PANGLAO ISLAND, Bohol — Xi Shilin, 52, was eating a pack of dried mangoes while waiting for her husband to check them in.
She was talking to her friend, Xiao Yuying, about their ferry experience from Cebu to Bohol and how she had looked forward to this trip to the Philippines.
“We are excited! The Philippines has been in our travel list for a long time. We want the beach… we want to see the small monkey (tarsier),” said Xi.
Xi is one of the 40 people who traveled from the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in mainland China to spend a weeklong vacation in Bohol.
Asked if they knew of the recent incident in Bohol involving members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Xi said they were informed that the bandits were neutralized and that police presence on the island assured them that no harm would befall on them.
“Did you see how many buses arrived in the port of Cebu to come here (Bohol)? There are so many Chinese tourists here. I don’t think terrorist groups can touch us. We will overpower them. There is strength in numbers,” said Xi.
At the Cebu Port, at least three buses carrying 45 to 60 people took the 9:20 a.m. trip from Cebu to the capital city of Tagbilaran in Bohol.
They almost filled the entire boat.
One group came from Shenzhen, China, while the other group was from Hangzhou, China. The third group was from Taichung, Taiwan.
Couple Zhang Ming and Wu Yimo, who traveled with their two children, said they learned about Bohol from relatives who previously visited the province.
The couple, who hails from Taichung in Taiwan, said they chose Bohol over other Asian destinations such as Bangkok in Thailand and Hanoi in Vietnam because the province had a good reputation of being a resort destination serving international cuisine.
Resort operators on Panglao Island have been receiving bookings from Chinese tourists since President Rodrigo Duterte made public his friendly relations with China.
“That created a significant impact on tourism for us here in Bohol. We were not aggressive in selling our property to them.
The Chinese tourists were the ones who came to us and said they want to stay with us,” said Pearl Lorraine Yang, resort manager of Be Grand Resort Bohol.
Yang admitted that they lost 150 rooms due to cancellations from guests four days after members of the Abu Sayyaf Group figured in a gun fight with government troops in Barangay Napo in the town of Inabanga, Bohol, on April 10 following a foiled attempt to set up a base and conduct terror activities.
Three members of the bandit group were killed including their leader, Abu Rami.
Another clash ensued on April 22 in the neighboring town of Clarin where four members were killed. Another member was arrested in Tubigon town on May 4 and subsequently killed after he tried to escape while being brought to detention.
Authorities are looking for the remaining two Abu Sayyaf members who were last spotted in Calape town, Bohol.
Yang said the resort quickly recovered because of prompt response from the local government, police authorities and the resort staff.
As soon as news of ASG’s presence in Bohol spread in Panglao, Yang said they coordinated with Gov. Edgar Chatto who gave them regular updates of what was happening on the ground.
Police patrolled the resort area along with other properties on the island where most of the resorts in Bohol are located.
Yang said they also doubled security personnel in the property from five to 10 people.
They informed guests that Inabanga is two hours away from Panglao Island and explained the distance so they will understand that Inabanga is far from Panglao.
“We issued a letter to every room telling our guests to avoid the waterfront area as part of our precautionary measures. We were up the entire time to monitor the situation and to make sure that we are updated on what was happening,” she said.