and still consume fishes
from the lake they used to subsist during the height of NDMC's operations.

He said that at present they find the lake's fishes are edible knowing that for sometime in the recent past some government men had been regularly making laboratory tests and analysis on the lake water.

Taculod, who arrived in 1983 at the relocation site of the barangay New Leyte, reckoned that that the mine tailings and earth that cascaded down to the lake basin and the nearby area where the original barangay New Leyte once stood could have been of the same volume lost in
the sinking of the eroded mountain they called as PNOC, one of the hills surrounding the lake where accordingly the Phil. National Oil Company once had its exploratory operations, and where later NDMC had its open-cut mining operations.

He recalled that when he arrived in the place he could no longer see the vegetables and low-growing crops of the settlers. I could only see trunks of trees already buried by about two arms lengths of tailings. As years went by, the ground swelled to the branches of low-growing coffee trees until taller coconut trees could no longer be seen as they were already covered by earth tailings, mud and wastewater, burying what was once the location of the original Barangay New Leyte,Taculod recalls.

The once fertile lakeside plain is now a solidified empty land sparsely dotted by grasses. According to the residents, the tailings spilled over the plain and fell into the lake basin resulting to the raising of its elevation and water level and simultaneously increasing its basin coverage. The water of the lake is supplied by the cold and hot springs unscathed by the tailings and is continuously replenished in its regulated flowing down through the dam'sspillway. Toward the late 1990s, government men had been intermittently seeding the lake with tilapia, hito and mudfish fingerlings.

At present, New Leyte folk here have been obviously glad that the aquatic life has been restored in the lake. As it is now, everyone can go on fishing freely or enjoy taking a bath at the lake the barangay consider as a collective public property, while some enterprising residents have put up fish cages. The barangay council had also put up seven cottages for the residents and visitors to use for outdoor gatherings. It was also learned that a barangay resolution was already passed last year asking authorities never to use the lake again as a tailings pond by any mining company.

Lorna Varcas, council of women president and a fish vendor in the barangay, says that daily she is getting fish supplies from to lake to vend for P25-P30 per kilo. She said that the barangay residents have no problem for their viand as they only have to go on fishing or buy at her stall at low prices. She said that in the 1970 the original barangay used even earnings from the lake fishes to finance for the salaries of their elementary teachers.


The lake was once known as the Crocodile Lake for its hundreds by the thousands of crocodiles that keep the lake alive with life, writer P.H. Ortega Jr. recalls his 1954 visit to the lake in his article Eulogy to a Dead Volcano, Lake Leonard in June 1996 issue of Davao Development Newsette.

Ortega wrote the article on the anniversary date 42 years after he had gone to the lake on Sept. 11, 1954, along with Percy J. Cutting,former general superintendent of Masara Mines, which was then managed and operated by the Samar Mining Company (Samico), a subsidiary of Elizalde & Company and Anne Cutting, his wife, and Celedonio Nakpil, a company mining prospector.

According to Masara residents, Ortega was a personnel manager of the 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, some 5 kms down west of New Leyte, just like the Amacan during the heyday of NDMC in the 80s to early 90s.

Ortega narrated that they proceeded on foot to the lake, hacking and slashing their way through densely forested mountains and thick vegetation, holding on to dear life on thick vines while ascending and descending through deep ravines.

According to him, the lake in 1954 had then crystal-clear water that one could see the bottom full of seaweed looking underwater plants, bats that darkened the skies as they flew in huge numbers. He describes that the lake was true refuge and sanctuary of the wildlife deers, the binaws (as the Mansakas call them), wild boars, wild geese, the kalaws squawking, hoarse voices mingling with those of the birds of different species that echoed and re-echoed throughout the lake area. The lake then was surrounded by a truly virgin land, untouched by the advances of civilization.

He said that they went around the lake and saw several mounds of dried leaves where they saw crocodile eggs almost the size of goose eggs and at the lake's edge the newly-hatched crocodiles some of which measuring six inches long.

