BACKPACKING CULION: The land of no return


I’ve been dreaming of visiting Culion Town since the first time I went at Coron way back 2004. I was anxious to know why do tourist doesn’t include this island on their itinerary, in fact you can only find few bloggers sharing tips about Culion.

Our journey roughly begins with a mishap on the public boat ride to the island, there is a single ferry leaving Coron Port around 2PM. From the airport going to Coron town we took a van and traveled for an hour, we then ask Kuya driver to take us at the port so we can reserve a ticket. The woman on the terminal window told us to come back at noon time because we are too early, unfortunately she forgets to tell us that we need to go to the gate and add our name on the passenger list.  So when we went back we are told that the ferry is fully reserved. Just imagine my reaction, I was so disappointed 😦

And a miracle just happened, luckily there are too many chance passengers that time, so Coastguard decided to allow a private boat to load the stranded commuters. And our boat finally sailed at 3PM. Together with the locals we are so much relieve that our misfortune turns to luck.

Boat ride: PHP200.00
Terminal Fee: PHP20.00

If you wanted to visit Culion without any hustle, book your trip with a travel agency, base on my research that would cost around PHP1,200 – PHP1,500/pax.

Look how pristine and lively Culion port is, this is worth all the effort.

Did you know that the locals of Coron prefer Culion Hospital when they need to visit a doctor?

Brief History: Culion was called the Island of the Living Dead or the Island of No Return, is a former Leper Colony, in 1906 US government established a leprosarium in this isolated island to prevent spreading and get rid of Leprosy. The best treatment facilities are built. and on May 27, 1906, the first contingent of 370 patients from Cebu was brought to Culion. In 1998 the disease is finally eliminated, to date Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital lead by Dr. Cunanan a direct descendant of person’s affected by leprosy serve and help Culion as well as Coron locals. Fast forward to today,  Culion is now a municipality that is free from leprosy. The best thing about it? The island’s long isolation has preserved most of its natural resources.

CULION MUSEUM AND ARCHIVESThe exhibit opened last 6 May 2006, as one of the main activities of the Culion Centennial Celebration. The exhibition presented 100 years of Culion, featuring important aspects of its history and various chapters highlighting the segregation and isolation, the resulting community life, care of children as well as its achievements and contributions in national and international leprosy research and treatment.
The museum was destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda last November 08, 2013 and re – open in July 26, 2014.
Entrance Fee: PHP100.00

THE PEACEFUL TOWN
Contrary to the darkness and fear that the history brought, Culion is a tranquil town where people live in harmony.  The remnants of the past doesn’t hinder them to continue with their everyday lives. They are very friendly and will be happy to share their stories and survival. Most of the residents are descendants of the patients.Culion Cathedral: The Culion Cathedral is a sight one cannot miss because it is situated high above the town. The church still has the stoned facade, the red roofing, and the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Even after being expanded in 1933, the religious structure has maintained the name Culion Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion.

Fort Culion: Adjacent to the church the fort was built in 1683 by Fr. Juan de Severo and renovated in 1740. The fort was partially demolished in the 1930s by American Jesuit Fr. Hugh McNutty to build a larger church, with some of the fort’s original coral rock  used for the nave.

General Wood Statue: Built as a tribute to Gen. Wood from the lepers in 1931 in gratitude for his patronage and contributions to the colony.

Agila Hill: Walk through 330 plus steps and enjoy the scenery of the town and surrounding islands from a bird-eye’s view. Do not worry as the hike will provide you with amazing views from left and right. Just before reaching the peak of the hill where a statue of Christ the Redeemer is erected, you will pass by stone-formed logo of the Philippine Health Services with an eagle in the center. The said logo was specially created by the lepers to thank PSA and the work they have made.

A LOCAL WITH A HEART
We accidentally met Pastor Hermie Villanueva aka PastorGuide/Pastographer while looking for the cheapest hotel in town, with a big smile he offers his help and shares his FREE Sunset and Tagbanua’s Coffee Tour. Pastor’s passion to boost Culion’s tourism is very inspiring. He personally established Culion Tour Arrangement and Guiding Plus to help tourist maximize their stay in the island.

Towntour in a motorcycle is really #morefuninthephilippines

Tagbanua’s Coffee is locally harvested and brewed, the process is quite different from the normal. Brown sugar is added during brewing which gives a caramelized taste. We bought a pack of bean and 1/2 kilo of brown sugar at the local store and bring it to the local maker.
I’m a coffee addict and this is a two thumbs up for me I LOVE IT! Together with my new found friends from DOST Palawan and Japan we enjoy drinking KAPE DE TAGBANUA with our simple breakfast prepared by Pastor’s wife Ate Baby.

THE LAND I WILL SURELY RETURN!

In summary our stay in Culion only lasted 14 hours, but the memories and experience will surely last forever. An island full of hopes and inspiration, a place which I checked from my bucket list. It was 7AM the ferry returning to Coron is about to leave, we bid our farewells and we promise to return.

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