It lies in the majesty of Central Visayas, Philippines. Sprawling beaches, Chocolate hills, tarsier, ornamental old churches and various tourist spots. It has great potential for tourism, especially as the first eco-airport in the Philippines situates here, in the promise of development for the said industry. Bohol, blessed with its beautiful people which practically shaped its reputation, during her dark times when one seems to be lost in holes, have proved resilient and bold.
1900 and 2020, two different years. Century apart yet tells us one thing: that Bohol is bold even whilst stucked in dark holes. And no matter what, with the guidance of their leaders and the God they believe in—they will discover light at the end of each tunnels.
In 17 March 1900, American troops land Tagbilaran City in the goal of invading the province. It was one of the last major islands in the Philippines to be victim of invasion, as its small population; modest resources; lack of modern harbor; and poor location for potential bases, discouraged Americans to do so. However, when it finally happened, the people were quick to respond. Boholanos started a resistance movement—an organized effort to embattle the foreign invaders, arranged by the civil population who continually support the cause by sending cash, food supplies and through other means.
In response, the Americans resort to mass cruelty to bring the province into submission. They burned 20 of Bohol’s 35 towns, killed hundreds of Boholanos and destroyed their livestock. On December 1900, Bohol unfortunately surrendered. On the contrary, peace prevailed after the signing of treaty in the convent of Dimiao. But it was not long when the cholera epidemic crept the place, creating more darkness in holes, killing hundreds of Boholanos—that year alone.
Fast-forward to 2020, in truly the time of great turbulence. The Philippines reached the worst outbreak of Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 among Southeast Asian countries, with 226,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 3,597 deaths. Bohol’s cases climbed up to 167 with 53 considered as active cases, 107 recoveries and seven deaths as per reported by the Provincial Health Office (PHO). On September 1st, it reported 23 fresh new cases—so far, the highest one-day record since the pandemic.
It was the first province in the Philippines to carry out a total lockdown following the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) implemented in Luzon. Despite least number of cases thanks to its immediate response, Boholanos, especially the underprivileged residents, and particularly occupants of the Malingin and Guindacpan islands which remained under total lockdown due to a rise in cases, suffered from an economic breakdown and mass unemployment.
Thus, one need even the slightest source of light.—a flashlight. The “flashlight” comes in as charity and good leadership. Relief goods were sent to the each Boholano household by their local governments. Guindacpan Island also received relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Visayas. Rep. Erico Aristotle Augmentado did his part and donated gallons filled with five-liter mineral water to Guindacpan and Malingin. “Flashlight-bearers” come also as anonymous heroes, motivated by pure intentions to uplift the province, and to finally have her way out of the pit.
In its endeavor to find a way out of the economic downfall, Bohol is planning to reopen tourism by the last quarter of 2020. Unique Bohol Experience (UBE), an accreditation program for local tourism stakeholders will have the sewerage treatment plant, wastewater management, carrying capacity, ratio of renewable energy, and among others to be checked for further development of tourism—one of the main source of living for some of the Boholanos. Governor Yap of Bohol also said that the World Bank will fund the the province’s Water and Sanitation Project. The project would give comfort to both tourists and residents, and it will also avoid another possible cholera outbreak—which Bohol was victim a century ago, in and around the 1900.
Albeit held back by the pandemic, Bohol is in the road to finding the light, away from dark pits, and nearer to progression. With and by the strength and “bayanihan” of our Boholanos, a strong faith, and as polished through many decades of struggle, they will altogether get to illuminated ends of dark holes. Marching towards a Bohol-eautiful future.