The Re-Development of Puerto Princesa and its City Architect’s Office

Traveling to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan nowadays seems to be the start of a newer and better re-development of this island frontier in the post-COVID era.

The city has so much to offer today. In my recent travel as a speaker for the 24th anniversary of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) – Palawan Chapter, together with other speakers like Hon. Corazon Tandoc of the Professional Regulations Commission Board of Architecture, UAP national president Richard Garcia, former UAP national president Medeliano Roldan Jr., Arch. Alfred Carandang, Arch. Virgilio Andres Jr., Arch. Ceasar Aljama, and UAP national treasurer Richie Corcuera, I noticed the faster pace of developments around the city and the contribution of the architects of Palawan in changing the skyline of Puerto Princesa.

The most significant project in this clean and progressive city is the development of the forest and water park within the Balayong People’s Park. It has 63 hectares of open spaces consisting of a watch tower, rotunda, interactive water park, zip line, skate park, parking building, theatre, shrines, commercial centers, and many others. At present, the park has more than 400 Balayong trees and 535 tree endemic species.  For hikers, bikers, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and, even, families, visiting Balayong People’s Park is truly a must.

There are wide roads, modern infrastructures, fountains, modern sports facilities, and even multipurpose facilities for group gatherings. This is a laudable project planned and designed by Puerto Princesa’s Office of the City Architect under Arch. Honesto Teves, spearheaded by Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

The Office of the City Architect in Puerto Princesa, which was created in 2019 under the Local Government Code, has at least 15 permanent architects whose tasks are to plan and design, modernize, and improve the infrastructures and vertical facilities of the city.

With the Architecture Act of 2004 as their guide and a strong belief that modern aesthetic structures and progressive development of modern facilities will eventually create a better urban city, the approach of the architecture planners and designers is to energize the populace and improve their habitat and surrounding environment, thus inviting more tourists, opening more businesses, and revitalizing the city as a whole.

As you go around the city, you will notice the ongoing construction of the huge City Health Complex. There have also been vertical projects implemented for Puerto Princesa’s constituents, such as daycare centers, public hospitals, public markets, and even satellite mini-city halls. Another noticeable aspect is the clean and green surroundings of the city with wider road networks.

Mayor Bayron is, indeed, action-oriented in delivering services, which makes his administration people-friendly.

Standing on sprawling tracts of land, SM and Robinsons malls have changed the landscape of Puerto Princesa, bringing progress to the city with other specialty stores and support products. Indeed, the modernization of this once sleepy town of this once-last frontier has dramatically changed. Architects and designers compete in constructing their vertical structures in terms of mass, proportions, aesthetics, sizes, and environmental surroundings beautifying and attracting investors to this once cogon grass landscape.

During our visit to the Palawan State University, where the aforementioned event function of the UAP – Palawan Chapter was held, we noticed the tremendous progress this state university has in terms of building facilities and classrooms. In fact, in our brief tour of the school campus, we were impressed at the amphitheater, the architecture mid-rise school building, and other admin and related school facilities that have been constructed, upgraded or renovated by the state university using their faculty architects, such as Arch. Anthony Anderson, for the spatial planning, designs, and construction of their campus facilities.

These are two good examples of the local government and the State University having a mindset of using the Office of the City Architect, and professional and registered architects doing the planning, designing, and construction of vertical structures. After all, that is what their academic and professional work is all about.

I was pleasantly surprised that some Palaweño architects, who have worked in Singapore and other countries, came back to Puerto Princesa to give back to their beloved city by using the expertise and knowledge they acquired after spending years abroad.

One example is Arch. Jaypee Padrones, who now works at Puerto Princesa’s Office of the City Architect. His wife Arch. Cecille Flores-Padrones is also now back in Palawan doing private practice after working in Singapore.

Indeed Puerto Princesa is catching up with the progressive cities of the Philippines and is worth a second look by the business sector and investors.

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Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban Jr. is a past national president of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) and the first national president from Mindanao. He has been in private practice for more than 38 years and is a Fellow of the UAP. He is also the first ASEAN and APEC architect coming from Davao City. He is a graduate of BS Architecture from the University of Mindanao, a Doctor Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects Singapore, and a recipient of the European Business Assembly