Culion Leper Colony

Early History: "In 1904, the civil government of the Philippines issued an Executive Order creating a leper colony on the remote island of Culion, in the northernmost chain of Palawan islands, which was referred to at that time as the “Island of the Living Dead.”


The first contingent of 670 leper patients were brought from the province of Cebu, and subsequently from other areas, eventually creating one of the largest Leprosaria in the world. Inadequate facilities created extremely poor living conditions for the patients.


With only a 100-bed hospital, most lived in small bamboo huts. Those more able-bodied patients engaged in crude agriculture and fishing. Except for those who started families in the colony, patients were separated from relatives and the rest of society and lived in isolation and poverty.


Modern Medicine: By the 1920’s, modern medicine began to reduce active leprosy among the population, although hundreds of residents still suffered from the results of the disease.


In 1964, the Liberalization Act was passed, prohibiting the admission of early active cases of leprosy, and reducing the jurisdiction of the Department of Health over the islands. After this time, Culion was inundated by settlers, primarily non-lepers (“sanos”) who were families and friends of the patients, and government employees.


While the pain of separation was eased by this flood of immigration, the natural resources were rapidly depleted. The government acted in 1974 to revert Culion into a reservation under the full administration of the Department of Health. This law did not remove any residents, however, and the non-patient population continued to grow, while the patient population dwindled.


As the community progressed, positive changes were made, and the former leper colony became a Municipality in 1999, a time of progress and modernization throughout the Philippines.”

(From “Brief History of Culion Island” by Patricia Hilao)


More history of the Culion leprosarium: