I've been to Bohol lately and was quite amazed at how my province is coping up with so-called development especially that this small island is now in the tourism map of the Philippines.
By coping up I mean that this province is actually struggling in her place as a tourist destination despite of the fact that it brags itself as a prime tourist destination. As a whole, Bohol is not tourist-ready. Until now.
I don’t mean to be critical or pessimistic. I love my province like a true-blooded Boholano, defending it to death if required. But advertising it as if the province is paradise is wrong especially if the most basic of all, quality service, is nowhere to be seen and felt.
Of course, there are those who can deliver and have delivered what is expected of them but you have to pay a hefty sum just to make your vacation perfect.
Blame others for traveling despite being poor, but a budget traveler on his way to Bohol is not going to expect what the websites or the brochures tell you of a perfect getaway. Bohol is definitely not trained to give you that service you wanted despite the tag that the province is hospitable and tourist-ready.
You have to become an outsider just to realize that. Or at least, travel outside of Bohol to know the difference.
Transportation at the Pier
One classic example, and very glaring at that, is at the pier. When you are a local arriving at the port of Tagbilaran, the tricycle drivers would ignore you in favor either of the white tourists or the Tagalog speaking passengers. Only when the arriving tourists have been picked up by resort drivers or when these tricycle drivers could no longer find passengers that they would offer you a ride charging you triple of the standard fare because they’ve stayed long at the pier. As if it was you who caused all their troubles.
If I was not mistaken, the tourism department of the provincial government of Bohol conducted a training seminar on how drivers should behave in tourism destinations like Bohol. Honesty, quality service, integrity and other basic values drivers should possess were part of the seminar.
But as always the case of most Filipinos, the ningas cogon mentality still prevails. Ningas cogon, which is the tendency to start something good or exceptional but never finish them just like a cogon grass that could easily start a fire but quickly fizzles out, is a mentality embedded in the Pinoy psyche, a sad fact no one can explain. The drivers still are the king of the roads.
And the biblical quotes at the back of these rides are deceiving.
Also a sad incident on reservations happened to my visiting friend from Singapore.
She invited us out to have dinner with her at Grand Luis resort because she wanted to check with her reservations on that resort and to acquaint ourselves with the place since she also invited us to spend Christmas with her family and friends there.
Grand Luis Lodge-Bed & Breakfast and Spa is just a small resort with about eight rooms capacity, perfect for a small group who wishes privacy. My friend contacted them online through their reservations link and emailed them constantly and called long distance until her reservations for a Christmas party at that resort for 2011 was approved. It was approved per the communications between them.
Since she was in town to attend our high school batch reunion, she wanted to know how okay was okay since they did not ask her for a down payment.
When she informed the front desk that it was she who made the online reservation for the whole place this Christmas 2011, the officer told her that another party has already booked the place on the specified dates. She was literally disgusted when all the while they have given her a positive response. They could only say sorry and nothing more. They have not even given her an alternative solution knowing they have approved her reservations online when she was still in Singapore. Maybe because she was a Boholano herself, I suppose.
That’s the tourism industry in Bohol. Inato.
If Governor Chatto, who once chaired the tourism committee at the Philippine Congress, would not correct these matters, I believe the tourism sector in Bohol will suffer a slow death. If I am not mistaken, local tourists composed a big bulk in the visitor profile of Bohol.
What a shame.
Picture of Tagbilaran tricycles grabbed from travelpod.com