April 12, 2009
Northern Clamianes Islands, Palawan
We were getting ready to ride on the bangka (outrigger boat), when Helena comes over.
“Here’s some lunch for you guys!” she says as she hands over a package wrapped in cloth; Japanese style.
After giving her our thanks, she waves her magnificent hands in the air and says “You’re welcome. Now enjoy your side trip to Culion.”
We hop on the boat as she gives last-minute instructions to her boat men.
I quietly on one side on the boat while Cholo sits opposite of me.
My head has been heavy and my nose has been congested since we arrived in the island two days prior.
“Mind over matter.” I told myself.
My silence was broken when I heard the engine come to life. I look over to Cholo.
“Happy Birthday and Happy Easter!” he said gleefully.
I smiled to him as the banca started to ride the waves.
If my memory serves me right, It would take you a little over an hour to get to Culion from Mangenguey. I’m not exactly sure now, because that was 3 years ago. But what I do remember is how beautiful it was on route.
You won’t notice the passing of time because all you do is look around you. Taking in all the beauty that nature has to offer.
In front of you the entire time is the blue sky and the pristine aquamarine dotted with green islands all over. I will never forget the image of coral reefs so clear through the blue-green water as I looked over the edge of the boat.
One of the men stands at the bow of the bangka (see left photo). They stand and watch the water because some parts are shallower. They don’t want to risk the bangka hitting bottom. They do this every so often when we are passing between islands as a safety measure.
The bangka docks in its designated area in the port of Culion and the men tells us to enjoy walking around. The municipality is quite small, we won’t get lost.
As we walk around we are greeted by silence. After all, it was Easter Sunday.
The disco pub was closed.
The school was closed.
And so was the bakery.
We saw a church on top of the hill and we decided to make for it.
The Immaculate Conception Church was built by the Jesuits during the Spanish Colonial period of the 1880’s. When you enter the church you see a statue of the Blessed Virgin on top of the main entrance.
When you enter , you will see from the nave that the colors that adorn the church as red and gold. It’s quite beautiful in its simplicity.
The apse depicts the last supper of Jesus Christ and His Apostles (see right).
I’m not sure if the church was built on top of the old fort or if the church was built beside it, because as soon as you go around the church and walk up a flight of stairs you will find yourself atop an old tower at the highest point of the hill.
You can see the sea far and wide. Though there is no beach, the water is so clear.
Cholo and I.
Take note of the canon to my left.
One very interesting fact we discovered about Culion is that it used to be a Leper Colony during the American Commonwealth.
The details of how Culion became the world’s largest leper colony at that time (16,000 cases at its height!) is showcased by the Culion Museum which is run by Loyola College of Culion. Visiting this museum was very enlightening because this specific part of Filipino history was unknown to me until that day. Click here to know more about the Culion Museum.
You don’t have to worry when you are going about Culion because there are no lepers around. The last single remaining case in the island got cured in 1998.
It was a little bit past noon and we had to get back to the banca. We can’t stay for long because we had to consider the tides. It will be too difficult to travel if we get caught during low tide.
We traced back our steps to the port, bought some ice cream (Nestle Twin Popsies to be exact) from the ice cream man to beat the heat. We bought some for the boys too. I’m sure they’d want some.
Then men were now maneuvering the banca with ice cream at hand.
After 30 minutes of zooming past the water, the brought us to a small island with mangroves all over.
We opened our lunch served in bento boxes and enjoyed our delicious lunch as the waves gently rocked the boat
Culion is a nice day trip when you are vacationing among one of the islands
Culion is not served by any major forms of transportation. It’s main connection is to ride an outrigger boat from the port of Coron in Busuanga.
Busuanga is accessible via sea and air.
AirPhil Express, Cebu Pacific, SEAir and Zest Air flies from manila. Click on names to be rerouted to their website.
2GO Travel (originally named SuperFerry) also goes to Busuanga from Manila on route to Puerto Princesa. Call the hotline (02) 528-7000 for schedules.