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La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion, Palawan

La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion drone image by Joshua Chua

La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion

Culion was once referred to as the leprosy island after the American commonwealth overtook the Spanish, colonizing the Philippines for 333 years. From being a former leprosarium, Culion is now a famous tourist destination, offering laidback vacation and rich history. And if you’re traveling to Culion, Palawan, one of the most prominent structures in town is the La Immaculada Concepcion Church, a beautiful Spanish-era heritage.

La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion drone image by Joshua Chua
La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion drone image by Joshua Chua

Sitting on the hilltop, the La Immaculada Concepcion Church has red-colored walls, making it the island’s most famous attraction, whether from afar or close up. It overlooks the town and Coron Bay and is near other attractions such as the historical landmark Tres Bolas, The Culion Museum and Archives, and Hotel Maya. If you’re visiting Culion Island, you can see the church right from the sea.

About the Church/History

The Culion Church was a former fortress established by the Augustinian missionaries who first came to the island, aiming to build a parish in 1622. However, with the continuous Moro attacks, they were forced to construct a defense fortress in 1740. Then in 1933, the present La Immaculada Concepcion Church was reconstructed from a fort to a worship place by Jesuits, led by Fr. Hugh J. McNulty, SJ. First built by the Recollects in 1746, the church stands on the same site as Fort Culion, built by Fr. Juan de Severo in 1683.

Inside Culion Church in Palawan
Inside Culion Church in Palawan

After the renovation, the remaining part of the fort stands as an old watchtower that serves as a former bastion. It now serves as a lighthouse lying on the eastern point to guide seafarers in the evening. In 1978, a leper patient named Ben Amores painted the church’s beautiful ceiling using Fr. Javier Olazabal’s artistic design. And to preserve the structural integrity of the church, Fr. Gabriel Gonzales, SJ, encouraged the renovation and restoration project in 2003 and was supported by the Society of Jesus.

The Design

The La Immaculada Concepcion Church features a Baroque façade with arched openings, from doorways with pilasters to windows. Another notable design is Spain’s royal seal of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand above the main entrance and niches with angel statues. The second level of the church façade features a statue of Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion and a segmental pediment with an oculus in the center. The church also has a bell tower on the right and stairs leading to the entrance.

Image of an angel at the facade of Culion Church
Image of an angel at the facade of Culion Church

But the most striking design the church has are the red-colored brick walls and the newly painted ceiling. First painted by Amores, a handicapped and leper patient, the original painting involves devotion by tying the brushes to his arms and lifted to paint the ceiling. The windows inside are also magnificent, featuring angel elements below, and a hand sculpture with a baby resting on its palm is outside, symbolizing the church opposing abortion. Behind the church, the former bastion now stands a lighthouse with two cannons facing the ocean.

Facade of La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion
Facade of La Immaculada Concepcion Church in Culion

How to get there:

You can find day tours heading to Culion, a 1 ½ to 2-hour boat ride from the port of Coron. If you’re traveling with a big group, you can also rent a boat at Lualhati Park to reach Culion Island. Once on the island, ride a tricycle going to Brgy Libis where the La Immaculada Concepcion Church is located.

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