- Posted January 22, 2014 by
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This iReport is part of an assignment:
Inside Manila's forgotten landmark
- sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer
Manila is home to a lot of historical spots, monuments, plazas, heritage sites, and landmarks; many of them I never knew even existed. Of course, many people know about Intramuros and Old Manila. But I wonder, how many people actually bothered to explore these historical places?
While throngs of people crowd Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral thinking that it is the whole of Intramuros, buildings, monuments and plazas found on the perimeter of this walled city are left unnoticed and unfrequented. I even remember watching a documentary on a cable channel some years ago about Manila’s forgotten landmarks. The Manila that was once the center of trade and commerce, religious activities, arts and entertainment can now be also considered a city of forgotten and neglected landmarks.
Right in the heart of the Philippine capital is the Metropolitan Theater, a theater that made Manila a renaissance in art and culture. The Met, as the locals fondly called it, has been the subject of my curiosity since my younger years because of its unique architecture and the mystery that bounds it.
The façade of this theater alone is a feast to the eyes. The stained glass mural of Philippine’s rich flora and fauna mounted right above the main entrance of theater overwhelms visitors even from afar. Angkor Wat-inspired minarets lined the concave roof of the theater that resembles a crown fit for what was once revered as the "grande dame" of Philippine theaters. Miniature ogival watchtower that looked like lotus buds stood high on each side of the façade. Bas-reliefs of zigzag and wavy lines accented its massive walls. The intricately designed wrought iron gates detailed with leaf designs and various lines greeted me as I moved closer to the theater. Broken Capiz lamps and pillars with banana leaf details flanked the theater’s entrance were the public once entered to watch zarzuelas, plays, concerts, recitals, and other cultural presentations. Despite the cobweb-covered ceilings and soot-dusted walls, time and nature have been gentle and kind to the theater’s façade.
Renowned architect Juan Arellano designed this art deco building, the same architect responsible for designing the Manila Central Post Office and the nearby Jones Bridge. Because of the notable and exquisite architecture of this place, this theater was once featured in Philippine postage stamps that were issued in 2003 as part of Philippine Postal Corporation’s architectural heritage postage stamp series.
While the façade looked fascinating even at its current condition, the inside looks depressing. The statues of Siamese dancers in ethnic poses that stood atop the side pillars of the theater were left unnoticed. Graffiti, political streamers, promotional banners vandalized the abandoned theater. The area was cordoned off haphazardly using spare pieces of wood, scrap electrical wires, and dilapidated plywood. Beyond the makeshift fence were evidences of sheer neglect and abandonment—shattered glass windows, rusty galvanized iron sheets, ruined pieces of plywood, and heaps of trash left by passersby. The banquet halls inside are suffering from the same remorseful state. The theater was left to decay and deteriorate.
Although there are several efforts to bring back this theater to its original design and beauty as evidenced by the new set of theater seats installed years ago, the Met that was considered to be the granddame of theaters in Manila is still suffering a slow and natural death. This edifice is just waiting to be taken down by a great earthquake or by the elements slowly consuming its beauty.