City of Manila,  Roamer's Roundup

The Met and the Long Road to Rebirth

It has been a long while since I written something about the Metropolitan Theater, about five years to be exact since the last update. Time does fly so quickly and so many things have happened since then. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for the Met as it remained in a dormant state throughout this time, with the earlier promise of what was supposed to be a start of a reviving this storied structure was stalled for some reason.

However, the Met figured in the news recently as its ownership passed hands from its previous owner, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to the new owner, none other than the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for P270 million, a deal that was done last June 10. It was move by the NCCA in its bid to finally kickstart the rehabilitation of this historic structure.

It’s interesting to note that this development came about by the move of another party in this story, the Manila City government which first informed GSIS of its intention to purchase the theater for P267.15 million. The City Government wanted to use the venue for students and faculty of the nearby Universidad de Manila to hold performing arts events.

However, the Metropolitan Theater is a National Cultural Treasure; as such the NCCA has the right of first refusal when it comes to the sale of National Cultural Treasures. So when it was informed of the move, the NCCA matched offer of the city government, with the help of the Department of Budget and Management which has released the aforementioned P270 million which was actually sourced from the travel tax travelers pay when they leave the country. (so at least there is some good about paying those darned travel taxes after all)

GSIS President and General Manager Robert Vergara (third from left) turns over the transfer certificate of title of the Metropolitan Theater to Chairman Felipe M. De Leon Jr. (second from left) of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) last June 10 in GSIS Head Office in Pasay City. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who released the budget to NCCA for the purchase of the national treasure looks on. Also in the photo are the witnesses to the signing rites: NCCA OIC Executive Director Adelina M. Suemith (first from left), and VP Leopoldo M. Escarez (fifth from left) of GSIS Real Estate Asset Disposition and Management Office. Image and notes courtesy of the GSIS

The Manila city government still insists on having a say on the restoration, citing a tripartite agreement it signed years ago with the GSIS and NCCA which gives the city government the right to use the Met “exclusively for cultural and arts purposes,” even though it was unclear if the recent deal would affect this agreement now.

In any case, with the issue of ownership out of the way, the NCCA intends to get started on restoring the theater which is planned to be done in phases over a possible two-year period. Any performances in the theater  will be shown free as much as possible for the benefit of the general public. Theater organizations of Manila’s schools, as well as artistic organizations can use the venue for performances or art exhibits which can be held at the wings.

2010 file photo on the hallway of the Met
2010 file photo of the stage

But the greater challenge is the environment where the Met is located, which badly needs improvement. A massive restoration project as that of the Metropolitan Theater would not work if the environment is uninviting and prevents people patronizing the place. It is not just the litter and squalor in the area of Liwasang Bonifacio and Mehan Garden area. There is also the heavy traffic and the need for more greenery in the midst of the losing green space in the metropolis.

We can only hope that the plan to revive the Metropolitan Theater not only gets to be initiated and realized, but also would involve revitalizing the area around it not only for the sake of the people who would visit the Met again, but also for the sake of the city and metropolis as a whole. As Budget Secretary Butch Abad remarked…

“We cannot claim to pursue national development if we fail at preserving our culture and heritage.”


Acknowledgements as well to BusinessWorld and the Philippine Daily Inquirer

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