Travel as Paulo Coelho writes in "The Pilgrimage" makes us see the world in a new light, " . . . since all things are new, you see only the beauty in things and feel happy to be alive."
Ernesto "Che/Fuser" Guevara narrates a similar experience in the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries." Traveling with his biochemist friend Alfredo Granado in a motorcycle from Buenos Aires Argentina to the San Pablo leper colony in Peruvian Amazon in 1952, he asked himself towards the end of his journey, "Was my vision too narrow? Wandering around America has changed me more than I thought. I am not myself anymore. At least, I'm not the same me I was."
This is a turnaround from his earlier outlook on why he and his buddy are traveling. Asked by the hungry and jobless miners why they travel, he answered, "We travel just to travel." The miners were stunned as they travel to look for work so they can eat.
As a result of this experience that spanned over 6,000 kilometers in Latin America in more than a year, Che saw a different world; from a fun filled detached life to a world of oppression, injustice, pain and suffering. His two weeks as a medical volunteer at the San Jose leper colony made him see extreme anguish in all dimensions of man. The lepers, separated from the healthy by the river made him see that there are extreme separate worlds in Latin America. This moved him eventually on changing it by founding a revolutionary communist and Latino movement.
In a way, our visit to the Culion Leper Colony even without the patients can be likened to Che’s journey in the 50’s. Through the pictures at the Culion Museum, sighting of the hospital and the lecture of Dr. Arturo Cunanan, the head of the Culion Leprosy Control and Rehabilitation Program at the Culion Sanitarium, we visualized the pain the ostracized 7,000 patients underwent during their rehab. They were in an island detached from the rest by the Luzon Sea, over 360 kilometers away from their families. This travel challenged us to look beyond our comfort zones, seeing our world in another light.
Returning back to city from our weekend adventure, we can only be thankful that we have been spared of the pains of perpetual separation. If at the least the experience in Palawan awakened us that we should be empathetic to the sick, our Coron Waters Adventure then gifted us with a valuable treasure that could not be matched by all the sunken gold in the Philippine Seas. Yes, even the sick deserves to be happy and alive.
-Chito. Originally written 28 March 2005, modified 20 May 2005
In the movie Kingdom of Heaven which was aptly described as the Kingdom of Conscience, the masked king of Jerusalem, King Baldwin who was afflicted with leprosy said to Balian (Orlando Bloom), “Leprosy is God’s vengeance against the vanity of our kingdom. As wretched as he is already, they believe that the chastisement caused by the disease is more severe and lasting in hell.” He complains “it is unfair.”