Saturday, October 24, 2009

Palawan: Culion Island, where the Philippines eliminated leprosy

Culion was called the Island of the Living Dead or the Island of No Return. Once the largest leper colony in the world, it stands today as a stark reminder of life in the Philippines when leprosy was still an incurable disease, and a testament to how leprosy was eradicated not just in the Philippines but in the entire world, and how technology and advances in medicine have improved and changed the way we live today.

Culion was selected as the containment area of all those with leprosy in the Philippines during the American Period. At that time, leprosy was still an incurable disease. And the only way to stop its spread was to isolate all those afflicted with it. People with leprosy were rounded up like criminals to be sent to the island, most certainly to die given that there was no cure. That is why it was called the Island of No Return.

The government apprehended lepers, detained them and sent them for isolation on Culion Island. Families knew that when a leprous member of the family was collected for segregation, that would be the last time they would see him or her. Ships brought patients to Culion every three months. And by its 25th year, there were 16,138 patients on Culion's roster making it the largest leper colony in the world.

Because of the large number of patients, Culion naturally became a laboratory for scientists around the world who had striven to look for a cure for leprosy. That's why Culion's legacy makes the Culion Museum worth visiting if you have both time and a budget for it.

Boats to Culion from Coron cost between Php3,000 to 3,500. But you could do visit Culion plus parts of the Coron Loop in one day. Or a Culion visit plus Banana and Malcapuya Islands. There are ferry services which leave at lunch and late in the afternoon. But that would mean sleeping overnight on the island.

We left Coron at 8:30 a.m and arrive in Culion at about 10 a.m. Culion Church, Fort Culion, the Culion Sanitarium and its museum are all in one area. From the port, it's a 10 minute walk up the hill where they're all located. But tricycles are available to bring you there.

Again, if only for the visit to the museum at the Culion Sanitarium, the trip is worth it since it ably tells the story of Culion and makes you appreciate life as it is today. Museum fees are Php250 for foreigners, Php100 for non-locals, Php50 for locals, and Php20 for students with IDs. To be sure the museum is open, it's best to call before hand.

Culion Museum and Archives
+63 928 2812276
+63 921 5787152
+63 919 3779757

Where to stay in Culion
The Tabing Dagat Lodging House & Restaurant is situated right beside the port. Fan rooms start at Php450; while aircon rooms start at Php900.

Tabing Dagat Lodging House & Restaurant
Brgy. Balala, Culion, Palawan
+63 928 6757473
+63 920 2779327
+63 920 4056659

Related entries
Things to do in Coron, Busuanga and Culion, Palawan
Coron hotels, transportation and more stuff to help you plan your trip
Related Posts with Thumbnails