When we think of Palawan, Philippines, the first thing that comes to mind is probably its natural attractions. However, that is about to change as we reveal to you the 15 places that architects must visit in the province of Palawan. With its long and rich history, Palawan offers a great range of historical architecture among more modern buildings. The designation of the Palawan Biosphere Reserve by the UN in 1990 also encouraged sustainable building practices to flourish. Whether you are interested in (historical) buildings, heritage, and culture, or sustainable architecture, these 15 sites are definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Palawan.
1. Palawan Provincial Capitol | Palawan
Round-shaped buildings are typical in tropical regions due to weather reasons (the shape is most resistant to typhoons), but the Palawan Provincial Capitol stands as one of the more well-known examples. Its austere and heavy masonry façade recalls a mix of Brutalist and International styles. Inside, a dome oculus lights the atrium and the two half-spiral staircases in the center, creating a grand entry gesture.
2. Palawan Heritage Center
Located right across from the Provincial Capitol, the Palawan Heritage Center features a variety of exhibits that details the history, heritage, and culture of Palawan and also offer a range of interactive exhibits. The building itself is reminiscent of a neo-classical style with the pedimented Greek portico and stylobate that leads towards the entrance.
3. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral was first built in 1872 but went through multiple reconstructions in the 150 years since. The Gothic-style cathedral features two symmetrical towers, point-arch windows, and quatrefoil motifs on its front façade. Previously painted blue and white, the building was recently given a fresh coat of off-white paint, rendering it more elegant than it already was.
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral ©Explora PH
4. Maia Earth Village
Located in central Palawan, the Maia Earth Village is an “Integrative Ecovillage Community” that shares a “vision of sacred simplicity and Trust”. (quote from https://www.maiaearthvillagepalawan.com/) Through self-sustaining practices such as growing their own food, the community develops a close relationship with their environment that architects could learn something from.
5. Roots of Health Mud House | Palawan
According to the organization, this is the first mud house in Palawan. Natural, locally sourced materials are used strategically to keep the interiors cool and dry while ensuring the structure is resistant to tropical typhoons and termites. Recycled glass bottles are also put to creative use in the load-bearing mud walls by providing additional support and natural light. The organization also offers workshops that let you work hands-on with the material itself.
6. Tao Farm
Featuring one of the largest bamboo buildings in the Philippines, Tao Farm is dedicated to sustainable design and eco-conscious living through its bamboo architecture practice and research. Different varieties and parts of bamboo are put to inventive use, creating structures that are highly resilient to the tropical climate, weather, as well as termites.
7. Iwahig Prison And Penal Colony
The site of a former prison has become a well-loved attraction today, featuring two separate buildings. The Recreation Hall is a two-story structure that is made of light, wooden frames on the second floor and that receives plenty of natural light. Opposite, the Administration Building features a veranda that runs along the front façade in typical colonial style.
8. Culion Church
The Culion Church was first constructed in 1740. On the outside, stone masonry and minimal ornamentation create the impression of a modest, understated structure. However, once inside, you’ll find a rather impressive display of surface treatment and ornamentation, set against a bright, red-painted ceiling. Light fills the interior through rows of large windows both along the wall and clerestory.
9. Plaza Cuartel
During World War II, the Plaza Cuartel was the site of the bloody Palawan Massacre. The garrison was where about 150 American soldiers were imprisoned and tortured by Japanese soldiers before they were burnt alive. The remains of the prison cells and dark tunnels serve today as a painful reminder of Palawan’s long and complicated colonial history.
10. Butterfly Eco garden And Tribal Village | Palawan
One of the most popular attractions on the main island of Palawan, this is a place not only home to a rich variety of butterflies, but also a congregation of local architecture that gives insight into the lives and culture of the local community. They also deliver programs and workshops for guests seeking to learn more about their culture.
11. NCCC Mall
The NCCC Mall located in Puerto Princesa is a multi-story complex that combines a range of architectural styles and stands as a testament to the 90s. On the exterior façade, concrete pairs with dark-colored glass in a typical Brutalist fashion while the mostly-white interiors of the mall with black horizontal bands serve as a nod to the streamlined designs of the modern era.
12. Puerto Princesa City Baywalk Park
Along the northwestern coast of the Puerto Princesa City of Palawan, the Baywalk Park is a stretch of promenade overlooking the ocean with wide sidewalks. It is lined with seafood stalls and restaurants and gets especially busy at night when people come to have dinner and a stroll.
13. City Coliseum
The City Coliseum is a sports complex equipped with a swimming pool, tracks, and ball courts that are used for both provincial and national events. Its prominent blue-framed glass facades on the corners and minimal surface articulation speaks of the Bauhaus and International styles that were vastly popular even in Southeast Asia.
14. Fort of Cuyo And St. Augustine Parish Church
The Fort of Cuyo, which contains the St. Augustine Parish Church, is located on the island of Cuyo but belongs to the province of Palawan. The fort was built in the 17th century during Spanish colonial rule and is one of the oldest remaining in the Philippines today. The modest church is well-preserved and features an interior reminiscent of the medieval period with its thick masonry and black-and-white roof construction.
15. Cape Melville Lighthouse | Palawan
Located on the island of Balabac, the Cape Melville Lighthouse is a lesser-known structure that is no longer in operation today but still worth a visit as one of the National Historic Landmarks of the Philippines. It was built during the Spanish colonial period and first went into operation in August 1892. The octagonal tower is made of brick granite and stands at 90 feet tall, overlooking the Balabac Strait.