Road Less Traveled: Culion, Palawan

Not a lot of people dare to visit Culion. Maybe because of the long travel time, or the unfamiliarity or maybe just because of its history. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Culion until my boss mentioned it last year. We were in Coron and initially planned to go but we couldn’t because of lack of time. This year though, Culion was our destination.

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Before researching about Culion, I asked my Mom if she knew the place. She told me that Culion was once a leper colony; it even became the largest leper colony at some point. It was the island of the living dead; thousands of lepers from all over the Philippines were moved to Culion during the American occupation. It was like a little country. Culion had its own form of government, trade and money. Culion was an isolated island then. Now, it isn’t.

Culion is an hour and a half boat ride from Coron Port. The public ferry  plies the Coron-Culion route once a day at 2:00 PM so it was obviously full the day we went. From the Culion Port, our hotel is a 10-minute walk. Located in Barangay Libis, once they called the Lower Gate and the land of the “leprosos”, Hotel Maya is strategically located on top of a hill, overlooking the ocean and the surrounding islands near Culion. An interesting fact to mention is that Hotel Maya was once a dormitory, the Hijas de Maria Dormitory.

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Beside our Hotel is the La Immaculada Church and Fort Culion, built by the Spaniards to protect themselves from the invading Moros. Going down the steps of La Immaculada Church, you will find the Loyola College of Culion run by the Jesuit priests. Nearby is the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital. Housed inside the hospital premises is the museum (too bad it was closed for renovation the day we went) where one can find the memories of what Culion was during the time of the “leprosos”. A five-minute walk led us to the stairs which will take us up the Aguila and the Christ the Redeemer statue, which you will see from afar upon approach to Culion. They say that the Aguila was painstakingly built by the leprosos back then, in appreciation for the dedication of the health workers who worked in Culion.

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Culion is a walkable town. Markers have been left in the streets of the lower gate to tell its visitors of the history of the town. It is safe to say that Culion is an interesting place, truly an off-the-beaten path.

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A fifteen minute boat ride from the port took us to the Crowning Glory reef, a Marine Protected Area, the next day. The clear waters allowed us to see a diversity of fish and the colorful corals. From there, we were taken to Malcapuya Island, a 45-minute boat ride. They say that  Crown Regency has bought a portion of the land in Malcapuya Island and will soon be a developed resort. It is a great thing we were able to go before the development. Although it was raining, we enjoyed swimming in the really beautiful and crystal clear waters. Nearby is Banana Island where we saw a lot of zebra fish. Loved that we were the only visitors in the island when we were there.

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Our boatmen are from Kawil Tours in Culion. Before we went island hopping, Kuya Renly told us that they are very happy that we decided to go with them because most of the time, tour companies in Coron lure the tourists (and truthfully, Coron has always been the marketed island). This results to them not having extra income for the day. Speaking of kawil, our friendly boatmen taught us the traditional way of fishing in Culion which is the kawil. The process requires patience and luckily I was able to contribute one big fish to our boat. While on the way back to the island, we feasted on inihaw na isda with toyo as our sawsawan. Simple joys!

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While Culion may not be popular like Coron, everyone must still take time to visit the island. This town has so much history in it that tourists should take interest in. From the island of the living dead, it is now the island of promise. Culion has so much to offer and I can’t wait for the day that more and more tourists get to discover this place and how truly beautiful it is.

Until next time.

 

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