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.
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.
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.
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.
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.