Museo Sorsogon: a former Prison turned Museum


It makes perfect sense that museums are housed in repurposed historic structures, as there is no better way of narrating the significance of the past than inside a building whose four walls hides heaps of stories to be told.

Such is the case of the early 1900-era Sorsogon Provincial Jail and Courthouse that is now converted to Museo Sorsogon. The architecture of the original structure itself is already something to marvel at. When you combine its rich past with the contemporary curated art pieces and historical artefacts at the now Museo Sorsogon, every visitor gets a triple dosage of learning.

A 2019 Retouch Retains the Building’s Character

After the inmates vacated the former Sorsogon Provincial Jail in 2019 when a new penitentiary was built, then Governor Chiz Escudero saw the potential of preserving the building’s impressive architecture.

Ayi Del Rosario
Prison doors were retained as part of the different galleries

As the building was updated to meet museum standards, certain elements of the old prison was preserved when they were converted the space into different galleries, most notably the iron bars and graffiti walls painted by the inmates.

Audrey Trinidad
This gallery is dedicated to Sorsogon's participation in the 1896 Philippine Revolution

A short walking distance from the Sorsogon Provincial Capitol  — itself a Neoclassical masterpiece from the early 20th century — the now whitewashed and refurbished Museo Sorsogon compliments the heritage look of the provincial compound.

Marky Ramone Go
Even the museum's signage was well thought of

Museo Sorsogon is curated by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) with the help of the Province's office of Tourism, Culture and Arts.

Rundown of Sorsogon’s History and Culture

Inside the two-story museum are 10 galleries brimming with historical and cultural mementos as well as reproduced items related to the province. All are displayed and presented in an eye-catching manner, giving visitors an  easy walk through of Sorsogon's history.

Alyanna Bromeo
Read closely to learn about the origin of the province's name

Each period of Sorsogon’s history are told through the museum’s collection from the pre-Spanish rule to the province’s role in the 1896 Philippine Revolution, the period preceding and succeeding World War II, and other cultural memorabilia unique to the region.

Livs Yao
The text and images are presented nicely

Apart from the museum’s many educational displays, what caught my eye was the painting of the Lady of Justice seen on a wall on the second floor. It was said to be done by the former prisoners themselves. Perhaps, the inmates' art expressed their collective plea for equality in lady justice's eye or a sense of revolt to authority, as shown by a portrait of revolutionary Che Guevara created by members of the Sputnik gang — a dreaded group immortalized in  Philippine cinema’s action genre.

Thea Ifurung
A masterpiece of the building's former residents

Outside the 2nd floor, visitors can enjoy a gasp of fresh air, just as the former inmates did on their daily 60-minute allotted outside exercise, on the more than 800-square meter open-air amphitheater now doubling as an events place.

Marky Ramone Go

Museo Sorsogon's journey from its origins as where the hands of justice kept its prisoners, to its current state as the new generation of Sorsoganon's window to the past, is a poignant testament to the province's reverence for its storied years.

Michelle Lim
The prison's former courtyard is now an Amphitheater and event's place of the museum 

As I walk out of the building, my mind wanders to an imagined past where the clatter of inmates banging tin cups against the iron railings of their cells resound through the old structure. I paused and realized how that must have been a terrifying and thrilling scene. Bringing my mind back to present time, I understand that the Old Sorsogon Provincial Jail is never more. Where I just stepped out is now the Museo Sorsogon, a place that exudes an atmosphere of peace and serenity. One that is replete with fascinating anecdotes about Sorsogon and its people.