Almost 12 years ago, the Urban Roamer was able to see up close the “grand old dame” of Philippine theaters, the Metropolitan Theater in the City of Manila. It was both exciting and sad to see the rich detail of this structure up close and how it was in such state of disrepair all those years.
It’s not that there was nothing being done to restore the theater. In fact, during that time, there were preliminary efforts being done which resulted in some new chairs installed and the stage area made a bit more “presentable” (pun unintended). There was also the conflict between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the City of Manila as to who should manage this tarnished gem at the heart of the city.
It would not be until 2015, when the administration of the theater was finally assumed by the NCCA, that the restoration work would begin on the theater. It would not be without hiccups though. In 2018, the project was stalled when the NCCA board opted not to renew the services of the Gerard Lico, the consulting architect for the project, and others who initially worked on it as well over a number of matters, finance being one of them. NCCA eventually tapped the assistance of agencies such as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Museum in finishing the project.
Finally on December 10, 2021, the Metropolitan Theater opened its doors once again to the public after more than 30 years of decay and inactivity. Suffice to say, with everything it has been through including during the restoration period, it all paid off very nicely.
The Urban Roamer unfortunately missed the grand opening but was fortunate to have finally set foot in the newly-restored Met during the theater’s recent Women’s Month-themed event which showcased the films of the late director Marilou Diaz-Abaya.
Stepping inside the theater evoked a feeling of seeing an old friend once again, this time no longer in her sad state but in all its splendor and glory that she is supposed to evoke as this grand old dame of Philippine theater deserves to be. It was nice to see it adorned with a lot of lighting and its Art Deco-ness pretty much highlighted all throughout the structure.
The Amorsolo paintings that were present on the opposite wings of the theater mezzanine are both present, albeit as reproductions it seems. Also, the courtyard has also been restored with the addition of an elevator to get to the upper levels.
The theater area itself looks really nice and colorful to highlight the artworks that adorn throughout this space, with some new additions like the “Metropolitan” signage at the top. Unfortunately, there were parts from the old theater that are no longer present, particularly the recessed area near the stage where the orchestra used to play.
There are still some work that still needs to be done. For instance, both wings beside the entrance where the shops used to be are still not yet completed. It remains to be seen if these areas will be available to tenants or if they will house other offices. Also, other parts of the theater like the second floor area where the ballroom and dance recital area are located is still not yet accessible and it seems there’s no activity on those areas yet.
But speaking as someone who has kept tabs with the developments of the Metropolitan Theater over the years, it is gratifying and delightful to see the Met back in its old glory, despite the long journey that it took to get there. My salute and appreciation to those who have worked on accomplishing this feat over the last 10+ years, even those who were not able to see it through for one reason or another. Here’s hoping the Met stays on for good as a symbol of inspiration and hope that it is possible to bring back the city’s splendor that it was known for.
Acknowledgements as well to the Metropolitan Theater on Facebook, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the National Ciommission for Culture and the Arts