Hopes are high that ‘Culion’ movie can help remove the stigma associated with leprosy

By Marinel R. Cruz

CULION, PALAWAN—“When one of the cameras turned and focused on the acacia tree, it hit me. That’s how I became part of that movie (‘Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat Ko’),” recalled Imelda Cortez Ganega, 66.

The 1991 movie was the last project of National Artist for Film Lino Brocka before he died of a car accident that year.

Twenty-eight years later, another movie, “Culion,” is set to start filming on this island on July 15. From a script by award-winning writer Ricky Lee—who also wrote “Salingin”—the movie will be directed by Alvin Yapan.

“I don’t plan to join this other movie anymore since I was already a part of the first one,” said Ganega, who was working as a nursing aide at that time. She suffered from Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy, when she was a young girl but has long been declared cured by her doctors.

“Leprosy used to be a problem. Through tourism, we’re using it as the solution, by telling our own life story. We just hope that this movie’s vision is aligned with ours,” pointed out Elee Mar Bulotano, co-founder of Kawil Tours and a kagawad of Barangay Tiza here. “It’s important for us that the depiction of the illness in the film does not contradict what we have been working on for almost a decade. We want to promote Culion as a historical island.”

Culion used to be a leprosarium starting in 1906 under the American regime. Although leprosy on the island had been contained in the 1980s, it was only in 2006 when it was declared a leprosy-free area by the World Health Organization.

Bulotano said that while “Salingin” touched on the issue of leprosy, “it was more of a political story. We already had a cure for the illness in 1991. For ‘Culion’ the movie, expectations are high because it is set in the 1940s when the cure was just being developed.”

Published at Inquirer.net

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