It seemed appropriate to write about the church on Culion Island today, Easter Sunday. As I mentioned in the previous post, the island was established as a place to isolate those afflicted with leprosy. On this island, hope and faith must have always been on the minds of the patients and their relatives who had come to be near them. It would be fitting that such a wonderful church would be built on a stunning promontory jutting out into the sea. Referred to as the Immaculate Concepcion Church in some internet searches, I didn’t confirm the name when I was in Culion and my notes draw a blank. Built of stones from the area, the large church is really rather impressive considering its remote location, the small population of the town and the fact that not many outsiders would likely see this church when it was first built, perhaps 70+ years ago. I have very little knowledge of architecture, but all I can say is that it was imposing, proud, comforting. The cavernous interiors were cool, calming and oneâ€™s eyes are drawn to an impressive ceiling that is painted nicely and well-maintained. There are stained glass windows, traditional confessionals and well-worn wooden pews.
The church is a beehive of activity and a town center of sorts. The day I was on the island there were practice sessions for the local high schoolâ€™s graduation ceremony, a mass baptism, masses and I am sure that week saw its share of marriages, baptisms, etc. You must climb several steps leading up to the entrance to the church which has simple but beautiful bougainvilla bushes and large portals framing the interiors (and exteriors in the reverse) of the church. Inside, an imposing stone vessel holds the holy water and it was resting on beautiful painted tiles. While you could not ignore the massiveness and strength of the stone walls, the interiors actually felt light and airy. The churchâ€™s exposed position and success at warding off the elements, including dozens of powerful storms over the decades suggests this is one structure that was built to last. It is just a few meters from the Culion Sanitarium and one of the large local schools.
Out back behind the church is a lookout tower or outpost which is about roof level of the main structure of the church. It has an utterly stunning view of the surrounding islands and a couple of cannons placed here suggests it may have been used to ward of would be but unwelcome visitors. Why anyone would want to come bother the sick and dying on the island of Culion is beyond me but I suspect there werenâ€™t many uninvited guests. Around one corner of the church are some of the bronze bells of the church, one of them, photographed here, came from a foundry in Baltimore, Maryland. I didnâ€™t really get to spend too much time at the church but the few moments I had there left a few lasting impressions: awe at its beauty and strength, comfort in that all of the residents of Culion had a place to seek solace, and a certain of feeling that in a place considered to be the Island of No Return, this was likely the proud and beautiful departure lounge for their afterlifeâ€¦