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


  1. Henry Remo26.10.09

    nakapunta kami dito sinabay namin dun sa banana island at malcapuya island hopping namin pero di na nakapasok sa museum due to time constraint...

  2. odette1.11.09

    sad to say,leprosy hasn't been totally eradicated...i'm doing my residency in Dermatology, and we have so many patients,old and new who are afflicted with this disease...

  3. Yes, I'm sure leprosy is still there. But at least we have a cure.

  4. Hi Ivan, I was just wondering if you happen to know any resort (or have any contact info) in Banana Island where I can stay overnight? Thanks

  5. Anonymous16.2.10

    well... hindi ka taga culion kaya parang napakasakit sa tulad ko na mabasa ang blog mo regarding culion... the fact is... leprosarium ang Culion b4... until naging Sanitarium... meron pa mang leprosy sa sinilangan ko, im proud of them kc natakot sa kanila ang hapon at nakaligtas ang mga gerilya dahil sa kanila... be thankful for that... and don't under estimate what Culion can do to Philippines.

  6. Anonymous6.5.10

    sana me cure sa leprosy...pwede magherbal medicine sila and more pray over para malampasan ang ganitong sakit... ano po ang exact address kc padala ako ng ilang gamit. Dati me sumusulat sa amin requesting for clothes and other toiletries pro ngaun wala na.- Rhona

  7. Anonymous7.8.10

    it's so sad that some people still find Culion as the island of lepers. i've been there for more than a dozen times & i know that all of those remaining lepers were already cured without any family, kaya nandoon pa rin sila. sana before posting any blog, be sure to research more about your specific topic. i'm in the medical field & i know that the lepers were already transferred in tala, caloocan. so instead of living in the shadow of the past & tagging Culion as an island of the lepers, why not focus more on the good things about the island? i'm sure you Mr. Henares has better things to tell about Culion rather than posting something na mas makakasira sa image nito. if i were you, try staying at the island for weeks or months for you to know the truth.

  8. You can never erase leprosy from the history of Culion. Doing that would be a great injustice to the island's heritage! If Culion wants become an important tourist attraction, it should highlight its significance as a FORMER leper colony. It's stupid for someone to say that highlighting its leper history destroys the image of Culion. The heritage of the former leper colony is in fact one major reason why people even consider visiting Culion!

  9. Anonymous12.6.11

    Kanina ko lang napanood sa partol ng pilipino ABS-CBN tungkol sa kwento ng colion, sobrang naatig sa ako sa nakaraan ng colion na ngayon gusto ng burahin sa mga isipan ng tao ang masang iniisip nila, nakikiisa ako sa pag bangon ng colion

  10. Anonymous3.7.11

    i want to see the island of culion, in fact i've bought a parcel of land somewhere at halsey' though i've never been there, i wanna see the beauty of it and how virgin the island is...i hope someday i will find a way to help locals much fun soon! surely, i will love culion the way i love nature!

  11. True! You can't erase leprosy from Culion! It is part of it's history. Yung taga-Culion na yan, dapat proud siya na nagba-blog ka about Culion. And it's not even negative.

  12. Anonymous2.10.11

    Thanks for featuring Culion in your blog. Im native from Culion. And I'm not ashamed of what Culion has been in its past. Im a proud native of Culion. The thing is that, why dont we let Culion be known in other way such as its beautiful spots like Pulang Lupa which is the Culion version of Tagaytay scenery. Dont just visit Culion, rather, Experience Culion! =)

  13. my dad is telling me not to visit coron because its near the leprosy island , thank you for your blog , ill print this and show him , that this is the past . personally he scared me ....

    now im looking for good and cheap deals !!! see yah 11/10/11

  14. Anonymous23.12.11

    wow fascinating

  15. I went here for a short visit..
    Culion is a beautiful and charming town.
    I live for the future, and I thank god I was born in this generation where we generally have better living conditions unlike those that had been afflicted by this biblical disease.
    Their stories are inspiring and even the works of people who had dedicated their lives trying to eradicate leprosy.
    As a guest, we where presented with a short film showing of Culion's history..
    Though time can't be encapsulated in such short video, it showed pictures of people that are resilient, whose faces are now part of history.
    I could say, we should be proud of what was accomplished in Culion.. The disease that was dreaded in the bible may still be out there in world but Culion did its part to eradicate it.

  16. Danilo Jr.21.2.12

    I'm jr and i am proud to be a "COOL LION", I was born in Culion, my grandfather is a leprosy victim but he was already cured. I am not ashamed of being a grandson of a former leprosy victim, in fact I am so proud... without Culion (worlds' lagerst human laboratory that time) the cure to leprosy would not have been made and no medicine will help other victims. I also thank you all for your comments-be it positive or negatve-, it is so heartwhelming! I do really appreciate it... Everything is now just a glance to the past, experience Culion and Culion will take you back to the past, a past full of richness,learnings, colors and wonders!!! I miss Culion...can't wait to go home this summer.

  17. What is wrong with you people? I didn't find this blog offensive. Nakakatawa basahin ang mga comments na negative saying they are hurt kasi they found your article wrong. Wake up people!! Honestly, after reading this blog, I told my friend to visit this place once we get back to Coron again.

    Please read carefully before you post a not-so-good feedback. :)

    Good Job Mr. Ivan!


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