"We scooped some of them out of the water, about 20 of them, and brought them to Masara and allowed them to grow in a man-made pool at the minesite. A year later, they have grown in size and much to our regret, a company executive who visited the minesite saw these reptiles and brought them to Manila, Ortega recalls.

In Ortega's narratives, the lake was named after Leonard Kniaseff who obviously put the lake in the country's map, although the writer considered Kniaseff as the one who discovered the lake during the pre-war period. In the list of lakes in Mindanao in the 1940 Census Atlas of the Philippines, Lake Leonard was not yet mentioned. However, the Lake Leonard was already plotted in the US Army Map, Series 711, compiled in 1956, from 1947-1953 photographs in the Bureau of Construction and Geodetic Survey, Dept. of Public Highways and Others.

Kniazeff was prospecting for minerals in the mid thirties within the radius of 15 kilometers from his homebase in the pre-war Davao Gold Mines based in Hijo when he discovered the existence of the lake, writes Ortega. After the war, Samico opened its Masara Mines, and Kniazeff became its first general superintendent. In 1952 he died and Alfred G. Vellguth, Samico director and operations staff of the pre-war Davao gold Mine renamed the lake into what is known
now as Lake Leonard as a fitting tribute to the courageous and intrepid mining prospector.


But the Mansakas considered the lake they called as Danaw as a revered waterbody of their forebears, a part of the Mansaka ancestral land, says 68-year old Mansaka chieftain Fidel Barillo, also a former barangay captain of Panoraon, another adjacent village, 1 km of New Leyte.

In an interview, he said the at times Mansakas call the lake as Lino, referring to a pool of trapped water. He said that a story carried from generation to generation of Mansaka people who lived in scattered hinterlands neighboring the lake told about the lake not yet habitated by crocodiles. At some time the lake later became byabaroy, Mansaka term for feared due to the crocodiles that sooner thrived after some Mansaka brethren went to the lake and made irreverent acts such as creating noise or laughing that disturbed that spirits in the lake, Barillo shares a Mansaka lake story.

He recalled that during his teenage days he went for in his father's forays at the lake's vicinity, considered as a good hunting ground. In a distance atop a hill, he saw a so serene lake amidst the surrounding thick foliages where they got wild animals and wild fruits. For its crocodiles, the Mansakas except the known tribal hunter named Habana from Tagbarus village had some fear into going near to the lake,he said.

In the late 60s, late Habana had been known in the New
Leyte-Masara-Panoraon-Tagbarus hinterlands here for his exploits as a fearless crocodile hunter in the lake. Accordingly, Habana would always went out of the lake carrying his catch of crocodiles in varying sizes which he would sell at the lowlands, Barillo recalls.


The lake was also known as Vegetable Bowl of Davao del Norte just like Trinidad Valley in Baguio up north. Ortega described that the lake once sit on a fertile hidden valley and an excellent fishing ground where freshwater fish of different species thrived.

Cenon Cadion, 66, first among the pioneer lake settlers, said he first saw the lake in 1964 while prospecting in the forests for good land to cultivate from Masara. That time he thought that with a fertile plain land beside a beautiful lake where fishes could be raised, humans could survive in there. He said the lake then was indeed attractive of its clear water with untouched moss, hot and cold springs and the orchids in the forest that surrounded it.

Attracted by the habitable environment of the lake, he with few others soon cultivated a track of land in the lakeside plain. Migrants came flocking in to stake land claims starting in the late 60s after news spread that a good land could be found by the lake until a settlement was formed. Because most of migrants to the lake were from Leyte, the community then called the plain as the New Leyte. In the late 1970s New Leyte became a separate barangay from Masara
with over 100 houses and a population of 500, Cadion recalls.

Alejandro Mendoza, also a pioneer settler to the lake, said that the land was so conducive to farming that he made good cash then especially from vegetables good for classy cuisine like cabbages, potatoes and the like. Vegetable farmers and traders would transport vegetables on foot crossing for several times the stream of Masara river to Masara, where they were hauled on to trucks and sold to
Tagum and Davao City, he said.

