Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Manila: Bring back the good old days at the Met

I've been gathering information about conservation projects all over the country for a report I will be presenting at a seminar next week. So I passed by the Metropolitan Theatre, which I believe is the most prominent heritage structure currently undergoing restoration. Yes folks, they're restoring the Met!

I was toured around by Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA. Indeed, the interiors and exteriors will make you go loco over Deco! For more information on the project, check out the article which I posted as a comment below. Calling all Met alumni, I think a fund-raising reunion concert is in order. What do you think?

I also checked out the Arroceros Forest Park. Well, it does not look like a forest anymore. How sad it was to see a concrete covered forest no thanks to Atienza. It's now the Arroceros Concrete Paver Park with matching building at the entrance. Indeed, Atienza deserves the tag "Butcher of Arroceros" for the travesty he committed.

Anyway, since the park is along the banks of the Pasig River, you could see two bridges namely the Quezon Bridge and the Ayala Bridge (its precursor, the Puente de Convalecencia, was said to be have been designed by Gustave Eiffel). More photos in Multiply.

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  1. Will we let the MET go to waste?
    By Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco
    Philippine Star, July 21, 2007

    Who among us aged 30 and above would not remember the glory that was once the Metropolitan Theater? We must have performed there, or enjoyed watching a play or a musicale, or at least recall its auditorium as the cavernous venue of Ate Vi’s weekly V.I.P. (Vilma In Person) TV show (where she never failed to say “I love you, Lucky!”).

    I personally had two very memorable experiences at the Met - as we fondly called it that time. The first was when I played the title role in the comedy-musicale, Aswang sa Lungsod, drected by then upcoming now multi-awarded director Chito Roño, a fellow Samareño, with a formidable cast that included no less than the likes of the late Rene Requiestas, Lou Veloso and Imee Marcos (who was in the original cast). And second, as one of the five leads in Ms. Philippines, another comedy-musicale, directed by the well-respected, UP based, director-actor Tony Mabesa with original music by the beloved Dean Rey Paguio, and libretto by Prof. Isagani Cruz, where I was pitted against the talents of Nanette Inventor, Maya Valdez, Kata Inocensio, Chiqui Hollman-Yulo, among others, (with Boy Abunda working behind the scenes). For the life of me, I paraded in a swimsuit onstage (which I now consider next to impossible!) with real life beauty queens and models like Ana Lorraine Kier and Susan Africa.

    I consider myself very, very fortunate to have experienced the grandeur, the glory and the vibrancy of the Met during its renaissance in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I remember my heart beating fast every time I approached the theater, taking in the Art Deco architecture, the magnificent ornamentations, the majestic sweep of the curtains, the beautiful chandeliers, the ornate furniture, the brass trimmings, the sculptures by Italian artist Francesco Monti that all reflected a theater befitting high quality shows, great actors and inspired and inspiring directors.

    Years after, as a lawyer working at the Supreme Court, I passed it everyday from Sikatuna Village in Quezon City, and always, the Met put a smile on my face as recollections of my younger, carefree years came flooding back to me. In 1995, my gorgeous husband Paul and I moved to Ayala Heights and I decided to work at the House of Representatives, a mere 10-minute drive away. Meantime, Vilma became Mayor Vi and now, Governor Vi. Lucky, now known as Luis Manzano, has grown up into a fine young man following in his parents’ footsteps to showbiz and declaring freedom from the bondage of his earlier cute moniker.

    Lou, now has Honorable appended to his name as councilor of a Manila district. Imee has served in the august halls of the Congress as member of the House of Representatives and Tito Boy (godfather to my daughter Mika) is on his way to becoming an institution in Philippine TV. I had completely forgotten about the Met it had seemed another lifetime ago. Until Kuya Germs, (introduced to me by Dulce), talked me into writing about the present miserable state of the Met; until I visited the Met with National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in-house architect Richard Tuason-Sancez Bautista; until I saw the gaping holes in the roof and ceiling, the rotting structures, the severely damaged ornamentations and sordid condition of the floors, the missing paintings and chandeliers, stagnating pools of water here and there stemming from years of total neglect and abandon.

