Archive for June, 2012

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Matinlo Mag Angay Tong Coron
(Maganda Pumunta sa Coron)
ITLOG No. 14
(26-29.02.2012)

We would love to return to a place where we liked and enjoyed, and visiting Coron was a thrill for us and returning to Coron would be great. This is the case when we were invited back and sort of guide my partner’s family to Coron.

Arriving at the Domestic Airport at around 1100hrs and checked in our bags then waited at the lounge area, leaving Manila around 1430hrs and headed for Busuanga. Arriving at Francisco Reyes Airport at Busuanga at around 1700hrs and took the van which brought us to GLC Lodging (where we stayed the previous trip), arriving at the lodge, we were showed our rooms and rested a bit. Then ate an early dinner after which we headed for Maquinit Hot Springs, here we dipped ourselves for almost an hour then headed back to the lodge to rest for the day.

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Waking up the next day, eating our home cooked breakfast and preparing for the island hopping, we took the tricycle and headed for Coron Galeri Arts and Crafts, where we rented a boat and a guide, to bring us around the islands of Coron. We walked a short distance to Gateway where they park their boats. Hopping in our boat, we headed first for Kayangan lake, tied up the boat and upon paying the fees, we headed up the steps to the top of the mountain, then down the other side to the cool water of Kayangan lake, here we spent a lot of time wading and swimming and when it became hot, we started up the side of the mountain and head back to our boat.

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Next stop was, twin peaks here we fed the fishes, while snorkeling. After which we headed to Atwayan Beach, where we got down the boat and swam the cool waters while waiting for our lunch of grilled fish and pork, grilled eggplant and salad made out of tomatoes, onions and seaweeds or lato. After lunch, we passed by the Coral Gardens and then CYC beach, which we were not interested in going down the boat, then we headed for Twin Lagoon, this is where I tried to swim the deep waters using a lifejacket because I wanted to see the other side of the rocks to the other lagoon. Satisfying my curiosity, I headed back to the boat and waited for the others. Heading back to Coron, we passed by a portion where there were lots of Mangroves, so we would not go against the current and splash us all in the boat, landing at the pier, we got off the boat and headed back to the lodge. After a brief rest, we headed out and bought some souvenirs to take back home.

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Waking up the next morning and headed for gateway where our boat will take us to Culion Island, at around 0830hrs, we cast off and headed for Culion, it was a bumpy ride with big waves splashing at the boat, seeing pearl farms along the way, then we catch a glimpse of Culion in the horizon, getting closer to the island is could see the large statue of Jesus and the seal of the Department of Health made on the side of the mountain, docking on the pier, we headed for the Museum and had a tour of the ground.

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Culion Island is part of the picturesque Calamianes chain of Northern Palawan. It lies south of Coron – a port which is fast becoming a lively hang-out for travellers – and from there can be easily reached either by private boat or on a regular public ferry.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is also called, is no longer a public health problem on Culion and for decades the island has been open to immigrants and visitors alike. There are two main guesthouses in the town, both within walking distance of the fort, the Spanish church and a newly renovated museum documenting the fascinating history of the leper colony.

“Leprosy has been misunderstood since biblical times. Nowadays many people do not know that it still exists, let alone that it is a curable disease,” says Arturo Cunanan, head of the Culion Leprosy Control and Rehabilitation Program. Cunanan was responsible for finally eliminating leprosy from Culion in 1998 using MDT, the multi-drug therapy recommended by the World Health Organisation. “It is hard for people to change their outlook on a disease that has been among the most feared and stigmatised in human history – but gradually we are succeeding,” he adds.

During the American administration of the Philippines at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was estimated that there were around 3,500 to 4,000 lepers in the country. With no cure available, the authorities had a serious health problem on their hands. They decided that the only way to prevent the disease from spreading would be to segregate those afflicted from the rest of society, as had been done at the Molokai leper colony in Hawaii. Culion Island was singled out as a suitably remote location and by 1906 the first batch of 370 patients arrived at the newly constructed leper colony.

During the early years, the patients of Culion had no hope of a cure or of ever returning to their families and the island soon became known as “the land of the living dead”. Lepers from all over the Philippines, including some Chinese and Americans, were brought to Culion by force. “In those days nobody thought of human rights,” says Cunanan, “separation and isolation were seen as a public health measures – to save the healthy from the sick.” By 1931, the island had over 16,000 patients and was the world’s largest leper colony.

A walk around the museum gives you an idea of what life might have been like during those years. Refurbished for the centennial anniversary of the leper colony in 2006, it is well laid out and packed full of books on leprosy and information about different treatments. It also contains poignant mementos of everyday life such as personal letters and coins that were minted for the sole use of the patients.

In the early years, life on the island was strictly controlled. Until 1933, marriage between Culion’s patients was subject to intermittent restrictions. The authorities wanted to prevent close relationships and limit the number of children born on the island. Because it was still relatively unknown how the disease spread, children were taken from their mothers immediately after they were born and brought up separately in the nursery.

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After the tour I went around the church to see if I could enter but it was locked, so I headed for the office and ask permission if I could enter and see the inside of the church. La Inmaculada Conception Church is an old cathedral constructed in 1740 as a church-fort. The main entrance and walls were made of hewn coral rocks.

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After which we took the tricycle and headed back to the pier and ate our lunch at the restaurant near-by with the food we brought aboard the boat. After a hearty lunch, we boarded the boat and headed for Hikari South Sea Demo Pearl Farm.

Hikari South Sea Demo Pearl Farm, a Japanese-Filipino venture, which cultures pearls. We were greeted by Mr. Agustin Badon, Manager of the demo farm and showed us photos of how they make pearls from the early stages to the time they are placed in stacks and placed at the sea. Then we were showed their showroom there you could buy nice cultured sea pearls.

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Heading back to Coron, was as always uneventful, I even fell asleep while being rocked by the boat. Upon our arrival at Coron, I took up a place at Lualhati Park and waited for the sun to set, after taking a bunch of photos, I joined the group having dinner at a restaurant nearby and had tapa. Then headed back to the lodge where we rested for the day

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Waking up late the next day, after eating breakfast, we prepared our things for our flight back to Manila, and by 1200hrs we were on the van headed for Francisco Reyes Airport and checked in our bags, boarding the plane and after the plane has taxied off the runway and was in the air, I was invited by the pilot to join them in the cockpit, where I got really excited and took a lot of photos, but since it was bright outside and dark inside the cockpit the lighting was not good, I even got a video of the plane landing at NAIA but again not good lighting. Getting off the plane and telling my experience in the cockpit, we collected our bags and back to the busy place of Manila

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Would it be nice to visit Coron for the third time? Yes! And we will never grow tired of visiting the place, I even thought of living in Coron!

Till our next trip…

Special thanks to
Leyelito Corullo and Family (GLC Lodging) for talking to the pilot and letting me stay in the cockpit

To Pilots Dino de Luna and Jeffrey Luna, for showing me around the cockpit

And to the Family of my Loving Partner – thank you all

All photos are owned and copyrighted by Joey Rico (also known under these names: alien_scream).
All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use, copy, editing, reproduction, publication, duplication and distribution of the digital photos, without his explicit permission, is punishable by law

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.

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