Come early morning of our second day in Coron, we all woke up for an early breakfast at Asia Grand View Hotel. We had a full day of resort sponsored activities and the whole morning was to be devoted to a visit to the 390-sq. km. Culion Island and its only town of the same name. Once ready, we were all transported, by batches, to Ligaya Pier where our big motorized outrigger boat awaited us. We all left the port by 9 AM and the trip took us 1.5 hours.
Formerly a part of Coron, until recently, most people have either never heard of Culion or only knew it was once the world’s largest leper colony which was established in 1906. Patients, from different parts of the Philippines, and doctors, hospital staff and church missionaries were brought to Culion which was isolated for over a century.
By its 25th year, there were already 16,138 patients on Culion’s roster making it the largest leper colony in the world. It became a separate municipality on February 1992 by virtue of Republic Act No. 7193 and ratified by a plebiscite held on September 12. The cure for leprosy, a multi-drug therapy, was developed in the 1980s and, in 2006, the island was declared leprosy-free by the World Health Organization.
As our boat neared the island, we could already see the Aguila (“eagle’), a gigantic replica of the Philippine Health Service’s iconic eagle crest, the town’s famous marker. Located 330 steps from downtown Culion, the Eagle, seated above the Philippine medical emblem, was constructed in 1926 by ingenious lepers who, in appreciation for the dedication of the health workers who worked in Culion, meticulously arranged the boulders on the slope of Agila Hill which overlooks Culion Bay and the quaint town of Culion. Just above it is a statue of Christ the Redeemer.
We landed right at the doorstep of Tabing Dagat Lodging House & Restaurant, one of the town’s three inns. At its restaurant, we were welcomed by Ms. Marche Mercado-Sanchez, the lodge’s Operations Manager. Here, we were served snacks and juice drinks.
The lodge has basic but clean and comfortable accommodations, with twin sharing, fan-cooled rooms with common toilet & bath and airconditioned family rooms with private toilet & bath (PhP650-1,500). A television is found in the common dining area while a convenience store is located at the ground floor of the lodge.. They have a back-up generator which they use when there are lots of guests as electricity in the town only runs from 12 noon till 12 midnight only.
Just outside the lodge is the “Gate” which formerly divided Culion into two worlds. The upper gate is where the sano (non-lepers) resided and the lower gate is where the leproso (“lepers”) were secluded. The gates were heavily guarded. Strict rules were imposed (the lepers even had their own police force), especially on the lepers who were not allowed to go through the upper gate.
The sano also had to wash their hands and feet as well as wipe their shoes and slippers with antiseptic and leave their clothes before they could enter. After work, they had to wash again and change their clothes before going home.
Tabing Dagat Lodging House & Restaurant: Sandoval St., Brgy. Balala, Culion 5315, Palawan. Mobile numbers: (0999) 656-7769, (0917) 528-2433 and (0918) 214-2222. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Culion Tourism Information: mobile number: (0921) 394-7106 (Pastor Hermie Villanueva). E-mail: email@example.com.
How to Get There: Culion is a 1.5 to 2-hour motorized outrigger boat ride from Coron town.
How to Get to Coron: Skyjet Airlines has 4 times weekly (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, 10:30 AM) flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Coron (Francisco Reyes Airport). Travel time is 30 mins.
Asia Grand View Hotel: Governor’s Ave., Jolo, Brgy. 5, Coron, Palawan. Tel:(+632) 788-3385. Mobile number: (0999) 881-7848. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Manila sales office: Unit 504, Richmonde Plaza, 21 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Tel: (+632) 695-3078 and 531-8380. Mobile number: (0917) 550-7373 to 75 Fax: (+632) 695-3078. E-mail: email@example.com. Website: www.asiagrandview.com.