    As I went from room to room (which I could hardly recognize at their present shabby condition), my stomach turned at the sickening sight. It was awful. It was seeing first-hand the devastation wrought on a national cultural site.

    I feel sad, very sad. What happened to this mother of all theaters once touted as the most beautiful theater in Asia? Who is to blame for the sacrilege inflicted on this great national and historical landmark built way back in 1931? What in the world should be done to save our beloved Met?

    Kuya Germs explained to me that it all started with the feud between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the City of Manila where the ownership of the Met became an issue. NCCA Commissioner lawyer Trixie Angeles further elucidated that when the Met was renovated in the ‘70s, loans were taken from the GSIS secured by the City of Manila with mortgages on both the land and the building. As the City of Manila was unable to pay, GSIS sued.

    “There had been court fights all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1998, the RTC of Manila issued an order instructing both parties not to touch the place while the case was being litigated,” explains Commissioner Angeles. From then on, it became an abandoned building. With month after month and year upon year of neglect, the structure slowly disintegrated into the derelict it is today. Holes in the roof and ceiling, open and broken windows exposed the once lovely interior to rains, dust, sunlight, pollution and insects.

    Looters had a grand time carting away anything they could grab hold of (including the brass edges of the stairs, for Pete’s sake!). Priceless costumes and memorabilia lay scattered around, wet and mildewy. Who should be made accountable for this mess? Was the Met left in its decrepit state just because the renovation was a project of Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, even if it was a good project? Was it a power play between different contending parties who thought it was better left abandoned than letting the other side prevail?

    Yet, all is not lost. According to Kuya Germs, he was present at the signing way back in 2004 of the Tripartite Agreement initiated by President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo between the: 1) GSIS (as declared owner of the Met after having finally won the case), 2) City of Manila (as Grantee/Usufructuary and lead implementor of the rehabilitation of the Met) and 3) NCCA. President GMA, a theater aficionado herself, ordered the allocation of P50-M through NCCA for the partial rehabilitation of the Met. This is not enough, as Architect Richard Bautista believes a total of P250-M is needed for the Met’s rehabilitation.

    Kuya Germs and Commissioner Angeles are positive said rehabilitation can be achieved especially if the general public gets involved. As for the status of the P50-M, this writer was informed by Architect Bautista that P26-M had already been given to the City of Manila. The first P10-M was to be used for fixing the roofing of the main auditorium, while P16-M was given to the City for the repair of the utilities system – electrical, plumbing, water services, etc. P5-M was used for the detailed engineering study prepared by Schema Konsult. The other P1-M was set aside for operational expenses. Only P18-M is left. Yet, there is still humongous work to be done.

    I call on concerned government officials to visit the Met to witness personally the tragedy inflicted on this historical place. I call on all colleagues in theater and showbiz to go see the shocking metamorphosis from the imposing theater we once knew to the heartwrenching site it has become. I call on all patrons and patronesses of arts and culture to go and experience the product of plain and simple lack of love and respect for arts and culture.

    Kuya Germs is ready to start a fundraising campaign. Angeles says NCCA is willing to lend its expertise and even approve funding for this cause. Early reports indicate that new Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim has given the assurance of his all-out support. I have personally interviewed Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno who declared that “If there’s a need for legislation to create funds for the purpose, I will definitely be behind it all the way.”

    Such initial show of support is absolutely encouraging but we certainly need more. We need private individuals and companies who truly care for the Met. We need donations and pledges. We need honest, incorruptible individuals who would see to it that the funds raised would be used solely for the Met’s rehabilitation. We need the City of Manila to stay true to its commitment to take charge of the enhancement and improvement not only of the Met’s physical structure but its cultural significance. We need all government agencies concerned to stop bickering and work harmoniously for the good of the people.

    The Metropolitan Theater is part of our national heritage. It belongs to all of us — the Filipino people, our children, and our children’s children. Millions of pesos have gone to waste due to its neglect. Hundreds, even thousands, have lost their means of livelihood. Budding performers, directors, scriptwriters and the like have been deprived of a stage to hone their craft. We have been dispossessed of a world-class setting for our beautiful zarzuelas, kundimans, operas, concerts and other performances. We lost a venue for quality entertainment that could reach out to and uplift the masses. Let us all help save the Met. It is now or never.

