Manila Metropolitan Theater’s Art Deco

and Cultural Heritage

Preservation: A Call to Action

Back in 2000 I remember helping out my sister with her “national heritage” preservation pre-thesis survey done in University of Santo Tomas’ College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CFAD) and College of Architecture. One of which includes Manila Metropolitan Theater‘s restoration — to gather data in detail from the point view of these students, the debate between refurbishment or ripping the historical building instead and layout a modern blueprint. Most of the responses equate the value for restoration.

Manila Metropolitan Theater's Art Deco and Cultural Heritage

A few facts about the Manila Metropolitan Theater:

The Met as popularly known tagged Manila during its frolic days as the “Milan of Asia”. The prestigious building is located in Padre Burgos Avenue across Liwasang Bonifacio and the Manila Central Post Office. The building was grounded in 1931, designed by Filipino architect Juan M. Arellano whose influences with art-deco architecture dominates the perspectives of The Met’s interior and exterior outline. The Manila Metropolitan Theater holds a capacity of 1670 (846 orchestra, 116 in loge, and 708 in balcony.)

Commissioned artists made the art deco style more intrinsic:

Francesco Riccardo Monti (Italian sculptor) – bronze sculptures (facade)
Arcadio Arellano (brother of Juan Arellano) – designed the facade’s ethnic columns, walls and grills
Isabelo Tampingco (Filipino sculptor) – stylized relief carving of Philippine ornamentation (lobby walls and interior surfaces)
Fernando Amorsolo (National artist) – mural paintings: The Dance and History of Music (lobby)
Kraut Art Glass (German Company) – stained glass (facade)
House of Precast – architectural decoration for theater’s proscenium (also proscenium arch – the part of a theater stage in front of the curtain.

art deco
the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colors, and used most notably in household objects and in architecture.

ORIGIN 1960s: shortened from French art décoratif ‘decorative art,’ from the 1925 Exposition des Arts décoratifs in Paris.

Efforts of Restoration

During the World War II (circa 1945) the theater was damaged and reconstruct with the help of the Americans and slowly neglected by 1960’s. Later in 1978, Imelda Marcos lead its second restoration while hearsays reportedly object that the funds collected for the full restoration of the Manila Metropolitan Theater was split in between the construction of the Cultural of the Philippines in preparation for the Ms. Universe pageant to be hosted by the country. Eventually the Met faced its closing time, it fell into trap with the emergence of new art forms and cultural decline. The once center for cultural arts and cultivation of Filipino national heritage was abandoned in replacement of sprouting box-type buildings with all-in-one leisure access.

Who manages the Manila Metropolitan Theater?

Long before the idea to restore the Met, ownership disputed between the city administration and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Technically GSIS now holds the full control of the theater, with the coordination from City Council of Manila, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Museo ng Maynila, and Mr. German Moreno the Metropolitan Theater Restoration Steering Committee was conceived.

The sad thing about the restoration efforts, based on financial aspects: overhaul and re-building the theater takes about large chunks of financial resources compared to constructing a new (what?) building. But think about it, our neighboring countries thought of the best possible ways and means to restore their heritage. While others (Filipinos with less nationalistic temper) connotes the idea of the easiest and cheaper road to ditch cultural history. It mirrors a more colonial state of mind, some suggests the practicality of the subject, although nobody can stop modernization — the only way to bring back times, and share to our future children how proud Filipinos was before — is the act of protecting the remaining Philippine treasure. The heritage building was already there since the 1930’s. It is where the cultural arts prosper from the way it’s built, the talents of those who built, it showcases big names in the field of theater plays, music, cinema, classical dance and  art patrons.

Manila Metropolitan Theater now looks like degenerative disease, the once majestic beauty was replaced with old age plight. She was left abandoned with falling debris, dilapidated floors, rooms filled with litters and cobwebs. Expensive paintings were replaced with a replica printed on a tarpaulin (pixelated and devalued). Gone are the antique wooden fixtures probably eaten by termites or looted by  bigger termites. Some walls are even plastered with plywood just to cover her up. The orchestra section was filled with flood water and second floor hallway was also housed with rain water, while the stage curtain has accumulated  dust and molds. The entire theater felt she was haunted  but realistically saying she was in the truest form of melancholy. She longed to hear the rhythm of the music, revive the classical dance movements and see once again the live, unique theatrical plays. It’s never too late, let Manila Metropolitan Theater  restore its glory. would like to thank Lawrence Chan and Filipinas Stamp Collector’s Club for the Postal Heritage Walking Tour. Entire photo documentation can be viewed via:

deiville facebook page – 
deiville photobucket –

Related topics:
Manila: Philippine National Museum Revisited May 2011, created by Green Dei (Daryll Villena)
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