Saturday 23 September 2017 06:23:34 PHT

A Word about Safety

IJsselstein, Sunday, 24 March 2002 (updated: Thursday, 27 April 2017)

The Philippines sometimes receives negative press regarding the safety of foreigners. We believe this is not always deserved, and certainly does not apply to Bohol. In this article we will give some advice about the safety situation in the Philippines, and some tips to stay out of trouble.

Although terrorism always gets a disproportionate level of attention in the press, the change you will be affected by it is very low. Don't let it distract from taking some common-sense precautions against events you are more likely to encounter.

Dangers from Natural Causes

The biggest risk is probably attracting a severe sun-burn. Always protect yourself when exposed to direct sunlight. Either wear covering clothing, or use high-factor sunblock on the beach. Be aware that near water, your exposure doubles due to reflected sunlight, while at the same time, the cooling effect of water can make you unaware of the fact you are developing a severe sunburn before it is too late. When snorkeling it is wise to wear a short wet-suit.

Dangerous Animals

In Bohol you can encounter a number of dangerous animals.

Mosquitoes can be highly irritating, especially during dawn and dusk. To protect yourself, use an insect repellent lotion that includes DEET, and cover your arms and legs. It is best to sleep under a mosquito-net (Kulambu), especially when staying in nipa-hut like facilities that allow insects easy access. Malaria is not present in Bohol, but dengue does occur.

The most deadly dangerous animal on Bohol is the cobra (banakon). These snakes are both aggressive and deadly poisonous. Avoid walking in or near long grasses and growth, and when you see them, keep your distance and alert bystanders.

The black-and-white sea-snake walo-walo you can commonly see near the coast is also extremely poisonous, but not aggressive will only bite if provoked.

Near many beaches you can find sea urchins with extremely long spines. Just avoid stepping on them, and if you still step on them, carefully remove all parts of the spines, and disinfect the wounds (or better, have a doctor do this). You can also encounter jelly fish, various types of poisonous fish and shells. As a general rule, do not touch any creature you encounter in the sea. It is better for them and for you.

Natural Disasters

Tropical storms reach the Philippines with some regularity. The storm season is roughly from June to November, but that doesn't mean it is constantly storming during that period, nor that storms cannot occur on other times. Since Bohol is surrounded by other islands, Bohol will not be hit with the full force of storms arriving from the Pacific ocean.

In October 2013, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol, causing about 200 causalities, and significant damage. However, no tourists were effected. Earthquakes are very hard to predict, and when they occur, it is best to leave buildings as fast as reasonably possible, and stay outside, away from buildings and other things that can collapse.

Again, since Bohol is surrounded by other islands, the chance a large Tsunami will hit it is small. Still, in those areas that have some risk of tsunamis (the south-eastern coast between Baclayon and Anda), you will find signs pointing out evacuation routs.

When you go swimming near one of the many waterfalls in the inland streams and rivers, be aware of the danger of flash-floods. A heavy tropical rain can turn a gentle stream into a dangerous torrent of water in a matter of minutes. When the strength of a stream starts to increase, get out.

Dangers from Human Causes

Theft and Robberies

Just as much as in your hometown, thefts and robberies can happen in the Philippines, especially in the larger cities (of which Bohol has none: Tagbilaran, the largest city has slightly over hundred twenty thousand inhabitants). Unlike in your hometown, you are probably a stranger, unknown with local conditions and customs, and because of that more easily attract the attention of criminals. However, if you take some simple precautions, most of the Philippines is perfectly safe for travel.

Follow the following do's and dont's.

  • Do put only a small amount of money in your wallet. A couple of hundred pesos is enough to pay for all the snacks and small souvenirs you can buy on a day.
  • Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. If you have to carry larger amounts, keep it very close on your body, in a place where it cannot be reached without removing your clothes. A money belt under your pants is often a good suggestion.
  • In most places ATM's are reliable and they are often guarded, however, don't use them at late hours, and don't allow others to look over your shoulder or see where you put your money.
  • Don't wear jewelry -- chain snatchers sometimes operate on local buses and jeepneys.
  • Don't be conspicuous with your wealth. Keep cameras, etc. in unsuspicous looking bags, not in flashy camera bags. Only bring them out if you want to photograph something.
  • Travel light. Don't bring more than a single small bag that you can keep in sight. In the tropical climate you need only a few sets of light clothes, and you can have them washed at almost every hotel.
  • Be cautious when approached by overly helpful people at crowded places in cities, such as airports, bus-stations and piers. However, don't avoid getting in contact with the Filipinos, for you will miss a lot of friends...
  • Do carry a number of photocopies of important documents such as your passport and airplane tickets, so that you have the details handy in case the real ones get missing. Of course, keep them separate from your real documents.
  • Don't Accept drinks from strangers. Some people have been drugged that way, and then robbed of their possessions.
  • Last but not least, do use your common sense!

Crooks can be very creative in thinking out con-schemes. Be very critical of every odd story and money making scheme. A very common trick is too tell you that somebody has just snatched your wallet, hoping that in your response you will give away the place you hide it. The old wisdom is: if it is too good to be true, it probably isn't true.

