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The island province of Bohol reinvigorates its tourism promotion with a campaign that is said to “go deep into the roots emotionally.” Its local government recently launched a tourism campaign with the slogan “Bohol: Heart the Islands, Truly Philippines.” The slogan points out that the island is at the center of the Philippines, being in the Central Visayas Region and Visayas being at the center of the country. It is also usually projected as a truly Filipino destination with its rustic charm and hospitality. The slogan though is reminiscent of Marinduque’s appellation of being the “Heart of the Philippines,” owing to the fact that the island province is heart-shaped and also the geodetic center of the country.

The slogan also is reminiscent of Malaysia’s “Truly Asia.” Bohol is primarily known for its Chocolate Hills, which has become an iconic touristic symbol of the Philippines. It is also famous as the home of the cute and diminutive primate tarsier, which has become a tourism mascot. With the new tourism campaign, Bohol wants to tell the world that there are far more attractions then these. “As a nation, Philippine tourism is in search of its own identity because our local culture is a complex mix of many different cultures,” says Bohol’s governor Edgardo M. Chatto. “But unknown to most Filipinos, Bohol is as authentically Filipino as it can get. The province has not only preserved the traditions brought by our colonizers, but has also promoted the much older traditions and beliefs that are authentically Filipino.” Bohol wants to promote its cultural and ecological wonders. Chief among these are the centuries-old churches, some becoming the country’s national treasures. Famous is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, which is the oldest and best preserved Jesuit church in the country. Also popular is the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis. Going around Bohol, one finds beautiful old churches in many towns. “Bohol and its people have a certain respect and appreciation for heritage and tradition,” Chatto said. “This is why we have come up with this campaign to highlight the captivating charm that Bohol exudes and the heartwarming hospitality offered by Boholanos themselves.” Complementing the heritage of the island is its history. Bohol is known for its famous blood compact.

Recently, Cebu governor Gwen Garcia said when the first foreign visitors came to Cebu they killed them. “But we mended our ways,” she quipped, and added that Cebuanos warmly welcome their tourists and guests. On the other hand, Bohol is known for its act of friendship. When Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi met they made a blood compact and alliance. This was done on March 16, 1565, near the modern town of Loay. A monument now stands in Bool in the capital Tagbilaran City called Sandugo Blood Compact Site to commemorate the event. Also, yearly, Boholanos commemorate this with a festival, the Sandugo Festival, held every July, which also attracts visitors. On the other side of the coin, a Boholano is said to lead the longest revolt in the Philippine history. Francisco Dagohoy made the caves in the town of Danao his headquarters in his fight against the Spanish colonizers. Today, these caves serve as tourist attractions. Bohol is also known for its natural beauty. The island of Panglao has white-sand beaches, most popular of which is Alona Beach, where resorts cluster. In Loboc, a cruise affords one to marvel at the still unspoiled Loboc River.

The town also has an old church and is famous for its children’s choir. Divers say the reefs around the province are one of the best in the country. Chatto particularly mentions that province has biggest mangrove plantation in Asia and the Danajon Bank, the only double barrier reef in the country. The provincial government of Bohol partnered with the province’s tourism stakeholders led by the Provincial Tourism Council and the private group Philippine Bohol Arts Foundation Institute (PBAFI), which aims to promote Bohol through the province’s arts, culture and heritage, for the new tourism campaign. Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez shows support for the campaign, which is line with the Department’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign launched earlier in the year. Jimenez said that one doesn’t “have to be from Bohol to love Bohol,” and the province is “one of the Philippines’ most prized tourist destinations.” Jimenez revealed that Bohol has close links with his family. “The province was spoken of in great affection in our home,” he said. He also revealed that his father was secretary to Carlos Garcia, the eighth President of the Philippines and a Boholano, and he spent part of his youth in Bohol. Jimenez pointed out that in Bohol “they donft lock their doors,” attesting to its unspoiled and innocent nature.

With this new campaign, the localgovernment is stepping up in developing infrastructures to accommodate tourists. Prominent among these is the building of a new airport to be located in Panglao. The province has received more than 500,000 visitors in 2011, and is optimistic that it will achieve its target of 1.5 million visitors. With many attractions to offer, few doubt this. However, many are apprehensive that Bohol may lose its rustic charm, tranquil nature and innocence, which have beguiled many visitors.

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