Villars turning Laurel Mansion into a museum

by Vincent Paul A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 22 2014 02:16 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2014 12:14 AM

The entrance to the Laurel mansion. Photo by Vincent Paul A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA - When former Senator Manuel Villar's family bought the historic Laurel Mansion along Shaw Boulevard a few years ago, not a few people wondered what the property magnate will do with it.

History buffs need not worry, the Villars are turning the 57-year-old, three-storey mansion built by Jose P. Laurel, president of the Second Philippine Republic, into a museum.

Located at the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Laurel Street, the historical landmark will stand as the centerpiece to Vista Residences' latest high-rise development project, Vista Shaw.

Vista Residences, one of the brands under Villar's Vista Land & Lifescapes, is developing the 38-storey, two tower condominium Vista Shaw. Residents of the condo can get a taste of history by just walking over to the Laurel mansion.

"Originally, we thought of adapting the Laurel mansion into a grand lobby but we decided to leave it untouched in order to preserve its integrity as a historical place and allow our residents to see it in its former glory, said Elizabeth Kalaw, division head of Vista Residences.

Built in 1957, the mansion or unbeknownst to many as Villa Pacencia (named after Laurel's wife) was used by the former leader as his official residence during his term.

The house, once referred to as the "Nacionalista Party house," was also home to many distinguished guests, namely US Senator Brian Langley and Indonesia's first President Sukarno.

According to Vista Residences' marketing head Rowena Waterhouse, the museum will display pieces owned by the Laurel family, collected artwork from the Villars, several memorabilia of the Nacionalista Party, and not to mention the historically accurate interior design.

The staircase leading to the second floor of the Laurel mansion. Photo by Vincent Paul A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

What remains

Most of the original structure remained untouched. A sparsely decorated interior matched with arched hallways and vaulted ceilings greet guests as they enter the mansion.

The hand-painted yellow walls of stemmed flowers and photo-realistic images of tiny birds is probably first thing one would notice and would remember as a significant change to the overall interior.

Inside the Laurel mansion. Photo by Vincent Paul A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Enter the room to the right, the dining area houses refurbished dining table sets, a few china cabinets and a lone grandfather clock, which according to Waterhouse, all belonged to the Laurels.

The second floor, the one slated to become a museum, already boasts decorative displays, commemorating the iconic members of the Nacionalista Party -- Villar, Laurel, and former President Manuel Quezon.

But with the project still at its infancy, most of the rooms remain empty.

Outside, a few marble statues, a lone fountain, and a newly-built commercial space surround the 6,000 sq. meter property. It stands amid the bustling city of Mandaluyong, dwarfed by towering buildings nearby, modest in comparison.

A plaque can be found near the main entrance, cementing its historical significance.