BOHOL suffered more than a black eye in the unfortunate attempt of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf to sour its waters and fish for foreign tourists, whom this bandit group loves to decapitate. Looking back, it was bound to happen.
With no more claims to any ideals or beliefs, Abu Sayyaf has degenerated to a purely unprincipled terrorist criminal group. They go around kidnapping people, then beheading them when no ransom is given. Not one iota of spiritual beliefs there. Their favorite spot was Sabah, because it's full of foreigners as well enjoying the blue waters of Celebes Sea.
Apparently, the bandits realized, there are more white sand beaches frequented by foreigners in Bohol, and thus they hide off to that idyllic island.
The recollection of the residents upon being startled by a fierce gun battle tells us, who have been through similar incidents in our growing up years, that yes, they have enjoyed peace for so long, a gun battle with heavily-armed bandits will be traumatic and maybe disorienting and devastating.
As reported by SunStar Cebu, on the first day of the gun battle in Inabanga, Bohol, children who fled to evacuation centers with their families were suffering from fever and stomach aches.
“They were traumatized by the bullets and bombs. They don’t belong in our land,” Rosemarie dela Torre said.
Indeed, bombs and kidnap-for-ransom bandits do not belong in Bohol. But only its people can declare that and act on it.
As our word of advice to the Boholanos, don't be devastated. Stand up and show that you can weather through any humps of un-peace. Unite as one vigilant people looking out for each other. In the first place, it was your people's alertness that blocked the bandits' well laid out plan. Continue to nurture that sense of community and bring in the tourists, blanketing them in the safety consciousness of the people.
Bohol is not the first tourist spot to have been targeted by terrorists. Egypt is among the terrorists' favorite launching ground, but tourism remains. It's because the people continue on with their lives, more vigilant and resolute to show the world their country's beauty.
More than that, the local governments of Bohol should declare to all and sundry that their island remains to be the idyllic place it had always been and that people there care for their visitors. Saying it's business as usual is crude, even insulting to the trauma the people experienced. The message should be about the people and how they are standing up, stronger and more caring than ever.