MOVING FORWARD AT 40 To realize its vision and mission, on its 40th year, the Culion Foundation, Inc. will strengthen its work on Neglected Tropical Diseases, particularly leprosy, tuberculosis, filariasis, schistosomiasis, and helminthiasis. It will reinvigorate its involvement in the development efforts of the Municipality of Culion. Moreover, it will venture into new programs especially on the relationship between health and the environment.
CFI 40th Anniversary and Launching of Balik-Culion Program
Last November 5, 2016, Culion Foundation, Inc. (CFI) launched its Balik-Culion Program. This was graced by Hon. Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, Vice President of the Philippines, and attended by approximately a thousand individuals from different partner-agencies, namely the local government of Culion, Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital (CSGH), local district of the Department of Education (DepEd), the Parish Youth Ministry, as well as the beneficiaries of CFI.
The launching of the program also marked the 40th Anniversary of CFI with its slogan, “Strengthening health systems and empowering communities,” specifically aimed at revitalizing its development work in the Municipality of Culion and other parts of the country, and with the theme, “Pakikipag-unayan sa Laylayan ng Lipunan.” The Balik-Culion Program primarily intends to strengthen its initiatives in neglected tropical diseases as well as to pursue new programs interlinking health and environmental integrity.
The program was facilitated by Mr. Eugenio Caccam, Jr., the Executive Director of CFI. It formally started upon the arrival of Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo. She obliged to officiate a wreath laying at the tomb of Fr. Javier Olazabal, SJ, the founder of CFI. This was followed by the offering of flowers at the statue of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of Culion. Mr. Alberto Lim, Chairman and President of CFI and then Secretary of Department of Tourism, delivered the welcome remarks. His message highlighted CFI’s major contributions in campaigns against leprosy in Culion, the then world's largest leper colony, and undertaking urgently needed infrastructures such as water supply, health stations, school buildings, renovation of the municipal hall and paving of primary roads. He also delved into the story of Fr. Olazabal, whose indefatigable dedication to the service of those afflicted with Hansen’s disease. He also emphasized that CFI has never left Culion as evidenced by its Assistance to Small Enterprises Development which until now is still on-going.
The short program was held at the Immaculate Conception Church, courtesy of Fr. Roderick Caabay. There was signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), covering the following CFI projects: Youth Involvement in Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation; Culion Water Sources Development and Water Distribution; Supplementary Feeding Program for Preschool Children and Lactating Mothers; Biodiversity Conservation-Friendly Enterprise Development; and Support for Patients afflicted by Leprosy. The MOUs concretized the commitment of the local government of Culion, the CFI and its identified partner line agencies and offices in implementing and sustaining the projects that the Balik-Culion Program is committed to pursue.
After the MOU signing, Mayor Virginia de Vera, gave her message of appreciation. She thanked CFI for its unwavering support to Culion and cited the Balik-Culion Program as a big help to the government’s poverty alleviation program. She assured that the local government of Culion will continue to collaborate with CFI and other partners. She also thanked the Vice President for gracing the event and committing to support for her advocacy and efforts for those in the laylayan ng lipunan.
The Vice President followed immediately to deliver her message. She expressed her appreciation to CFI for being invited to witness its 40th anniversary and the launching of its Balik-Culion Program. She pointed out that it was good to look back at the programs that CFI had undertaken, especially on leprosy, which demonstrated that everyone should benefit and be included in development programs. She said that Fr. Olazabal’s endeavors for Culion inspired her and that despite of being a foreigner, he passionately and effectively helped the sick. She reminded the gathering that each one of us has the responsibility to do the same by helping those who belong to the most vulnerable sectors in the community. She also mentioned the Angat Buhay Program, an initiative of the Office of the Vice President which CFI is an active partner.
The program culminated in its closing activity which was the group picture-taking session. Several groups, such as the local government officials of Culion, the CSGH employees as representatives of the Department of Health, the DepEd representatives, the members of the Association of Culion Hansenites, Inc., the CFI officials and staff, the Parish Youth Ministry members, and the large public, took turns in having their photo ops with the Vice President.
After the photo ops, the Chairman and President of CFI conveyed a book entitled “Culion island: A leper colony’s 100-year journey toward healing,” and a 114-year old antique map of the island of Culion as tokens of appreciation for the Vice President.
Written by: Ida Arcega, Jaime Nebril, and Ian Christopher Rocha