City of Manila

The Revival of the Malacañang Mansions

The Malacañang Museum Moves Out

It’s been almost 14 years since the Urban Roamer visited the old Malacañang Museum and it was one of my favorite museum trips I’ve done for the site. Partly because it was located not just within the Malacañang Palace complex, providing a rare opportunity for plebeians like myself to step inside this important place, but also inside Kalayaan Building, the historic old executive building in the palace grounds where a number of historical events took place.

A lot has changes have been made to the museum since then, especially in the last two years or so. For one, unfortunately the museum was relocated out of the Malacañang Palace complex, depriving visitors of the opportunity to step inside the palace grounds. But on the other hand, it is nice that its new home (or homes) are of historic and cultural significance as well.

Reorganization

When Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took over as president in 2022, his wife First Lady Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos spearheaded the reorganization of the museum by utilizing the properties in the San Miguel district owned by the Office of the President. The Urban Roamer actually looked at some of these structures 14 years ago but at that time and thereafter until 2022, these houses were not utilized nor were accessible to the general public, though they were still maintained.

But things were about to change. Beginning in 2022, these Presidential mansions underwent extensive renovation, culminating in the opening the following year of two of these mansions, now collectively known as the Malacañang Museums. Both mansions serve as museums under the Office of the President, each serving different functions. We shall look at each of these houses as we get to learn more about their history, beyond what was at least documented here previously

On a wider scale, the Malacañang Museums form part of a greater complex of houses owned by the Office of the President. Those that are open to the public (including the museums) are collectively known as the Malacañang Heritage Mansions, which in turn are just part of the greater Malacañang Mansions complex in Manila’s San Miguel district.

Teus Mansion

Built around the 1800s, the Teus Mansion along General Solano Avenue was named after the house’s second and most famous occupant, Valentin Teus Yrissari, a Spanish businessman who made a name for himself acquiring and growing a distillery business called Tanduay. Teus acquired the house in the 1890s and served as residence for him and his family.

Eventually, the house fell into disrepair as family members moved out of the house until it was decided by the family to sell the house in the 1970s. This caught the attention of then First Lady Imelda Marcos who moved to purchase the property in 1974. It was renovated and utilized as the guest house for visiting dignitaries. But after the overthrow of the Marcoses during the 1986 People Power Revolution, the mansion was left unused until underwent the aforementioned 2022 renovation.

Now, the Teus Mansion serves as the home of the Presidential Museum, which showcases memorabilia and other items belonging to and associated with the presidents of the Philippines, except for the current one which is housed in a separate location which we will get to later. The collection is actually not much different from the old Malacañang Museum at Kalayaan Building so I won’t go much over the items there.

But while the mansion is two stories high, the museum itself only occupies one floor, at least at the moment. It also does not help that the collection on display in the museum is not that extensive when there’s an opportunity to showcase more. Here’s hoping the Presidental Museum in Teus Mansion expands its collection to include more items on display.

There is also a museum shop as well where one can buy items branded with the Malacañang or Office of the President logo, if that’s your fancy.

Bahay Ugnayan

Located meters away from the Teus Mansion, Bahay Ugnayan (Tagalog word for connection or relationship) is also built around the 1800s though not much is known about it. What is known is that it used to be owned by the Madrigal family but eventually donated to the government before World War II, making it one of the first, if not the first, of the mansions outside the Malacañang complex that came into government possession. It was then used as office for various agencies under the Office of the President for many years until it was converted into a museum in 2023.

Bahay Ugnayan has been designated as a “changing” museum, which would showcase the life and accomplishments of the current president, in this case that of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. This would also mean that whoever succeeds Marcos Jr as president in 2028 will be showcased in the Bahay Ugnayan venue by then, while the memorabilia of Marcos Jr. will be moved to the Teus Mansion venue by then.

As it stands, the Bahay Ugnayan not only showcases the life of the current president but also serves as a political statement of sorts. Apart from the campaign materials used during the elections, one can find the certifications about Marcos Jr.’s college education (a controversial topic that props up from time to time) as well as a section dedicated to his electoral protest which came about after his loss in the vice presidential race in 2016.

One nice touch in this museum is an interactive area where one can type in letters to the president himself with the promise that these letters will be read.

Goldenberg Mansion

Just next door to Teus Mansion, the Goldenberg Mansion was built in the 1800s and has been used on various occasions as military headquarters (particularly of Admiral Patricio Montojo of the Spanish Navy, then of Gen. Arthur MacArthur, the father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur), previous site of the Philippine School of Commerce (now known today as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) venue for the first session of the Philippine Senate in 1916, and residence of different families, notably of the family of cosmetic magnate Michael Goldenberg during the 1950s, hence the name.

The house was eventually sold by the Goldenberg heirs in the 1960s to the First Lady Imelda Marcos who had it renovated and converted into a guest house. After the Marcoses were overthrown in 1986, the Goldenberg mansion was left unutilized until 2022 when it was renovated by First Lady Liza Marcos. Today, the house now serves as the venue for cultural and art events hosted by the President and/or the First Lady.

Laperal Mansion

The Laperal Mansion is not part of the Malacañang Heritage Mansions as it is not a public venue but is also owned by the Office of the President making it one of the Malacañang Mansions. Like the other mansions, it was built around the 1800s and was used at one time as the embassy of the German Third Reich. After the war, it served as the temporary home of the National Library then eventually came into the possession of the Laperal family who also owned the Laperal Building in Recto Avenue, until around 1975 when First Lady Imelda Marcos acquired the property in a controversial manner. It was then utilized as the office of the National Economic and Development Authority and after the 1986 People Power Revolution, served as the residential quarters of presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

Courtesy of Monino S. Dugue on Facebook

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Laperal Mansion should be given back to the Laperals, deeming the 1975 acquisition of the property by the government illegal. But in 2022, the government decided to finally buy the house outright, this time through legal means. It underwent extensive renovation until February this year when it was formally unveiled as the new presidential guest house with 13 bedrooms named after the country’s presidents and 5 staterooms named after the other presidents, as well as important figures in our history like Jose Rizal, Ferdinand Magellan, and Douglas MacArthur.

As far as heritage conservation efforts are concerned, the Pres. Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Marcos must be commended for giving these previously inaccessible and abandoned houses a new lease of life. Here’s hoping this touch can be extended not only to other abandoned properties owned by the presidency but to other abandoned heritage sites across the country. Here’s hoping as well that future administrations will continue the work that was done in bringing these structures to a new life of sorts.

Acknowledgements as well to the Malacañang Heritage Mansions, Commission on Audit (where the information about the 2022 purchase of the Laperal Mansion was disclosed) and Laperal Mansion (yes, it has its own website),

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