Is there still hope for the Met?

Much has been said and written about the Manila Metropolitan Theater. Sadly, everything good and beautiful about it can only refer to the past. The once elegant art deco structure still stands in the historic Plaza Lawton (now known as Liwasang Bonifacio), on the outside seemingly defiant to all the modernization going on in the rest of the city. Inside the theater, however, patent signs of decay and neglect (and should we say, apathy?) stare one in the face and leave a sickening feeling in the gut.

The grand dame of Philippine theaters is now no more than a faint echo, a sad whimper of its former splendor. There are hundreds of blogs that document this all too-real condition of the Met today. I’m just sharing a few photos here.

The dressing room, for example, speaks for itself. Old costumes lay in disarray, waiting for a custodian who may never come.

Not surprising for places abandoned for a long period, the dark halls of the theater are believed to be haunted by paranormal spirits.

The next photo shows the empty ballroom, while the one after that was taken with a group of visitors, mostly bloggers, rousing up the place. Note the white circular objects floating all over the second photo. You decide whether they are photographic orbs caused by dust particles, or spiritual orbs indicating other-worldly presence. I didn’t go there to ghost hunt and I didn’t feel anything weird when I took the picture, but something is telling me now that certain ‘entities’ were enjoying our company at the ballroom.

Two years after its vaunted reopening in 2010, the results of the good intentions to restore the theater to its old magnificent state are just not there. They remained at the level of good intentions, clearly. The question that begs to be answered: Will the Met ever regain its former glory, or is it just a matter of time before it faces the wrecking ball?

The Filipinas Stamp Collectors’ Club conducts a free Philippine Postal Heritage Walking Tour every third Sunday of the month. The tour covers the Post Office building, the Metropolitan Theater, Arroceros Park and other nearby historic places as the schedules allow. To pre-register, call Mrs. Josie Tiongson-Cura at 0917-9800708 (Monday to Saturday, 1PM to 5PM ) or Ms. Nena De Guzmanat 5270096 (Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM). Tour guide and Club VP Mr. Lawrence Chan may be reached at 09193901671 or  l_rence_2003@yahoo.com.

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5 thoughts on “Is there still hope for the Met?

  1. I feel your pain, Chit. I often dream of winning the lotto so I can buy the Metropolitan Theater, the Luneta hotel, and other beautiful old buildings in Manila and adaptively reuse them. 🙂

    I am no expert, but “adaptive reuse,” conventionally defined as “the process of adapting old structures for new purposes” seems to be the way to go. The examples of Vigan (in Ilocos) and Silay (in Negros Occidental) have proven that we can use these built assets and earn from them.

    Chit, I believe there is hope for the Met. Singapore’s Fullerton Hotel is reportedly in talks with the Philippine government to adaptively reuse the Manila Central Post Office and turn it into a first-class hotel.

    The development, if it pushes through, will be have a halo effect on “nearby historical landmarks as well such as Intramuros and the art-deco building Manila Metropolitan Theater. There is also the possibility that the change would positively spill over to the Binondo area and Escolta.” (http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=66&articleId=782488)

    Harinawa, Chit!

    • “Adaptive reuse” (even if it may involve “foreign intervention”) sounds a lot better than “Bahala na si Batman.” I think it will happen soon for the Philippine Post Office building. The case of the Metropolitan Theater may be a tougher one, though. But then again, who knows? I agree with you, Dinna. Sana nga! 🙂

  2. Ms. Chit Tribiana, this is Grace Guerrero from C and E Publishing, Inc., thank you for featuring MMT, and the neglect it underwent through the years, hope this will spark concern to people in authority and would pave way in preserving this once grandeur theater. By the way,we would like to inquire as well to whom we should ask permission to use the Manila Metropolitan Theater picture, we would like to use it on our book, “Theater in Manila 1846-1946”. Thank you and hope to hear from you at the soonest. God Bless! My e-mail address grace.guerrero@cebookshop.com

  3. My paternal grandparents used to audition in many plays, (not sure if they got in…) But the Manila Metropolitan Theatre have been a fascination for me. As I go down Park N Ride walking distance to get a ride, seeing the theatre peed at, vandalized and taken advantaged of by settlers. It’s very good to see that the theatre is undergoing restoration. If I was single I’d volunteer with the cleaning up or the repainting. I would love to see it done so my children will see how it has become and how it was. The theatre have seen war, urbanization (not to mention a flyover that’s blocking it’s beauty), and vandalism, how much more an old building can take? I hope other local celebrities will have fund raising and show patriotism by helping promote the theatre instead of showing off their overseas vacation on their Instagram accounts.

    • My thoughts exactly, Christina!

      It’s heartening to know that four years I’ve posted this piece, there have been efforts to restore The Met.

      Not too late to help kids appreciate the role of this theater in our cultural history. Would some coloring activities help? Please visit this page if you haven’t done so yet. https://www.facebook.com/metropolitantheatermanila1931/

      As to your wish for our local celebrities to do their bit, we can still hope. This will surely help us identify who among them are the real artists, and who are just, well, maarte.

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