Fast forward to December 2014, I was invited to speak at Dream Expo Culion which meant staying on the island for five days. I could not pass up on the opportunity.
Beside the church is the Loyola College of Culion, a Jesuit institution. It's buildings are heritage too! The hospital is just across. A very interesting museum on the Culion Lepers' Colony, the Culion Museum and Archives, can be found inside. While there are many prewar buildings in the compound (much of the old town is actually part of the DOH facility), I am wary of the ongoing renovations that are being undertaken since, while they are well-meaning, the work being done is slowly erasing the old architectural elements that make the hospital an important piece of heritage. I hope the NCCA steps in and gives technical assistance to properly guide the repair work being done.
A ceremonial staircase where official photos of the colony and its visitors were taken, leads up to another plaza with a bandstand and a statue of Jose Rizal. Unfortunately, they now play second fiddle to a basketball court in what was once a beautiful garden.
Further down the road are even more old houses with capiz windows, many of them dilapidated and damaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). There are also institutional facilities such as a two-floor building with high ceilings that once housed a nursery. To my dismay, I was told the large prewar structure had been been partitioned into five and given to DOH employees. Can government property be given away just like that? Let's build new employee housing away from the heritage core.
Culion has so much potential to be a heritage town. I really hope the National Commission for Culture and the Arts steps in before we lose it.
While we were there, Kawil Tours, a community-based tourism enterprise of Culion, took us to one of the best kept secrets of Culion, Crowing Glory Reef. And its location is still a secret until regulations have been made for its conservation. I have a short video clip below while snorkeling at the reef.
I'm really hoping Culion becomes a popular destination. But the town will first have to create a heritage conservation master plan and strictly adhere to it for its heritage to shine.