Saturday, June 03, 2006

Manila: National Artist Pablo Antonio’s work to be demolished

What are people doing to Manila's heritage? It seems the uglification of Manila is moving forward at such an alarming rate. The sad part is our utter disregard for the works of people we call National Artists. Why do we give out the award in the first place if we don't even care whether their works are preserved for future generations of Filipinos to appreciate?

I got this from Richard Tuason Bautista of the Heritage Conservation Society, "This morning (3 June 2006) during our taping and inspection of the ongoing demolition of the Avenue Theater and Hotel, we learned from the EVJ Demolition Team, with representation of their general manager Mr. Esteban Toting, that the Galaxy Theatre is next to face the demolition crew.

"Galaxy theatre is a work of National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio. It may not be too late to save this one. But how to save it, an uproar from the public is needed."

We should not sit down and simply watch while what's left of the Pearl of the Orient and its capital city, goes down one by one! To the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Historical Institute (NHI) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), it's about time you guys take a stand and protect the works of our National Artists! And to all of us ordinary citizens, let's write Mayor Atienza and tell him to stop giving out demolition permits for Manila's architectural heritage!

In fact, the NCCA lists the Galaxy Theater as one of Antonio's major works! Again, for those who would like to save this heritage structure, you can call or fax a complaint to Mayor Lito Atienza at 5276063 or 5274991 or send an e-mail at

Check out Ellen Tordesillas' blog for more comments about Atienza's latest rampage.

Related articles
Cinema designed by National Artist faces demolition


  1. Anonymous4.6.06

    Ivan, I remember these theaters very much. They were a part of my childhood life. Every morning then, I used to see their "now showing" and "coming soon" advertisements gracing the movie pages of the Manila Times, the Philippines Herald, the Manila Chronicle and the Daily Mirror.

    Here is a list of first and second-class theaters that I can remember: Avenue, Galaxy, Ever, Odeon, Ideal, State, Times, Lyric, Capitol, Cinerama, Roxan, Palace, Manila Grand Opera House, Clover, Astor, Scala, Society, Republic, Globe, Rialto, Esquire, Boulevard, Life, Dalisay....

    In San Fernando, I remember the Estrella, Frida, Melda, Pampanga, People's (Aurora), Excelsior (Alegria). In Guagua, the Coronet (Flora), Royal, Plaza (Town), Empire

    Theaters like these put me in the windmills of nostalgia, and I long for those good old days!

  2. Anonymous4.6.06

    That is really deplorable! Who is the owner now of the Galaxy Theater building? Will it be another member of the Johnny Litton movie owners group?

    Even as we write a complaint to Lito Atienza, what can his office do? Issue an injunction? Exercise police power? issue city legislation? provide tax cuts and incentive?

    Oh now I just read that you wrote to stop giving demolition permits to these demolitions projects. But once they have issued it, can they withdraw it?

    What can compel these owners to stop demolishing these edifices?

    What are these Heritage insitutions doing to rally support to the cause of Heritage Building/ Site preservation?

  3. Hi Cong Ernie, I don't think the movie houses in San Fernando are still standing... sigh!

    Hi Lili, at the very least, the National Historical Institute should declare all works of national artists as classified structures. But at the rate they are going, I don't know when that will happen. They could not even get a quorum for meetings! I miss the old board since they met monthly. I hope my good friend NHI/NCCA chairman Ambeth R. Ocampo puts his foot down and starts convening the board regularly and not at the members' convenience.

    The NHI Board is composed of Ambeth Ocampo as chairman, Fr. Jose Cruz S.J., Heidi Gloria, Benito Legarda Jr. and Serafin Quiason as members; and National Museum Director Corazon Alvina and National Library Director Prudenciana Cruz as ex-officio members. These are the people responsible for preserving and protecting our historical and architectural heritage.

  4. Anonymous5.6.06

    Hi Mr. Henares. Mr Paulo Alcazaren asks us to contact you regarding writing a short blurb on the Heritage Conservation Society's "Here Today, Here Tomorrow?". Would you be interested in wirting it for the magazine? You can contact us at our email address. thank you very much.

  5. Anonymous6.6.06

    ivan, im sad about the demolition of these theaters. but im just as sad that they were all left to decay and were not maintained. maybe that's why atienza is hell bent on removing them from the city. if they were well preserved he would not have a reason to do so. the conditions of the buildings are really deplorable. i hate mr. atienza for doing this, but whose responsible for the decay and neglect of these buildings?

  6. Hi Jher, once you demolish a building, it's gone. Some owners really don't have the funds to maintain it. And demolishing it is not a solution even if it is decaying.