However, don't let these precautions spoil your frame of mind, just be alert when needed, and enjoy your stay.

Terrorism and Kidnappings

For years already, the Philippines has a lot of negative press regarding the safety of foreigners. Reports of tourists being kidnapped by terrorists from Malaysia, Sulu, Basilan, and Mindanao, and Palawan aren't a comfortable read. However, we don't believe there is any reason for concern, and assure you Bohol is safe.

Most of the trouble with so-called Muslim separatists and the infamous Abu Sayyaf group takes place in Southern Mindanao and on the Southern islands of Basilan and Jolo. Bohol is roughly 700 kilometers away from those areas, and when using boats, potential kidnappers will have to travel at least double that distance. The small map below will clarify the situation. As you can see, the distance from Palawan to Basilan is roughly the same as to Palawan, however, unlike Palawan, where kidnappers can go across open sea, to get to Bohol they have to get into water surrounded by islands on all sides, which is much more difficult to enter or leave unnoticed. Besides that since the events, the Philippine Navy and Police are on high alert for attacks like this. The conclusion is that it is extremely unlikely you will be confronted with kidnapping attempts on Bohol.

Nevertheless, in April 2017, in the wake of an ASEAN summit in Panglao, eleven heavily armed members of Abu Sayyaf, including their (Bohol-born but converted to Islam) guide, managed to land with their pump-boats in Inabangga on the west coast of Bohol (some 80 kms from Panglao, and 45 from the Chocolate Hills). Fortunately, they quickly attracted the attention of local residents, because of their uncommon boats and display of heavy weapons, who immediately warned the authorities. After two bouts of heavy fighting with the Philippine Armed Forces, most of the intruders where killed, and the attempt to kidnap foreigners or otherwise wreak havoc was thwarted. The terrorists never even got near the tourist destinations, and has demonstrated that both the population and the authorities are on a high alert.

Further Reading

The following links can provide some more information:

Jeroen Hellingman

What readers think...

Francis wrote:
Friday, 3 June 2016 01:46:57 PHT
Live on the Island of Panglao because of Airport This is the current status of on-going project of Panglao International Airport as of June 02, 2016. The picture shows how fast the development is. If you want to live on the Island of Panglao, start buying now a lot where you can build your home, apartment, hotel and other commercial establishments. With or without the airport, still Panglao Island would be progressive due to tourism industry. Now, if you want to own a lot, we offer you Villaverde Subdivision, which is selling raw lot. It is the nearest subdivision in Alona Beach Area's and other known Beach resorts on the Island of Panglao. Not only that but also, it is the closest subdivision to the terminal of Panglao International airport. It will take only two minutes drive. We have two lot left having the lot cut of 200 sq.m. If you are interested in living in this area, feel free to contact my numbers below +639099036875 +639262787056 homesbohol@gmail.com skype: francis.aparicio2
Colin Mcnally wrote:
Sunday, 7 April 2013 22:14:53 PHT
I can honestly say that Ive visited philippines many times over a period of a decade and find it pretty safe wherever Ive been. Did have scary moment in Manila taxi. A couple of druggies climbed in beside me to demand money. I bluffed them and they decide to leave. Another time was in Zamboanga region when the local muslims were giving me very hard looks. Apart from that I never had anything but warmth from Phils people. Bohol is lovely place. Panglao is particularly nice and peaceful. My advice is to avoid Manila as its over populated and polluted. You cant get around easily there due to heavy...rediculously heavy trafic!! The provinces are I find the best places and you can find shear joy wherever you go. Philippines is very exciting as there is something going on all the time. Hard to come to terms with the lack of healthcare for those who cant pay!! You have to pay for everything in phils!! Take care of your health!!
Andrew wrote:
Thursday, 14 June 2012 00:13:53 PHT
I recently visited Bohol and immediately fell in love with the island and its culture.The people of Bohol are friendly and hospitable,I would recommend to anyone to explore this beautiful place and travel on the local buses and jeepneys to truly experience how the average Bohol citizen lives.Fantastic culture and I wish that I didn't have to leave.Bohol is what you would imagine paradise to be! I miss Bohol!
Loren wrote:
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 22:13:32 PHT
Discover Bohol's wonders of nature and paradise. Explore and indulge yourselves with the different activities that Bohol has to offer. Experience exhilarating extreme adventures of Danao, have fun swimming at the beautiful white sandy beaches in Panglao Island, be fascinated with the underwater sea creatures through scuba diving and snorkeling, enjoy island hopping and dolphin watching, meet new friendly faces among Boholano people, and a lot more. "Avail of our Bohol Travel and Tour Packages and car/van for hire at very affordable and reasonable rates. For more information, feel free to send me a message at lady_lorencubz@yahoo.com and facebook account or call/text me at this number 09228124939. I'll make it sure that your stay in Bohol will be a perfect get away from home and will become a memorable one that will last a lifetime.
Randy wrote:
Thursday, 17 February 2011 12:04:36 PHT
Visited bohol island this feb 2011. The place, food and people are all amazing. Its a mix of nature and history. A place where you felt not living anymore. If I would have a chance to choose a place for retirement. My number one is BOHOL.

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