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Culion History, Philippines

The rich history of Culion, as recorded, dates back to 1622 with the missionaries of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects reaching the island and spreading Christianity throughout the island and the other parts of the province of Palawan that was originally named Paragua province. To protect the territory and the people of Culion from Moro attacks, Fray Juan de San Severo O.A.R. supervised the construction of Fort Culion that started in 1740 with the natives of Culion supplying the workforce.

The Culion Island is an isolated island with a few and scattered inhabitants. It was this island’s remote location and its light population that made it a good choice for the establishment of a leper colony that was originally planned in 1901. It was in August 22 1904 that the Executive Order No. 35, declared by Hon. Luke E. Wright the Civil Governor of the Philippines, was enacted establishing the leper colony and requesting the natives to leave the Island of Culion.

 The construction of the colony on the hills inside the old Fort started right away. The first chaplain of the colony Rev. Fr. Manuel Valles SJ arrived in Culion on March 16 1906 setting up and preparing the facility for its operation. The first nurses were only four French Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres who set foot in the island on May 25 1906. They were the first and the only attendants of hundreds of patients in Culion for so many years. The first patients reaching a total of 370 lepers coming from Cebu were admitted in the colony on May 27 1906 and the second batch came on July 4 1906.

The first Japanese Imperial Army landed on the island sometime in April 1942 simultaneously with the Fall of Bataan. Terrified by leprosy, the Japanese forces stayed out of the island and they ordered the full isolation of the colony from the neighboring islands. The colony never experienced direct war assaults from the Japanese but the absence of communication, medicine and food supplies from the outside had brought a number of casualties. More than 2067 patients succumbed to death in three years under the Japanese occupation.

The bitterness of the past of Culion was replaced with a new hope when the cures for leprosy such as sulfone and the MDT were introduced in Culion. The treatments have declared many patients negative giving way to the promulgation of Republic Act No. 4073 on June 18 1964. This act had given the liberty of Culion and the colony had stopped admitting new patients. The island was then opened for new settlements and inhabitants.

The present inhabitants of Culion are mostly the former cured patients with their families and migrants from adjacent islands. The rebirth of Culion has opened a new and brighter day and the colony was turned into a municipality by virtue of the Republic Act No. 7193 signed by Pres. Corazon Aquino on February 12 1992.

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