With the prevailing peaceful and quiet atmosphere of Compostela, one would not imagine the battleground that this town had served for several types of war. 

It was an American stronghold against the Japanese during the Second World War. Filipino freedom fighters, considered “insurgents” during the Japanese occupation, fought hard in this place to repel the invaders, scoring against the aggressors. When the Japanese fell, Compostela resisted the American occupation and in 1903, suffered a setback when the town lost its independence having been merged with Liloan during the reorganization of towns.

Before all that, history has told that Compostela’s people joined openly in resenting Spain. At that same era, Compostela saw a glimmer of hope for its economy when industrial giant Zobel de Ayala opened a coal mine in the town, hope that was dashed when the local coal sector crumbled along with the world economy. 

During the Martial Law years, Inday Nita Daluz of Cogon, Compostela was among prominent personalities who fought against the dictator Philippine president, taking up her cause in the airwaves and in rallies in different towns. 

Compostela’s battles were not all about independence, as it fought for other things, too. In the 1990s, Compostela had seen intense legal and verbal clashes over its water resources as it refuses to allow the operation of wells by the Metro Cebu Water District, which planned.  In a more recent, and another kind of “war,” its political conflicts in the 21st century were fiercer than in other towns. This is because after the first automated elections in the history of the Philippines, Compostela is the only town in the country wherein no newly elected mayor was able to assume office. Police and military reinforcement teams were sent to this northern town as allegations and counter-allegations fly, testing the resolve of government institutions. 

None of the scars from those damaging events, however, are evident in this now thriving northern community. Businesses have come in and are flourishing, proof of the resiliency of this one proud town. 


The name Compostela has varying meanings according to various sources. The Historical Data Papers for this town, written by public school teachers as a countrywide project for the education department in the 1950s, states that Compostela simply means “kampo sa katsila” or camp of the Spaniards. It is not far off to say then, that as common as tagging a tree or telling supposed stories of Spaniards and locals not understanding each other’s language as the source of a town’s name, Compostela’s school teacher gave her meaning for the town’s name as they rhymed. For one, Compostela could not have been identifiable as a “camp for Spaniards,” because every other town at that time was under the Spanish rule. Secondly, there is a similarly named town in Spain for which this town in Cebu was named after, the Santiago de Compostela, which is considered the third most holy town within Roman Catholicism after Jerusalem and Rome. For sure the original Compostela in Spain would have an explanation on where they got its name.

An internet search for Compostela, Spain would show that they, too, have various explanations. The name was first commonly thought to be derived from the word "apostle", although later it was accepted as having been derived from the Latin “campus stellae” which means "field of stars." This became the more “popular” etymology, making Santiago de Compostela “St. James in the Field of the Star”. This name would come from the belief that the bones of St. James were taken from the Middle East to Spain. His bones were then buried where a shepherd had spotted a star, and later on a church was built over the bones. The church was later replaced with the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, one of the popular landmarks in Spain. Another etymology is Composita Tella, meaning “burial ground” and Compositum, meaning “The well founded.” 

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