    An LGU with a vision of sustainable development would go out of their way to preserve these structures since they are the identity and character of the city. Mayor Atienza should be working on finding funding to preserve these old decaying buildings instead of going out of his way to demolish them.

    Ellen, no problem. Thanks for picking up the issue as well.

  7. Anonymous7.4.07

    Galaxy theater demolition. by Ivan.
    Might I comment regarding this case.

    According to the NHI, there are seven categorical areas from which we could account " Historical Preservation" to, these are;

    a. Natural habitats,
    b. Natural land formations,
    c. Civil works,
    d. Natural water formations,
    e. Architectural works,
    f. Acheological and historic sites, and
    g. Mechanical and electrical contraptions.

    Among them, the Civil works, Architectural works and natural water formations are given due attention.

    Since the Galaxy theater, et. al. are buildings, then it is categorized under Architectural work. However, the guideline states only six items on the architectural preservation list, to wit;

    1. churches,
    2. ancestral houses,
    3. shrines,
    4. cemeteries,
    5. convents, and
    6. botanical gardens.

    Note that even the Metropolitan theater wasn't included on the list. It was archived under the cover of The Manila Botanical Garden, which was itself been demolished.

    To add a bit of info, The old Univesidad de Santo Tomas Building located in Intramuros, I think is not on the preservation list, but the ancestral houses are. The churches of San Agustin and the Manila cathedral while on the preservation list have, in fact, been renovated, which should have been restored.

    Back to Recto, I believe the only thing of value with the Galaxy cinema is the projection room and the projector itself, for all its worth is easily salvageable. Now, these items have probably decayed and are in ruinous condition as we speak.

    The Galaxy cinema lies on prime land in the heart of the city. Developing this land could spell the difference between a progressive community and a decaying one.

    To prepare our society for the youth, we must sacrifice saving a cinema complex and organize our built environment to respond toward a puposeful future.

  8. Yikes! Do you know what you're saying? You claims are even wrong. The Metropolitan Theater is a National Historical Landmark distint from Mehan Gardens.

    I'm not even after the items inside Galaxy. It's the structure itself which has to be preserved. And who says it has to be a theater. Have you heard of adaptive reuse. Go to Europe or even our Southeast Asian neighbors and find out what they're doing! They know how to organize their built environment well. And that is by preserving their old heritage districts as a legacy for the future.

  9. to Ivan:

    I think the model of historic preservation procedure is the American system.

    In the sixties for example, at Harvard, they used sandblasters to chip outdated paint and dirt debris from the walls of an old church.

    That was a very long time ago and yet we find this method still high-tech.

    Yet again, I thought you were for preservation/ conservation/ restoration, why the fuss now on, 'adaptive reuse'?

    Brother, this is different.

    It's not logical.

  10. What is different? Adaptive reuse is conservation!

    Preservation is different from conservation. Do you know actually know what the difference is?

    Before you place negative comments on my blog, please do your research and find out the definitions of preservation and conservation and the main difference between both. Also note that advocating preservation and conservation depends on the state of the structure and its current environment. And in the case of Galaxy, it's better to conserve it.

  11. Dear Ivan,
    Good morning.

    No pun intended.

    I actually like your blog. On a 1-5 rating, I give it pure one.

    Saving Galaxy theater is a noble task. And I see there are many other structure of the like that you are proposing to 'conserve'. Still, the problem arise, if we 'conserve' them, wouldn't they take up parts of the city which has been reallocated for urban development? These projects are definitely not planned overnight but have been deliberated upon and took years before being finally implemented.

    Now, sincerely delivered, this is highly controversial.

    Could it be possible that preserving one cinema of the art-deco racoco period, be enough to preserve the essence of them all?

    Zeroing-in to one which as you have said, has the right landscape, environment and nominally vital site, that doesn't hinder pending urban projects or at least avoid it for the most part be quite sufficient?

    I really admire your tenacity about where you stand on this matter.

    I hope we could discuss these subjects again soon.

  12. Galaxy is a work of a national artist. When you demolish it, it's like burning an Amorsolo!

    Avenida Rizal can be redeveloped without demolishing the important heritage structures. They've done it in most developed countries I know. I really can't understand why Filipinos can't do that since they add character to the place.

    But thank you for taking time to read the blog. I appreciate it.

  13. Anonymous31.7.09

    Ivan, you are absolutely right in your observation that the uglification of Manila is proceeding at a staggering and alarming pace. It is a shame that the organizations that are culturally aware do not have the power that other politicians and officials have. Sadly, the latter are winning the war, as evidenced by the many disgusting, tacky street lamps that have been installed around the city...and from what i've read, MMDA, among other bodies, are aiming to install thousands more!

  14. Anonymous25.4.13

    I am so sad to say this, but I heard news that the Galaxy theater has already been demolished 2008.


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