AMDG
I will be spending the next three weeks in the remote Palawan Islands in Southern Phillipines (painted blue).   In what is called our ‘elective’ experience, I will be available to help at the Jesuit Mission in Culion (one of the 1700 islands that make up the archipelago).  There are 51 chapels that are served from the parish at Culion – scattered around the islands as well as a High school and College.  Having had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago – the consultant in the hospital was somewhat relieved I am not heading back into the Mountain Province.  Having just discarded my crutches – the mangroves, beaches and coral reefs of Palawan will be much more conducive to recovery than the rice terraces and mud slides of Kalinga!  (I hope!!)  The islands of Palawan are called “The Last Frontier” because it is the last unsettled area in the Philippines. Home to many tribal groups such as the Tau Batu, the Batak, the Tagbanua, and one such Palawano tribe was just discovered as late as 1997.

I must confess that I also noticed that Palawan is rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region in 2007, and the 13th best island in the world having “incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes.  I have been told that I will have a small boat and that maybe inbetween masses – baptisms – catechesis – there will be a chance for a spot of snorkelling or even scuba diving! Considering the famous French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau  once described the province as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world – it would be rude not to take up the opportunity! However before I get too excited – I have also been told – that the islands have a large population of reptiles such as Cobras, Pythons, and Monitor Lizards which range in size from 3 ft. to 8 ft in length.  It is also home to a sub-species of the Asian Scorpion which is found nowhere else in the Philippines. This Scorpion grows to be an average length of 7 inches…….

Someone had to volunteer to make the Parish rounds....

Finally just an interesting note specifically about the history of Culion and the Jesuit Mission there.  The treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898, wherein Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for 20 million dollars. The Americans wished to establish some form of public health policy in the Philippines as part of their long-termplan. The traditional belief was that the maintenance of public health required the isolation of cases of leprosy from the rest of the public. After an investigation of a number of sites, the island of Culion was selected as a segregation colony .  The government enacted a policy of  the compulsory segregation of the lepers, and confinement and treatment in Culion. Between 1906 and 1910 they rounded up 5,303 leprosy afflicted individuals and brought them to the colony. The Jesuits accompanied them – and established the parish with its network of chapels on other islands, as well as a high school and Loyola College. You can read more about its fascinating history here.   The beautiful Jesuit church in Culion (below), was built by the lepers.   Although leprosy in Culion has been totally eradicated, it is said the stigma still remains.   I don’t know how much I will be able to update the blog the next three weeks –  so don’t be too alarmed if there is a period of ‘radio silence!’.  Once again thanks for all the interest shown and all the comments – either by email or left on the blog itself.