Culion Foundation, Inc. was established in 1976 by Fr. Javier Olazabal, S.J. and Don Jose Ma. Soriano, Sr. At that time, Mr. Soriano was the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in the Philippines of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Culion Foundation as envisioned by him was to be a catalyst in reorienting the values of the Culion people towards self-reliance and self-sufficiency. It was with this vision that Don Jose, with the help of Mr. Pedro M. Picornell, then Senior Vice-President of the Soriano Corporation and a knight of the Order of Malta, first sought to break the isolation of the island community. Using his personal funds, he constructed an airstrip on the island, opening the colony’s door to the rest of the country and even to the world.
In Culion, CFI has since supported several community development projects, ranging from agriculture (such as the cashew-growing project), fisheries, piggery, livelihood/micro-business assistance, health and basic infrastructure facilities like schools, to local governance and the setting up of a water district. It also supported the building of the Culion airport terminal and the building of roads, the repair of the Municipal Building and the Culion Sanitarium, the construction of a refrigeration facility for fish catch, and other projects.
In its desire to help find a cure for leprosy, the CFI invested in medical activities, such as the Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Solvent Assay (ELISA) Project and the Culion Leprosy Control and Rehabilitation Program (CLCRP). These were implemented in partnership with the Culion Sanitarium. The discovery of the multiple drug therapy (MDT)—the only known cure for leprosy which is being promoted by the World Health Organization—in the 1980’s facilitated the realization of the Foundation’s vision “to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem in Culion."
Today, CFI remains in Culion with maternal and child health, as well as small enterprises projects. With assistance from Juan and Luwalhati Cojuangco Foundation, it helps the Culion Health and Nutrition Office reach island barangays through a water health patrol boat. It has partnered with the Assisi Foundation for a feeding program for lactating mothers and undernourished children through Hapagasa Project, and the Vitamin Angels for Vitamin A supplementation. It has distributed Toms Shoes to selected needy children in the island, courtesy of the Philippine Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta-Manila (PASMOM). It has recently requested a grant from the United Nations Development Programme—Small Grants Project (SGP5) to implement this year a project to support biodiversity-friendly enterprises in the Calamianes Group of Islands, particularly in Busuanga, Coron, and Culion. It has also initiated the Culion Forum to strengthen coordination among NGOs in the area.
Since 1997, the Foundation has expanded its geographic coverage to other provinces which had high leprosy prevalence rates. It has also modified its program assistance on health to include other communicable and infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, malaria, and soil-transmitted helminthiasis) that are prevalent in provinces, and reproductive health.
In recent years, the CFI has consolidated its credit and livelihood assistance activities into a “Lending Project for Small Enterprises Development (LPSED).” It has also started to engage in technical assistance consultancy services.