Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates (2nd from left) and provincial government officials unveil the marker for the plan to revitalize the Old Governor's Residence into the Museo Palaweño (Museum of Social History of Palawan) on August 23 on Quezon Street, Puerto Princesa City.

The Old Governor’s Residence on Quezon Street in Puerto Princesa City has been restored, carefully blending contemporary convenience with its historical significance, all accomplished within a seven-month timeframe after a long period of abandonment.

Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates, during the blessing ceremony of the historic house, expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to ensuring the successful execution of the project as intended.

He recognized that while a milestone has been reached, there are still impending tasks, including property landscaping, the establishment of a parking area, and the construction of a coffee shop.

These efforts, the governor explained, collectively contribute to the envisioned transformation of the location into the “Museo Palaweño,” which will present Palawan’s rich history to a diverse audience, fostering a deeper appreciation.

Before and after the restoration of the Old Governor’s Residence.

He emphasized that the governor’s residence bears significance as a symbol of unity and identity for the Palaweño community. The blessing ceremony took place on August 23, coinciding with the province’s 400 Years of Christianity celebration week.

“Kahit na meron pang dapat gawin, at least yong main building ay tapos na. [Ninais natin na ito] ay mapasinayaan sa loob ng pagdiriwang ng ika-400 Taon ng Kristiyanismo sa lalawigan ng Palawan, which is also the quadricentennial of our existence as a community,” Socrates said.

OHP Construction and Development Corporation undertook the restoration project, initially funded at P8 million, with the assistance of construction manager Jose Bustamante, a businessman from the United States, and Socrates’ fraternity brother.

Bustamante said they employed a meticulous approach he refers to as “periodic-correct restoration”, aiming not only to rejuvenate the physical structure but also to preserve its historical essence.

He also described their work as a “sympathetic restoration” that marries tradition with modernity. The intent was to maintain the house’s unique character while utilizing modern materials to enhance its longevity.

“We dismantled and reconstructed it to retain its original appearance. We took painstaking efforts to utilize the original materials for the interior as much as possible,” he explained.

An aspect of the restoration that posed a challenge, according to him, was encountered when a sinkhole was uncovered beneath the governor’s office and an adjacent room.

“We took cautious measures by extracting the tiles, resolving the sinkhole issue, and then repurposing those tiles in a different room,” Bustamante further explained.

The Old Governor’s Residence holds numerous memories for the Socrates siblings, who currently hold political positions in the city and province; it is situated near Elsa Park, the Port of Puerto Princesa, Plaza Cuartel, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

From 1968 to 1986, the residence served as the abode of Gov. Socrates and his sister, Puerto Princesa City Vice Mayor Maria Nancy Socrates. Their parents, Salvador “Badong” Socrates, then the governor, and Elsa Socrates, shared this home.

According to Vice Mayor Socrates, they were at the Old Governor’s Residence when a strong typhoon occurred, and a large tree inside the yard was struck by lightning.

However, what stood out most for both her and Governor Socrates was the passing of their mother Elsa in the residence.

“Yong first time ko siyang makita, parang syempre medyo sad din kahit happy, kasi our mom died here. We moved in parang January 1968, she died in May. Maiksi lang yong stay niya dito,” she said.

Coinciding with the blessing ceremony of the Old Governor’s Residence is also the launching of the book titled “History of Palawan,” authored by Diokno R. Manlavi. The publication of the book was initially timed to coincide with the commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the arrival of Spanish missionaries on Cuyo Island, Palawan.

His daughter, Evelyn Manlavi-Opeda, paid honor to his father, whom she described as a deeply religious man and a prolific writer.

She said Governor Socrates reached out in February to her for approval to authorize the provincial government’s reissuing of his father’s two books, with the second one titled “Palawan’s Fighting 1,000.”

“In all humility and profound gratitude, I gave my consent for this laudable endeavor and agreed (…) that this will be books that will be part of official tokens of appreciation to visiting dignitaries, ambassadors, heads of government agencies and the likes, and selected local libraries in Palawan, for ready reference of the students,” she said.

Gov. Socrates affirmed his dedication to the restoration of the Old Governor’s Residence in his state of the nation address last yeaar. At the time, he underscored how the project plays a role in the progression of history and the strengthening of Palawan’s cultural and tourism sectors.

It is set to reach its completion on December 23, marking its official opening as a public museum.