Manila Metropolitan Theater: The Iconic Theater Comes Back To Life
Manila is a place loved by many; mostly because the people here are warm and the places can ignite fun. However, Manila can also be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. Traffic can get insane. The dark can be dangerous. On several instances, beautiful things do not last here quite long. Civic centers get turned into malls. Several iconic buildings run the risk of being forgotten. A once known iconic theater ran that risk and is now covered with graffiti. We know it as the Manila Metropolitan Theater.
A stone’s throw away from Intramuros and a few steps worth from the Central Post Office sits The Manila Metropolitan Theater. This theater was once a shining realm of Filipino artistry. Through time, it witnessed glory, destruction, misuse, restoration, and decay. People thought it would be wiped from the urban landscape of Manila while others know little of this once shining gem.
Fortunately, this won’t be for long. A team has been put together by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). It is headed by Architect Gerard Lico. The team is putting every inch of their minds and bodies into bringing the Met to life again.
The Grand Old Dame and its former glory
The Manila Metropolitan Theater was built in the 1930s in Art Deco style. It was the notable venue for premiere social gatherings, hosting several highbrow performances of zarzuelas, vaudevilles, and operas. During World War II, however, the Met took a destructive hit but was eventually revived after that.
Although grand and beautiful as it was, it declined in the 1960s due to the popularity of cinemas and the opening of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). It then became a confused structure housing a boxing ring, an ice cream parlor, and a gay bar; it had odd uses for different times. Its former glory was revived, though, during the 1970s becoming a witness again to some of the Philippines’ greatest theatrical performances.
Due to conflict of ownership between government agencies, however, the theater closed again in the ’90s; they revived it again in 2010. But, it finally shut down in 2011 to its present state.
A theater built by great artists
The Met may have been the premiere venue of the old, but it is in itself a creation of art. Designed by National Artist for architecture, Juan Arellano, the structure is still a sight to behold. Juan Arellano was the same architect that brought to life the building that now houses the National Museum and the Central Post Office. Built in style moderne, The Met influenced several buildings in Manila. Style moderne is a design that was prominent in Western countries around the 1920s. But the elements of The Met which are still visible to this day, intricately showcase Filipino icons and patterns.
The interior is just as grand as its shell. Decorated by Italian Sculptor, Francesco Ricardo Mondi, it also features murals by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.
Now, you know why the call for its metamorphosis has become one of the country’s most vital restoration projects.
After all the disputes in ownership, NCCA finally bought the Manila Metropolitan Theater from GSIS in June 2015. The NCCA conceptualized a whole revitalization program for the Met which they aptly called the METamorphosis. Under the guidance of Arch. Gerard Lico, the campaign aims to rebuild the lost glamor of the Met. And this time, finally, the Met is set to fly soaring heights again. In the efforts of artists, architects, engineers, technicians, students, and the whole Manila community, light shines in the rebirth of the Met.
Arch. Gerard Lico puts emphasis in the revitalization of the Met as he believes that structures such as this one are a significant documentation of our national identity.
METamorphosis is not just a project done by NCCA alone, we’re all apart of this. Arch. Lico is keen in keeping the efforts inclusive of Filipinos, involving them in the project through various events. People can find a personal connection to the theater just as they would their own homes.
The Met clean-up drive
In 2015, several students joined the Met Clean-up Drive, the first efforts in restoring back the Grand Old Dame. Here, the student volunteers got the first look at how decrepit the Met has become; hence everybody scrubbed and cleaned and labored in the bright hope that the walls will come to life again. Just this year, the Met witnessed the return of art in its perimeter. It stood as a venue of London Biennale. The Biennale is an art festival that provided an environment for artists to connect with their spectators. It is also a place where the people can connect to the space they move in.
METamorphosis is going to take years to fulfill its promises, and it holds several opportunities for people to render efforts in the rebirth of the Met.
Help revive the Manila Metropolitan Theater
We can all build the Met together. METamorphosis aims to bring Filipinos together through various events and projects.
In the efforts to spread awareness about the Met, the team sells various items that inspire interest about the building. Just last December, Arch. Gerard Lico has released a coloring book patterned after the elements of the Metropolitan Theater. Its aim is to inspire others with what makes the Met the icon that it is, as well as spark creativity among Filipino people.
In addition to the coloring book, the Met recently housed its first dance performance after so many years by the Filipino-European Nordic artist collective. Spectators were able to have a peek of what the Grand Old Dame felt like when filled with the artistry it upheld in the early 1900s.
It might take years before the Met becomes fully revived but we can showcase our support for METamorphosis through several opportunities. Let us all rebuild the Met till its curtains rise again to never falling any longer.
Photos are taken from METamorphosis unless otherwise stated.