“Meron kaming ganito ngayon dahil sa nangyari noon (We are able to have this now because of what happened in the past).” We were swimming through Crowning Glory Reef, a lively and vibrant coral reefs off the coast of Culion, when Kuya Renlee, one of the founders of Kawil Tours, told us this.
Culion is an island town part of the Calamianes group of islands in Palawan, just a couple of hours away from Coron. In the 1900s, Culion was established as a leper colony where those afflicted by this contagious disease were sent to be treated and separated from the rest of the world. Isolated and erased from the Philippine map, the island of Culion was a well-kept secret of the Philippines for 100 years. In 2006, the World Health Organization finally declared the island leprosy-free. However, the struggle to dispel the century-old stigma and to reconnect Culion to rest of the world had begun.
Last March, we set out for Culion to meet with the founders of Kawil Tours, a Culion-based tour operator, and to experience first-hand the island and the tours they offer. Kawil Tours is a community-driven social enterprise that practices responsible tourism and empowers the local community by providing work opportunities, such as arranging island tours and preparing locally sourced meals for the tourists. Since its establishment in 2011, Kawil Tours has become a household name among the locals and is considered a key player in the town’s tourism.
Liz during an interview with the Local Department of Tourism on their plans for the island.
We spent our days there interviewing the founders, residents, tourists, and the local Department of Tourism, as well as exploring the town and experiencing the amazing views of the clear teal waters that surround the island—taking in the sites, sounds, history, people, and all the things that make up this seaside town. Our goal was to gain grounded insights and to create a design proposal that would help promote Kawil Tours as a responsible and culturally-immersive tour experience that would help foster appreciation for Culion.
This was taken during our town tour where we visited their town plaza and other historical structures such as Balala nursery, town hall, church and museum which was formerly the town’s hospital and sanitarium.
To kick off our immersion, we immediately visited the museum where we learned about the island’s history. Kuye Elee, another founder and Culion local, walked us through the various areas of the museum, fondly telling us memories from his childhood. There were walls upon walls of names of all the people sent there—some were aliases due to the perceived shame it brought onto the family name. The museum also had on display the various medicines and apparatuses used for treatment during that time.
On day 3, we hopped on a boat manned by Culion locals, Kuya Lily and Kuya Bruno with Kuya Elee as our guide, so we could experience the tour from the standpoint of a tourist. In just a short day trip, we were able to visit two white sand beaches and two coral reefs. Being able to visit so many places in a short period of time was only possible because of Culion’s proximity to these destinations and Kawil Tours’ mastery of the route and best times to go. The highlight of the tour was definitely snorkeling through Crowning Glory Reef, a marine protected area, a place where we soon found out was deserving of its name. We saw a thriving reef with corals of many different hues, forms, and sizes. Another indicator of its health was the abundance of fish living and swimming around us. It was at this moment when Kuya Renlee told us, “Meron kaming ganito ngayon dahil sa nangyari noon (We are able to have this now because of what happened in the past),” recalling how people would avoid going near Culion or even swimming near their waters in fear of catching leprosy. It was because of this that many of their natural resources remained virtually untouched for a century.
Our tour guides from Kawil Tours. Kuya Renlee (left) is our main tour guide, Kuya Bruno (middle) is the boat’s first mate and cook, and Kuya Lily (right) is the boat captain.
Ditaytayan Island, one of the beaches we visited during our tour. Kawil Tours knew exactly when was the best time to go, wherein we could have the beach all to ourselves.
From what we gathered, what was most evident was that the locals of Culion have a deep appreciation and understanding of Culion and its surrounding islands. This is why you can count on them to be the most knowledgeable about the best destinations and experiences in and around Culion. It is also because of this very connection and affinity towards the island that they are also the most earnest to practice responsible tourism and talk about their history.
Kawil Tours is an example of how tourism, community involvement and responsible practices can work together instead of against each other.
This insight became the foundation of our design proposal upon which we were able to craft the key message “Experience Culion through the eyes and heart of a local with Kawil Tours,” inviting others to love and care for the island as a local would.
Our proposal is comprised of three stages. First is to communicate the experience through branding and visual identity; second, customize the experience through website design to streamline the booking experience; and third, share the experience through a social media campaign.
To communicate the experience, we took inspiration from what we saw around the island. This was reflected in the hand-painted style of the logo, icons, and elements we proposed for them, and the color palette whose shades we named Liwayway, Dalisay, and Lalim. These colors were inspired by three aspects: the sun that rises and sets, the view of the ocean, and teal for the pristine shallow waters to the deep blue depths. Each color is named after its inspiration but also as Kawil Tours’ values: Liwayway for their brightness, Dalisay for their pure genuine goals, and Lalim for how deep their love for Culion is.
what was most evident was that the locals of Culion have a deep appreciation and understanding of Culion and its surrounding islands.
Since their logo is already well-known among the residents, we didn’t want to stray too far away from it and opted to propose a logo refresh. With this refresh, we used a custom-type and recreated the elements with a cleaner and simpler execution to evoke a friendlier look. We also intended for this to be easily replicated by hand painting.
Mockups of our proposed logo on the side of the boat and on dri fit shirts for the tour guides
Iconography and sample social media applications
Currently, Kawil Tours manage their bookings manually through email exchanges where they would create your itinerary based on what they would recommend for that season. For the second stage of our proposal, customize the experience, we created a mockup of how their website could be redesigned based on our proposed branding and visual identity. We also proposed an experience-centric booking system where the user can choose what kind of experience they want to have and Kawil Tours can create your itinerary based on that preference. To show this, we created four experience packages with corresponding icons based on the activities they offer: Hinga, Layag, Sisid and Bukod-tangi. This will also help them streamline their booking process and lessen back-and-forths via email.
The third stage of our proposal was to share the experience through a social media campaign entitled “Your story is our story,” which will be a series of short blog posts from people who have booked a tour with Kawil Tours—welcoming people to become part of Culion’s narrative.
There is much to be said about our short but meaningful immersion in the island of Culion—from the resilience and warmth of the people, to the beautiful waters that engulf it. Kawil Tours is an example of how tourism, community involvement and responsible practices can work together instead of against each other. Ultimately, we want people to know more about Culion, learn to love it, and feel a sense of responsibility to protect and preserve it.—
Creative Connect is a design exchange where Works of Heart designers collaborate with nonprofits and social enterprises in Asia, with the aim of using design for social impact. Read more about it here.
If you’re an Asian nonprofit, social enterprise, or an impact-driven organization and are interested in joining this program, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.