culion-living_3

A stop in Culion

A man's tattoed back seen at the main street of Culion while he was preparing food

A man's tattoed back seen at the main street of Culion while he was preparing food

The Cuyo Loop
Culion is in blue
In October of 2006, I visited the remote islands of Cuyo and Culion in Palawan for a photography assignment and passed Negros and Iloilo in transit. This is my account of that journey.

This is the 13th of a series This is the second time that I’ve been to this old settlement that was originally inhabited by the Tagbanuas. During the 17th century, the Augustinian Recollects arrived and evangelized here and in the mid-18th century, this was part of an important network of a defensive system against Muslim piratical raids.

In 1906, the island was established as a leper colony. One unique trait of the island is its very heterogeneous population that can be attributed to the forced segregation policy of the country during the American period where lepers from all parts of the country were put. In later years, their family followed them here plus the influx of migrants. Just imagine the different cultural practices, languages and idiosyncracies put together and you’ve got an anthropological treasure trove waiting to be studied in detail.

The town of Culion with its spread eagle emblem carved on a hill face

The town of Culion with its spread eagle emblem carved on a hill face

Like the previous visit, the town is not as vibrant as in Coron, about an hour’s journey by motorized pumpboat. Is this really how Culion is? Or is it just because that it was an ordinary weekday with an overcast sky and occassional rains? Nevertheless, its peaceful. The silence is occassionally broken by passing tricycles, the splatter of rain on tin roofs, the sound from a television or radio or the occassional neighborly banter.

Government employees practicing a traditional dance number for an upcoming program

Government employees practicing a traditional dance number for an upcoming program

What does one do in Culion? If you are an enthusiast of fortress-churches or religious heritage structures, there is one here, although it was remodeled by the American Jesuits in the 1930s. There is a small museum dedicated to the history of the island with images, books and artifacts from the former leper colony as well as a treasure trove of research materials for the leprosy specialist. The seas surrounding this island is very rich with marine life and for a diver, this might be a good area to explore. Treks are also possible in this hilly island with forests at the southern part. However, I’m not sure if the trails are established but I saw some plans to develop it as an ecotourism area.

Even if its a remote place, people here knows how to have a fun night!

Even if its a remote place, people here knows how to have a fun night!

One might ask, are there still lepers in Culion? The answer is yes. I was told that there are some people there afflicted with the disease but are now quite rare. In fact, the town is now populated with the descendants of those who were sent to this island and migrants. Contracting the disease here is no longer an issue and shouldn’t be.

A fishermen waiting for his catch. The waters off Culion is one of the richest and pristine in the country.

A fishermen waiting for his catch. The waters off Culion is one of the richest and pristine in the country.

Accommodations are available. There is a hotel here and a few lodging houses mostly located near the wharf and along the main road. However, one should check first the condition of the rooms of the latter as usually it’s run down. Staying at the lone hotel is recommended as the rooms are clean and good. Units facing the sea are breezy. Meals can also be requested at the restaurant downstairs. However, note that in 2006, power supply is only upto 12 midnight. There is also an internet cafe at the wharf but back then, it was via satellite and tended to be very slow or unstable. I’m not sure if it has improved now.

I just stayed overnight in Culion as the fortress church is shot better in the afternoon. The next day will be my trip back to Manila.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

18 Comments

  1. geki
    August 23, 2008 @ 2:50

    love your new site. sana lagay ka ng shoutout box.

  2. estan
    August 23, 2008 @ 2:57

    hello geki, thanx for the feedback. I’ll try to see your suggestion. thanx for the visit πŸ™‚

  3. tutubi
    August 23, 2008 @ 19:24

    bagong bihis ang bahay! ganda.

    wasn’t able to visit culion when i visited that part of the world. balikan ko na lang someday

  4. The Islander
    August 23, 2008 @ 20:27

    great photography as usual!
    love the first and the last.
    full of life as it is.

  5. donG hO
    August 25, 2008 @ 1:39

    galing ng huling photo. kaka enganyong pumunta sa mga pinapakita mong lugar. lalo na yung mga treks. galing ng emblem sa bundok.

  6. ryan
    August 26, 2008 @ 0:32

    nice!

  7. estan
    August 26, 2008 @ 13:05

    tutubi, yep, kailangan magayos ng bahay. may upcoming event at maraming bisita πŸ™‚

    islander, thanx bai!

    dong ho, thanx pre. I’m glad you liked the photos πŸ™‚

  8. BYAHILO
    August 26, 2008 @ 21:30

    love the layout. love the photos!

  9. ryan
    August 26, 2008 @ 21:38

    biliba nako uy!

  10. bryx
    August 26, 2008 @ 21:46

    maau kau uy!

  11. estan
    August 27, 2008 @ 11:57

    byahilo, bryx, thanx πŸ™‚

  12. Oman
    August 27, 2008 @ 14:29

    another amazing shots estan lalo na yung last pic. napakalinaw ng tubig.

    like the new lay-out too. para ngang magazine.

  13. estan
    August 27, 2008 @ 19:43

    oman, yep, the waters there are really clear and pristine.

  14. norahd
    September 4, 2008 @ 6:55

    Hello! I have been to some places that you have been to. Very very familiar lahat. One advantage you have – ang ganda ng mga pix mo! ha ha.. Kidding aside, sharing your thoughts and impressions about the places you have to is really good.You give very good info and of course.. you kinda let people think and wonder what else are there to see and how would they feel if they are in your shoes- enjoying all the sights and our people.

    Keep it up kapatid.. I’ll be watching. Oooppss, reading pala

  15. estan
    September 4, 2008 @ 18:58

    thanx norahd. it would also be better if you have a blog or online presence so that i can also know more about my readers. πŸ™‚

  16. norahd
    September 7, 2008 @ 13:13

    Culion is a very young town, basically just starting to stand on its own feet. It is going to be a very difficult beginning for Culion given the limited resources and some resistance from some sectors who apparently are resisting the “change” being introduced in the area. Well, we cannot really blame these sectors – gettting out of the usual practices is already intimidating. Good luck to them..

    Say Estan.. have you had the chance to see or visit our Spanish Lighthouses? If not, try visiting one or two. Enjoy them all, AND also get frustrated (sorry) on how poor we are preserving these landmarks. We also have some old forts in some towns that we never realized ever existed. Of course, as expected, they are in very, very poor condition.

    Let us stop these “fights” over whose duty it is to preserve these structures – lets JUST PRESERVE THEM! They are part of our history, our heritage…

  17. estan
    September 8, 2008 @ 15:37

    there are always people who will resist chance especially if it challenges one’s comfort zone.

    Re lighthouses, I haven’t visited these, yet but if you speak of forts, well, well, well… I have been documenting these. You might be interested to read my 3 part introduction at simbahan.net. I’ve also prepared a summarized post for this blog as an intro to the fortress-churches of Cuyo, Culion and Agutaya.

  18. Micamyx
    December 2, 2010 @ 2:54

    I went to Coron last Friday hoping to go to Culion. Unfortunately, my travel budget is not enough to rent a boat for the 1 hr trip 😐 I’m planning to go back to Coron and go to Culion (whether Day trip or overnight). I really want to know more about my great grandfather who contributed a lot for the cure of leprosy specifically in Culion πŸ˜€ If you have pics from the museum, i hope you can still blog about it or post it online πŸ˜€

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