“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”.
When in Melaka, it’s not enough to admire the many shophouses lining up in Jonker Walk. There are several shophouses turned museums in Melaka that it’s worth walking inside one of them to get a deeper insight on Melaka’s history and culture. One that I would highly recommend visiting is the Cheng Ho Museum found near the tail end of Lorong Hang Jebat before the bridge. With a floor area spanning 55,000 square feet, occupying about 8 units of old shophouses dating back to 1786 and three floors of artefacts, it is considered as the largest museum in Melaka.
Wandering around the streets of Cotabato City, It’s easy to assume that the city is predominantly a Muslim country with many minarets and crescent moons from Mosques jutting out from the city skyline. In fact, if it weren’t for the Hijab (women’s headscarf), it’s hard to tell whether one is Muslim or Christian. Both religions have been deeply intermingled since the birth of Muslim and Christianity in Mindanao. The Tamontaka Church, the oldest church in the city, stands in testimony on the harmonious co-existence of both religions.
Our pace didn’t change as soon as we emerged from the alley walk. We were now at Senado Square. One of the most anticipated sights I wanted to see in Macau. Well, it is one of the most popular places in Macau, finding its pictures on just about every postcards, magazines and internet Google search on Macau. Judging from the throngs here, everyone wants a spot on this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I felt a different sensation when my feet landed on the black sands of Aroma Beach in San Jose, Mindoro. It was on these sands where Philippine wartime history was written 66 years ago. On December 15, 1944, 16,500 soldiers, led by the prominent figure Gen. Douglas McArthur, stomped the black sands amidst the bombings that took place on these shores.
Nueva Vizcaya: The Balete Pass
My 2nd visit to Imugan, Santa Fe gave me an opportunity to visit one of the historical sights in Nueva Vizcaya popularly known as the Dalton Pass Shrine and Monument, now called the Balete Pass Shrine and Marker. Much like how they renamed the Dalton Pass highway to Maharlika highway. This Zigzagging road is also known as the gateway to the Ifugao Rice Terraces, Central Luzon and the Cagayan Valley.