  2. Anonymous27.7.07

    Hi Ivan,

    This is indeed good news that the Metropolitan theater is being restored. I once heard that there was an Amorsolo painting, I think hanging somewhere above the stair's landing. And was said to have vanished when the theater was abandoned. Ever heard of this one?

  3. Anonymous27.7.07

    I believe the one that was reputedly designed by Gustave Eiffel or his firm as having a hand in it, was Puente Colgante and not the Quezon bridge. Puente Colgante was replaced by Quezon bridge.

  4. @overtureph, the Amorsolo painting is with the GSIS if I'm not mistaken.

  5. Anonymous27.7.07

    Kelan ka babalik dito? sama naman ako. teary eyed ako ng makita ko itong loob. pictures palang. I really love Art Deco. sobra. :,-)

  6. You can contact Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA. He loves touring people around the place. I could just imagine how it would look when fully restored.

  7. Anonymous27.7.07

    Grabe !!! Pinabayaan ba ang Metropolitan Theater ? Kala ko hinde e. Wala talagang pagpapahalaga ang ating pamahalaan sa sining at kultura. Ok na rin at sinisimulan na ang restorasyon matapos itong sabitan ng mga billboard ni Atienza . Excited na kong magperform dito ha ha. Vice naman magtotour pala kayo sa MET di kayo nagyayaya

  8. Anonymous27.7.07


    this is really depressing. my career in theater reached its apex here when i played danny zuko in a production of grease around 20years ago!!! maybe ate vi should start another show here to save the met!!!

    all that gorgeous art deco gone to waste.....

  9. Hi Spanky, don't despair. Restoration is in the pipeline. But a boost from all the Met stars would make a big, big difference for the project. Andy Alviz was so excited when he heard about the restoration. Gawa kayo ng reunion fund-raising concert for the Met. :)

  10. @overtureph, I think it's neither of the two. I was reading Manolo Noche's article on bridges. This is what he says:

    "The third to be built spanning the Pasig was the Puente de Convalecencia or better known as the Ayala Bridge, originally composed of two separate spans connected by the Isla de Convalecencia, which is home to Hospisio de San Jose, dropping point for abandoned babies, the bridge over this island was originally made of wooden arched trusses. Completed in 1880, it suffered major structural damage and completely collapsed 10 years later. This was subsequently replaced with a simple metal saw trussed bridge in the last decade of the 19th century, though not significant for its design, its engineer nevertheless is important in the annals of Philippine history, for it was the only bridge that the famed French Engineer by the name of Gustave Eiffel built in the country. This bridge, famous for its engineer or otherwise, similarly didn’t last long and was subsequently replaced."

  11. That's great news about the Met. I played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1991 at the Met with Ernie Garcia as the lead. There is really nothing like the feeling of looking out at that gorgeous hall from the stage.

    I remember the acoustics sucking really bad though. And the wings were too small. Folks kept hitting a wall when the "apostles" ran off stage.

    Glad to hear of the heritage commission too! The future of Manila is looking good. I really wish the best for this.

    And if ever you need my help, just ask. But I don't thing you'll be needing it.


  12. Anonymous28.7.07

    Hello Ivan,

    Thanks for the clarification about which bridge has something to do with Gustave Eiffel. It's great to know that it's the Puente de Convalecencia .But some point to the old Puente Colgante. But the confusion may have stem from the proximity of the 2 bridges and I guess very few people knew that there was once a Puente de Convalecencia.


  13. thanks for the heads up re the quezon bridge :) and for visiting my blog.

    cant wait to see the final restoration of the met

  14. wow its my first time to saw the metropolitan theater inside...its amazing.

  15. Anonymous4.8.07

    been to the Met several times to watch plays when I was a kid. It's sad that it's only a lonely structure now


  16. Anonymous15.8.07

    is it okay to be a walk-in visitor at met this time? kung di po pwede, kanino po ako magpapa-alam? Salamat!!

    Airnel of Laguna

  17. I'm not sure about the walk-in. Please contact Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA.


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