The 7.2 magnitude tectonic earthquake's epicenter was a few kilometers east of the wondrous Chocolate Hills, one of Bohol's prime tourist attractions.
The strong earthquake has caused a setback to tourism, the flagship industry of the province, but Bohol authorities led by Governor Edgardo Chatto is hopeful it will recover in a few weeks.
For one, the major resorts in the fabled island of Panglao were virtually unscathed. Except for Tagbilaran City's Bohol Tropics, a seaside hotel resort, which was slightly damaged, all of the tourist establishments had minor problems.
Except for the small tower on one of the Chocolate Hills which was destroyed, all the 1,000 hills remain in their green or brown (depending on the season) splendor.
The town of Anda, dubbed the next Panglao due to its pristine white beaches - was only superficially damaged. The highest elevated resort there, the Anda de Boracay, is operational.
The famous Loboc River boat rides are unaffected although the Abacan River route is currently inaccessible. The tarsier, the unofficial animal mascot of Bohol tourism, may have been shaken by the reverberations of the quake but are still happily living in their habitats.
Unfortunately, century-old churches like those in Baclayon, Loboc, Loon, and Loay sustained damages requiring restoration. Meanwhile, the Tagbilaran airport was reopened for regular business five hours after the earthquake. There are four other ports of entry in Bohol which also have RO-RO (Roll on, Roll off) capabilities and could be an alternate tourism sea entry while the Tagbilaran pier is under repair.
What would require some rigorous repair would be the Tourist Port of Tagbilaran City which was significantly damaged as to remain in-operational.
Some of the town bridges, likewise, also need to be repaired but alternative routes to the tourist haven of Loboc and Carmen have been in place even before the tragedy.
It was also noted that Bohol is neither in the path of the typhoon belt or earthquake pathway. The province is shielded from the Pacific Ocean winds by the islands of Samar and Leyte. The last earthquake of note in Bohol was in 1990, some 23 years ago.
Tourists in the city hotels had to go out to the streets to avoid the stress of the aftershocks. Many Boholano folks were likewise seen bringing backpacks of supplies and rosaries, the province being a deeply religious one. Two cars were seen flattened by debris at a leading city mall Island City Mall and a construction worker died from the expansion site of Bohol Tropics Resort.
Gov. Chatto and Tagbilaran City Mayor Baba Yap have agreed to convert the spacious Bohol Sports Complex as temporary evacuation center since it offers no threat of collapsing houses or buildings. (PNA)LAP/ZPD/mec