|Culion Island was once the site of the world’s largest leper colony.|
After three days in Coron with Coron EcoLodge, I took a side trip to Culion Island in Palawan. During the American Occupation, people across the Philippines afflicted with leprosy, then an incurable disease and once thought to be highly contagious, were separated from their families and forced to live in isolation in leper colonies. In 1906, the biggest colony was established in Culion Island, Palawan. By 1931, there were over 16,000 patients on the island, making it the largest leper colony in the world at that time.
|La Immaculada Concepcion Church oversees the entire town of Culion.|
Today, one can wander the grounds of the colony, visiting the old laboratory which has been converted into the well-managed and highly informative Culion Museum and Archives. Most interesting things on display are the laboratory equipment used in the scientific pursuit to find a cure for the disease, as well as coins, which were circulated for use only within the leper colony. The museum is located within the Culion Sanitarium & General Hospital, near the imposing La Imaculada Concepcion Church situated on a promontory overlooking the entire town. The church was built on an 18th century Spanish fortification of coral stone called Fort Culion, remnants of which are the lower facade and a crumbling turret with two cannons.
|Watch the sunrise from the ruins of Fort Culion, upon which the town church was built.|
Past the General Hospital, there are other derelict buildings that belonged to the colony such as dormitories, a colony hall, rotunda and, up a flight of stairs, the old theater and glorietta, an open-air area where gatherings and assemblies were held.
|The colony hall is an administrative building that belonged to the leper colony.|
HOW TO GET THERE: Lantsa (passenger outriggers) leave for Culion from Coron (PHP 180, 1.5 hours) once daily at 1:00 PM, and departs for the return trip at 7:00 AM. Terminal fees are PHP 20. The settlement of Culion is small, and tourist spots such as Fort Culion, and the Culion Museum & Archives (open only from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM; Look for caretaker Mauricio Tominis Leal at +63 9108400562) are 15 minutes by foot up a hill in the middle of town.
WHERE TO STAY: Tabing Dagat Lodging House (+63 9082541148) at Brgy. Balala has double fan rooms with common toilets at PHP 490. As its name suggests, the seaside guesthouse has balcony views overlooking the water.