Early the next morning, I took the boat trip back to Coron for my flight to Manila. The weather hasn’t improved as it’s still overcast. After having lunch at one of the carinderias at the town center, whiling away time at an internet cafe with very slow connection and helping a foreigner with his photo archiving problem, I was off to Busuanga Airport to catch the last flight to Manila. This is the end of the Cuyo Loop!

The weather was not promising at all when I came to Culion and I was more worried of just having overcast skies. As the church is facing westward, I was hoping that the sun would at least shine, even for a brief moment in the afternoon. With my schedule rather tight, I needed all the luck I need to better photograph the church of Culion as my return flight to Manila will be the next day.

I have been looking forward to see for myself the fortress-church of Agutaya ever since I learned about it while I was in Cuyo. In no time, I’ve set out to go to this place even if the trip was rather scary. Come to think of it, these very remote islands harbor architectural gems that is historically and culturally significant. A monument to the struggles and determination to defend these people from the scourge of slave raiders and pirates.

I have seen photos of the fortress-church of Cuyo in books but the first time I saw it, cara y cara, and I was struck speechless. The photos don’t give you an idea of size and immensity unless you have a reference like a person within the image to provide scale. But looking at it, wow, its surreal. This was what I have come for in this remote island and its hard to imagine that in such a place, a very solid, massive and impressive structure was built here.

Culion, for a time was nicknamed, unfortunately, The Island of the Living Dead. Not that creatures of the underworld roamed the streets at night or scared its inhabitants but it was an act of government that made it compulsory for lepers in the country, from Luzon to Mindanao, to be segregated into this forlorn of places. Leprosy is an ancient scourge and before the medical breakthroughs in the later part of the 20th century, there were no known cures. Sufferers were treated like pariahs and left deformed for life.