Pioneer settlers recalled that then were food-sufficient in the original site as they had vegetables, corn, banana and cash crops like coffee, durian and coconut trees along with the lake's abundant freshwater fishes that multiplied after they started seeding the lake with fingerlings. They were awed that every crop they planted just grew abundantly in the old site sans the use of fertilizers and spray chemicals.

The settlers also recalled that they practiced regulated fishing then especially during the time of their first barangay captain Sotero Neri, Sr. who had once told them that the lake area was bound to be a sought-after tourist spot in the future. Neri later died of heart attack during the thick of the negotiations with NDMC management relating their relocation.

Now Mendoza along with the others have regretted for selling rights of the good land to NDMC to be relocated at the present barangay site in an upper mountain overlooking the lake, some 500 meters from the original site. "We could have been rich by now had we not sold our rights and continued farming in the fertile soil of the lake area," says Mendoza.

Florentino Yunson, now 61, who tilled four hectares at the old site, recalls that then the villagers could survive without going to the lowlands to buy basic foodstuffs unlike at present as they were then blessed with abundant fish that grew so big in a year's time, cereals and rootcrops. Like Mendoza, he has expressed regrets in opting for the cash which he said was just lost in a short time.


The lakeside New Leyte then known as a thriving agricultural community before NDMC arrived. Accordingly, the company entered into an agreement with Elizalde & Co. to develop, exploit and operate the latter's Amacan Mine. NDMC then entered as one of the corporate copper-to-gold
mining companies in the erstwhile undivided Davao del Norte during the heyday start of corporate mining in early 1970s, along with the Apex Mining which operated the Masara Mines of Elizalde- subsidiary

Samico and the Sabena Mining Corporation in Barangay Camanlangan, New Bataan in the present Compostela Valley Province, which was carved out from Davao del Norte in 1998.

Wilfredo Guimbaolibot, a Masara resident, recalled that the negotiation of the NDMC to the relocation of the New Leyte residents took about three years starting in the late 70s. Negotiation came simultaneous with the preparatory mining works done by DMCI and CICJ firms,contractors of NDMC.

He said that the New Leyte community first resisted to relocation of NDMC as the settlers were already gaining then from abundant agricultural produce. But the oppositors from the community including his so idealistic older brother Godofredo Paking, former caretaker barangay captain of New Leyte who later joined the New People's Army after being hounded by the military, were later outnumbered by those who accepted with the monetary offers of NDMC.

"It was martial law then and with the powerful Marcos and Elizalde, they could not do otherwise," recalls the younger Guimbaolibot, an employee of a Korean company which is presently buying metal chattels of NDMC for melting, even as he said that the NDMC had well compensated the affected residents. (Ed- The older Guimbalot was killed on Aug. 2, 1999 along with three others in what was known as the Mawab Four massacre).

Another pioneer settler Lucy Sayson said that NDMC had given to the 80 affected villagers a total compensation only for damages to their crops and plants amounting to some P8 million, of which she was allocated P84,000, beside the P2 million that reportedly went to the barangay. She said that the affected settlers got varying compensation depending on the type and growth status of their crops and plants. At that time many settlers were producing vegetables intercropped with the growing coffee and coconut trees. The plain was also emerging a coffee plantation belt.

Further under the scheme, her share was already deducted of 10 percent for the payment of their relocation lots. But until now when NDMC has long gone in their area Sayson complains that the relocation lots of the residents remain unreleased and untitled yet to them.

Manuel Vergara, Community Environment and Natural Resources officer incharge for Comval coastal towns, bared in separate interview that the vast areas covering the whole New Leyte and its adjacent barangays and the hinterlands of Mabini town are still under NDMC's mining claim under MPSA Application No. (XI) F-14 filed on Jan. 8, 1996.

