Culion Island was not a part of our itinerary but I asked our guide to arrange a visit to this island. My mother told me that her father who died during WW II, taught English in this remote, sleepy seaside town in the 1920's. We chartered a banca and started early on our hour and a half journey to Culion.
Culion is one of the bigger islands in the Calamianes group--it's a historic island where the Spanish built strategic fortifications to protect the island from Moro raiders. It is also a place wrought in pain and despair. This island once housed the world's largest leper colony established by the Americans in 1901.
Agila View Deck - approaching the island, we were greeted by a huge image of an eagle set in stone at the top of the mountain. I later learned that it is a testament to the resilience and gratitude of the island's patients, who made the giant replica of the Philippine Health Service seal in 1929. There is also a Christ the Redeemer statue near the seal.
Culion was called an "island of no return", and home to thousands of Filipinos segregated and isolated in one of the country's most remote islands due to leprosy. Leprosy has affected humanity for over 4,000 years, and was once believed to be highly contagious. It is primarily characterized by skin lesions; left untreated, it can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. An effective treatment for leprosy was finally introduced in the early 1980's. Now, Culion is leprosy-free.
Aside from its poignant past, Culion Island has an unassuming beauty. It is blessed with warm, gentle people, pristine marine treasures, a beautiful church, a fascinating museum and captivating scenery.
The red-roofed church is one of the island's attractions.
We docked near this house and walked the streets of Culion. We would soon discover how the original settlers overcame their darkest years and built the foundation of this community.
To reach Culion island, you can charter an outrigger boat at Coron harbor. Average boat rental is P2,500 (about $60.00) for 6-8 persons; P1,500 (about $35.00) to 2-4 persons (smaller boat). There are commuter boats available from 12 noon to 2 pm at P180 (about $5.00) per person. There is also a passenger ship from Manila that docks in Culion Island once a week.