The little city with big developments, Singapore, is always an interesting to visit. I’m always looking forward too new sites and structures I would see whenever I’m there. But last April’s visit was more of a job since for the first time I was able to talk about Photography and the Philippines to a foreign audience. It was an enriching experience to say the least. We did allot a day to explore what’s new in Singapore since my last visit like the Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay and the Helix Bridge.
It may probably the first thing you’ll see upon approaching Culion Island. The red-colored walls of La Immaculada Concepcion Church is eye-catching from afar. It stands on a hill overlooking the sea and part of the town. It’s an even beautiful church up close and right beside it is Hotel Maya and a light house with war cannons pointing to the open sea. Since its nearby where we are staying, it’s easy to just visit this neighbor of a church and admire its wonderful details.
Curious eyes stare as we step down the motorcycle. Kids who were playing around suddenly stopped and proceeded in caution to look who came. Fishermen by the shore securing their boat gave a quick glance. It seems the people here at Lele Beach in Culion Island don’t to see many visitors donning cameras and tripods that often. Thanks to our guide Hermie, there was a familiar face they can get comfortable with. He informed the small community that we’ll be hanging around their beach for the sunset.
“I knew that man during my younger years. When I see that bust, I can still imagine him speaking to me” said Pastor Hermie, our guide for that day as we ventured to the farther south regions of Culion Island on a motorbike. He was referring to the grotesque bust figure greeting visitors of the Culion Leprosy Museum and Archive after a flight of stairs to the 2nd floor. Just the thought that the figure was an actual leper sent a chill on my spine as I imagine his mummified figure. Stories such as this is common in Culion Island, whose present inhabitants are one way or another are 2nd or 3rd generation descendants of the thousands of leprosy patients who lived on the island. Its hard not to talk about the leprosy stigma that has befallen Culion when visiting the island and a good starting point to learn more about it is a visit to the Culion Leprosy Museum and Archive within the General Hospital compound.
There are two sides in every story, and for an island like Culion, that held the stigma of the long-gone leprosy, there’s the view from the people who lived in the island and those who look upon it from the outside like me. I have this lingering fascination and curiosity with Culion Island that beheld me ever since I’ve heard about it. I wanted delve deeper and see for myself, hear for myself the stories of struggles, perseverance, hope and healing. I know there’s a lot more to Culion Island than what people perceive of it, so I made sure when I returned to Coron, I made a trip to this island used to be known as the “Island of the living dead” and “Island of no return”.
Coron Palawan can speak for itself in terms of its natural beauty. I’ve seen the wonders of Halong Bay, while I admired its thousands of karst wonder, it can’t really compare to how clear and spectacular our Palawan turquoise waters is. The best way to see the islands which is through day tours offered in town. Like El Nido, Coron have also grouped the sites to several island tours. We’re doing the Coron Island Hopping tour (offered by Coron EcoLodge) and has just visited Kayangan Lake. The only need in these tours is a comfortable swimwear (expect to be wet throughout), an open sense of wonder and fun.
It’s been photographed many times. There’s little room for composition in the area. It’s been posted in many billboards and printed on magazines a gazillion times already. So why do I want to go back to Kayangan Lake in Coron Island? Because photos cannot capture what it’s feels like being there. To be surrounded by stunning karts formations towering over the clear emerald lake of Kayangan Lake. It literally feels like stepping inside a scenic wallpapers that’s too good to be a real place.