This great old lady lives!
After a multi-year makeover that began in 2015, the Manila Metropolitan Theater – the “Grand Old Lady of Manila” – is slated to open in 2021, after a 25-year closure.
“The doors of the newly restored Met will be open to all Filipinos of all classes of our society… because it is the theater of the people,” said Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). He said this as the agency shared on Facebook on Jan. 18 glimpses of the restored theater, also known as “The Met.”
The Met will be relaunched on April 27, with an inaugural performance commemorating the 500th anniversary of Mactan’s Victory.
Many thought the 1996 shutdown would be final, but hope came when the Met came into possession of the NCCA in June 2015. Months later, it would kick off the restoration project, “METamorphosis.”
You can’t keep this lady down, because of her place in history. The Met is a national monument and a national cultural treasure. It recalls the pre-war dynamism of Manila, fortunately keeping its visual integrity since its inauguration on December 10, 1931.
This masterpiece by Juan Arellano of the Filipino art deco skillfully. Together with his brother Arcadio, Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti and Filipino artist Isabelo Tampinco, Juan incorporated local patterns and materials into the design and even injected Art Nouveau elements.
The shell and interiors bear Southeast Asian details – batik, capiz, flora, etc. The stained-glass facade, wrought-iron gates and a diadem-shaped top with elaborate florets and minarets deserve special attention.
The Met is also Manila’s premier cultural hub. When it opened, a crowded venue saw world-class talent gracing the stage. It has set and held the bar high, hosting exceptional zarzuelas, vaudevilles, dramas and recitals. It has attracted international artists and local artists, some of whom will go on to become national artists and known names.
The place has not recovered after suffering damage during WWII. It became an ice cream parlor, boxing arena, motel, club, and ultimately a home for the homeless.
In 1978, Imelda Marcos, then governor of Manila, attempted to resuscitate the Met with a loan from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). The drop in income has forced management to rent space to recruitment agencies, shops and in particular the variety show “Vilma! “.
GSIS eventually regained possession of the building. The 1996 shutdown was marked by a property dispute between Manila and GSIS. In 2010, national and municipal governments attempted to revive the Met, to no avail. The third time, it’s the charm, hopes the NCCA.
With the help of experts in heritage conservation and adaptive reuse, the NCCA has promised to unveil a building that looks more like Arellano’s design. That meant pushing back on the more liberal choices in 1978, such as pink exterior paint and an anachronistically foreground.
The NCCA also had to fix water infiltration, update equipment, and clarify global standards. The Met will also host museums, galleries, courtyards and shops, among others.
“The grand opening of the new Met is the culmination of a long, arduous journey,” said Lizaso.
A whole generation of Filipinos is indeed delighted to meet the great old lady.
Photos from NCCA Public Affairs and Information
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