Picturesque Landscapes. Check.
Hospitable and Friendly People. Check.
Interesting and Colorful History. Check.
By all accounts, the island of Culion checks all the important criteria for a movie setting — an (almost) isolated island, with a beautiful story to tell. Which is a wonder why after decades, there have been very few instances where the island is mentioned.
Culion, for those who do not know, is an island in the northern part of Palawan close to Busuanga/Coron Island, and was formerly a Segregation Colony for persons afflicted by Hansen’s Disease or better known as Leprosy. Currently it has 14 barangays with a population of over 20,000.
During the American occupation, public health was a priority and Culion fit the bill where patients could be isolated, as was the prevailing belief back then. That is why on October 27, 1902, the Second Philippine Commission funded the establishment of the Colony, and was officially declared a Leprosarium in 1904. By 1907 all control over the Leprosarium was placed under the Director of Health. The Director became the central figure in the island, acting as executive, legislator, and judge altogether, tending to the needs of the island’s inhabitants, both to patients and employees.
Throughout its existence, many were brought to the island. The first batch of “patients” came from Cebu and numbered around 370. Between 1906 and 1910, around 5,303 individuals were brought to Culion. Culion became THE leading institution for research on Leprosy and many of the discoveries and material we have on the disease came from the island. By 1930, Culion became the biggest Leprosy Research Laboratory in the world.
Progress was slow, and it was not without its share of trials, but eventually a cure was found in 1956, and in 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that leprosy has finally been eradicated in the island.
Residents of Culion proudly say, “Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained,” which can be confusing to one who is unaware of the history of the island. But visitors today are slowly learning of the island and its story, and are beginning to understand the meaning of the word “Paradise” in the island of Culion.