He said that the New Leyte could no longer be released as alienable and disposable area as the national land policy of maintaining a 40 percent for release to private entities and 60 percent under government administration has long been breached. He however said that New Leyte residents could still avail of special tenurial arrangements under DENR programs like stewardship and forest management agreements with definite period of time, schemes that do not jibe with the quest for security of land tenure of the residents. The relocated New Leyte covering a land area of 32 square kilometers has now a population of 2,500.


According to geologists, Lake Leonard was a dead volcano scaling up about a maximum altitude of about 5,000 feet above sea level a million of years ago. This is suggested by what formed like a collapsed caldera in the lake's bowl-shaped topography and presence of faults and fissures acting as passageways of the hot springs located at its periphery. Once the Philippine National Oil explored
and drilled in the area for possible geothermal energy.

In 1980, NDMC started the construction of its tailings pond (the Lake itself) and dam. Lake Leonard became the source of water supply for NDMC's huge copper milling and processing plant. At the same time, the Lake was utilized as its "giant ashtray", where milling wastes or tails were dumped. This sealed the death sentence of Lake Leonard," narrates Ortega.

He added that because of the daily spoiling its crystal-clear waters have turned ash-gray because of mud, slime and filth that were dumped into it. A wide portion of the lake has solidified because of the dumping of thousands of tons of daily milling wastes containing poisonous chemicals and reagents. Lake Leonard is now a dead lake. And Ortega cries to high heavens: "Nothing is left except for the barren soil, denuded and bald mountains, landslides and flashfloods that are mute witnesses of a bygone era. The flora and fauna are gone forever. So are the technical experts who killed the Lake.

They have gone to seek employment elsewhere- leaving the people who reside in the lake area to suffer and fend for themselves because of the utter destruction that they have brought to bear on the environment and the ecology."


Following the relocation of the community at its present site, NDMC figured in a flashflood disaster in October 10, 1980 when a big pool of water trapped by the construction debris at the upper portion of Amacan river following weeks of continuous rains gave way rampaging down contractors' bunkhouses and electrical lines in lower ground along the river channel, which resulted to over 200 casualties many of whom were electrocuted, Guimbalot said.

Already relocated when the flashflood struck, settlers called the flashflood as Buhawi. Fortunately, Lake Leonard, about 6 kms from the NDMC's plant, is not traversed by Amacan river channel.

After the preparatory works and the dam construction, NDMC started operating in 1982 directly using the lake as its tailings pond.

The disaster consequently led to the fear of downstream Masaraline communities of Panoraon, Masara, Elizalde, Panibasan, Kinuban of Maco, Andili and Nuevo Iloco of Mawab, where the Masara river traverses, over a possible similar fate on the mine tailings dumped in Lake Leonard.

Barangay folk here said then that because of the NDMC's mine tailings dumped daily might soon became too heavy that break the dam the company had constructed to entrap the tailings. They said that before when the lake was still small, they were just convenient even during heavy rains knowing of the lake would just continuously discharge enough rainwater from unmined mountains.

Residents in downstream communities only heaped a sigh a relief when NDMC stopped its operations in 1992. Some New Leyte villagers are even gratified that NDMC's dam had caused for the widening of the lake's area and that the
solidification of the tailings would mean that the dam would have only to contend with the weight of its water.
But other residents though have still lingering fears on the dam.

Like Cadion, the lead-petitioners of the lake area, the only one remaining in the community who refused NDMC's offer for sentimental reason, but whose farm was anyway buried by the coming of mine tailings, says: "The dam is thought to be for good purpose. But not all wants industries. It seems like the dam is safe until something happens."

Meantime, the NDMC compound at Amacan area, 5 kms from Lake Leonard sits idly in eerie silence as its 300 staff houses are empty except the few used by a handful security guards. The compound used to be brisk with the over 1,000 mining workers working then during NDMC's operations which stopped in 1992.

At the backdrop of rather dead scene of NMDC compound, Lake Leonard can be seen in a low plain showing persistent signs of coming back to life.