DAVAO

Ledesma: Davao de Oro

Sunbursts

WHILE the entire nation celebrates the country's triumph in the 30th SEA Games, a thousand miles down south, the political leaders of Compostela Valley province and their constituents are deliriously celebrating a historic and significant event -- the "ratification by plebiscite the bill that called for the renaming of the province into Davao de Oro."

Carved out from Davao del Norte in 1998 by Davao congressional pillars that included the late Lorenzo Sarmiento, his son Roger, Rodolfo del Rosario and Baltazar Sator, the province was named Compostela Valley Province, better known as Comval, on account of the vast and fertile valley of then better known Compostela town. In those times agriculture was what preoccupied Comval although tales of gold nuggets carried by cascading waters from rivulets in the foothills of its mountain ranges had lured adventurous small-scale miners in the mountain barangays of Monkayo.

It is quite queer while Comval was named after one of the towns of the province and queerer still because the capital town is Nabunturan.

Region 11 is comprised of five provinces four of which are Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental and the 5th, Compostela Valley Province. Comval stood out differently from the rest.

Part of the exciting stories about Comval is the persistent rumors about a man who peed in a corn field his urine hitting gold ore so big it glittered in the moonlit night. It was dismissed as a fairy tale. But later people found nuggets in rivers drawing crowds panning for gold.

The towns of Monkayo, Compostela, New Bataan, Mawab and Patukan were once upon a time among the richest timberlands of the country. Logging firms from Luzon scrambled for concessions that were farmed out by the government. They logged in a frenzy.

In time the forest disappeared, and more tales of glittering gold nuggets found in the riverbeds invited curiosity. The stories indicated that rich gold veins maybe present in the bowels of the mountain ranges. The adventurous and the brave courageously ventured into the mountains and started to dig and indeed not a few of them struck lodes of gold.

With the gold rush emerged new political leaders, young and resolute. The formidable among them and to whom the progress of the province became quite dynamic is Arthur "Chiongkee" Uy.

Elected first as member of the Provincial Board he quickly rose to become governor and stayed there practically unopposed. His brother, Rey "Chiong" Uy chartered his own political career and became Mayor of Tagum, the Capital town of Davao del Norte.

Children of Chinese immigrant who settled in Tagum and established a restaurant that served popular Chinese cuisine, the Uy brothers were honed by their parents in work discipline and value of education. Mayor ChiongUy transformed laidback Tagum into a modern city widening and concreting streets and opening new farm to market roads.

The Uys later joined the rush in search for gold in Diwalwal, Monkayo. Unlike most miners, however, they brought the kind of discipline and in work and in fiscal management. The latter generation that includes Dennis Uy, often referred to as a Taipan from Mindanao, went into fuel distribution and communications, the others into transport and construction.

To Governor Chiongkee and later his son, Tyron who is now the incumbent governor of the erstwhile Comval, goes the credit and recognition for assiduously working for renaming the province Davao de Oro.

Indeed, what a coincidence. While the Philippines harvested the biggest number of gold medallions in the just concluded SEA Games, one significant triumph had taken place in Davao Region.

Comval, had been renamed Davao de Oro, a name which truly descriptive and apt for a province that yields the biggest gold deposits in the country, if not the world.

I reached out to Governor Chiongkee after the plebiscite to ask his reaction on the results of the votes.

All he said was "the people had long wanted to change the name and they decided overwhelmingly to rename Comval into Davao de Oro. My family joins them in this grand celebration. It is every one's Christmas gift."


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