At first glance, it looks like your common provincial town. There’s a church on top of a staired hill, old buildings flanking the tangling streets, a statue of a town hero standing proudly on a pedestal, and a plaza smack at the center of the town proper. Yes, at first glance everything looks common except when you stop and stay a little longer, you’ll find that these structures talk. Ellos si. and they tell stories of a stark past, one that has always been filled with constant struggles.
On may 27, 1906, two ships sailed, bringing 370 passengers from Cebu to their new home. but they were no common ships, and they were no common passengers. Aboard these coast Guard cutters were the future inhabitants. numerous of them were forced to abandon their lives and loved ones behind for a future in a place so foreign and isolated. Their destination: The Island of No Return — Culion.
Culion is a town small and very walkable. but it is big in history. This rich and distinct history makes a walk along its streets a time travel — a trip into the dark and hopeful past. Culion Island has always been isolated, a distant, hardly available paradise. but isolation found another implying in 1904 when an executive purchase was issued to create a leper colony in Culion, shutting it from the rest of the world. The clients became the first residents of an common town built under remarkable circumstances.
La Inmaculada Concepcion Church, aka Culion Church. Its walls used to be part of an old fortress
Fort Culion. built in 1740 under the Recollect Augustinians, this fortress had 4 bastions.
Lower gate. This barangay arc marker used to divide the town into two: the worlds of “leproso” and the “sano.” All health workers passing through should dip hands in and wipe shoes with a disinfectant.
Culion Sanitarium and general Hospital. The Culion museum and Archives is located inside.
The Culion museum and Archives houses numerous of the equipment pieces and files about the history of the town as a leper colony.
The Culion museum and Archives. Something you shouldn’t miss when going to Culion. entrance fee: P150.
Statue of Rev. Fr. Felipe Milan, SJ, inside the Culion Sanitarium and general medical facility Complex. He was born in Spain in 1898 but he died serving in the Colony in 1926.
Sacred Heart Dormitory (Congregantes). A shelter for male clients from 16 above. married men also stayed here. According to a marker, some of these married men, despite the heartbreak of being separated from their families, found new love and built new families in the island.
Plaza Basa Avellana. named after the second Filipino chief of the colony, Dr. Jose Basa Avellana, the plaza comprises the Colony Hall, general clinic (seen in the photo), Grand Stairway, and Injection Hall.
Leonard wood Monument. The clients were said to adore governor general Leonard wood that in 1931, they voluntarily erected this statue at the heart of Plaza Basa Avellana to honor him.
Colony Hall. constructed in 1912, it was the office of the Culion Advisory Council.
Balala Nursery. built in 1916 for the children of patients, it housed babies that were isolated from parents to avoid contamination of the disease. The parents were allowed to see their kids every weekend through a glass window. much more than 400 babies were admitted here.
Some of the 333 steps to Aguila. Along the way is a basketball court where priest used to play at when it was still a leper colony.
Aguila. The hill got its name from the American Eagle sigil “imprinted” on the slope. It provides the best view of the town but is available through a 333-step staircase.
A closer look at the statue of Jesus Christ at Aguila viewpoint, overlooking the town.
A Jesus Christ the Redeemer statue at Aguila viewpoint, overlooking Culion town.
Culion town as seen from Aguila viewpoint
Culion Church (Inmaculada Conception Church) towering over the rest of the town.
Neighboring islands to the south
View of the hut by Safari Guesthouse from Aguila
Our local guide Kuya Toto and my pal Mica at Aguila Viewpoint
The top of Aguila viewpoint, where a radio transmitter is mounted.
It’s a terrific morning for catching fish!
Radio Telegraph Tower. It was built in 1920 as a implies of communication with the outside world. In April 1942, the Japanese disabled this when they arrived at the island.
Old Presidencia. An old prison. (Yes, they had a prison, too.)
A small hut sticking out into the sea from Safari Guesthouse
Sandoval’s House. This house belonged to Sandoval family who were among the original residents of Culion. When the leper colony was established, it was converted into the headquarters of local police.
More than a century later, Culion has transformed from the largest leprosaria in the world to a rising traveler destination. The affliction has been cured; thanks to the development of multi-drug therapy. Slowly, the island gets closer and closer to outsiders; Gracias al floreciente turismo en la vecina Coron. Aún así, las estructuras que protegieron a los clientes y trabajadores de la salud siguen en pie. El pasado perdura a su alrededor, ansiosos por compartir historias que han sido encerradas en la isla durante mucho tiempo.
Cómo llegar aquí: desde Manila, vuela a Busuanga y tome una camioneta/transporte a Coron Town. Desde Coron, puede llevar el ferry de una vez al día a Culion (P180) programado a la 1:30 p.m. También puede alquilar un bote desde Coron (P3000 por barco) o unirse a una excursión de un día de grupo (alrededor de 1200). Desde el puerto de Culion, puede comenzar a caminar a su izquierda y verá estas estructuras en el camino.
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