Compostela is one of the municipalities that comprise the vast plains of Compostela Valley. Its development started before World War II when the area was still a forest and the only inhabitants were the native Mandayas who chose to settle along the river banks of the compassionate Agusan River.
There are no written records as to how Compostela got its name but respectable residents believed that it was a temporary Spanish settlements, a “Kampo de Kastila” of Spanish that came from the Eastern Coast of Davao Oriental. Another version is that a Spanish friar from the East Coast came to the place bringing with him a statue of Senior Santiago de Apostol, patron saint of his birth place Compostela, Spain and thus named the place Compostela.
Before the outbreak of World War II, Compostela Valley was one of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes for Mindanao. Its office was based at Dansalan, Lanao under the directorship of Teofisto Guingona, Sr. who was then exercising government control over provinces and municipal districts of Mindanao. However, the bureau was abolished right after the war. The valley was then formed into Compostela-Monkayo Districts and subdivided into three small districts: Monkayo, Compostela and Camansa. Compostela was governed by Mr. Bonifacio Garcia as the District Mayor appointed by the Governor of Davao which during that time was still one province with the capitol at Davao City. Local government functions were performed by the governor and the district mayors were only ceremonial leaders.
Road construction of the Davao-Agusan National Highway extended up to Camp Kalaw, a Philippine Constabulary detachment located at Monkayo. Compostela Proper (the popular name of Compostela then) was accessible via Agusan River with embarkation at Kilometer 106 (now Barangay Bankerohan Sur of Montevista). Settlers from Luzon and the Visayas started to settle in Compostela, lured by a promise of vast agricultural lands so fertile and rich if you are determined and able-bodied. That was in 1939 and some of those who came to settle in Compostela to tame the wilderness are the Garcia’s of Talibon, Bohol; the Galenzoga’s of Baybay, Leyte; the Maquilan’s of Mandawe, Cebu; the Regaña’s of Samar; the Estrada’s of Luzon and the Bayubay’s of Ilocos. These pioneers lived in harmony with the native Mandayas; among them were the Blanco’s, the Manzanares’, the Braose’s, the Adao’s and the Fabian’s. Third generation of both these pioneers and natives are still in Compostela today.
When World War II broke out in 1941, most of the people evacuated to hinterlands of the valley leaving their farms behind. Also at these time, the Philippine Civil Assistance Unit (PCAU) established a civil government at Kilometer 90 (now Nabunturan) and installed Juanito Regaña as the Mayor of Compostela.
After the war in 1945, the people came back to their farms which now became a virtual forest. Those who came back again tilled the soil and settled permanently in the place. Also during these times, Governor Antonio Lanzar appointed Mr. Formoso Piansay as Mayor of Compostela.
Now, came in August 1, 1948 when an Executive Order No 156 signed by the late President Elpidio Quirino, organizing into four regular municipalities under the names of Compostela, New Leyte, Governor Genoroso and Trinidad the Municipal Districts of Compostela, Moncayo, Saug, Camansa, Surup, Sigaboy, Batulaki and Caburan, all of the Province of Davao.
In 1949, all municipal districts were abolished thus paving a way for the creation of new municipalities and Compostela with the seat of government at Km. 90 became a regular municipality with Mayor Lauro Arabejo as the appointed mayor. Compostela Proper then was only a barrio of the original Compostela municipality. It is accessible by boat powered by outboard motors that ply from Compostela Proper to km. 106 via Agusan River. From there (km. 106) people go to the government center at km. 90 Nabunturan by hiking or riding.
Then in the early 1950’s, road construction going to Compostela Proper started via km. 102 (now Montevista). One of the engineers of the Bureau of Public Highways was Engineer Prospero S. Amatong.
On June 23, 1957, then President Carlos P. Garcia signed Republic Act No. 2039 which separated Compostela from Nabunturan. The first Mayor appointed by President Carlos P. Garcia was the late Mayor Pio P. Galenzoga, one of the pioneer settlers.
At the time, Compostela was an incongruous mixture of wooden- roofed houses concentrated along the Agusan River which was properly known as “dungguanan” (embarkation). This area later became its center of trade and commerce or Poblacion.
Since then Compostela slowly rose from a backward infant municipality into one of the progressive towns of the valley. Its vast flat lands become the major rice production area of Davao Province when the National Irrigation Administration- Asian Development Bank (NIA-ADB) constructed an irrigation system in the early part of 1970 that serve the southwestern portion of the municipality. Also, Cavendish bananas are produced here by the Ayala Conglomerate and Multi-National Dole (Stanfilco), Philippines, Incorporated. But its progress is owed much to the spirit of the people who came and stayed in Compostela. The realization of their dream is discerned today of the bustling urban center that can boast of modern amenities and updated educational centers. Today, we can truly and modestly say that Compostela is one of the best places to live.