MANILA, Philippines – Years after being left in ruins and desolation, the Manila Metropolitan Theater gets a new lease on life as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) set in motion the restoration of the historical theater building with a clean-up drive last Dec. 12, 2015.
The clean-up drive is one of the first steps that the country’s lead cultural agency is undertaking to fully restore the MET and bring back its lost glory.
Gerard Lico, who heads the restoration team, says students from various universities and colleges have been enthusiastic about the project.
Students from universities such as MAPUA, De La Salle- College of St. Benilde, UP Diliman, University of Sto.Tomas, University of the East-Caloocan, National University, Technological University of the Philippines, Far Eastern University, Technological Institute of the Philippines, Bulacan State University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, EARIST, Letran and Centro Escolar University have pitched in for weekly clean-up drives that are being held in the first two months of the year.
“We want the students to be more involved in the restoration because it will help them connect with their historical and cultural heritage. They will also have a sense of ownership,” Lico said.
He also added that the volunteer-based activity will be of particular benefit to students of architecture who are planning to do an in-depth study or to write a thesis about the historical architectural treasure.
NCCA is also grateful to late starmaker German “Kuya Germs” Moreno for spearheading the December cleanup together with his nephew John Nite and other artists under his management.
After buying ownership rights from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for P270 million last June, the NCCA is set to receive an additional budget of P270 million for the restoration of the building.
NCCA OIC-executive director Adelina Suemith shared that even before the cultural agency bought the building from GSIS, there had been attempts to undertake the restoration. About 15 years ago, the NCCA provided funds to repair the theater’s roofing. Two years later, they donated a sound system, only to find out that the theater had no power supply. “We have already addressed the water supply connection inside the theater. Our next project is to get back electricity,” shared Suemith.
The MET Theater, known for its art deco architecture designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Arellano, was inaugurated on December 10,1931. The building has been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the NCCA for its social and political contributions to Philippine society.
“The theater is not just an important landmark, it is a symbol of Manila. It was the premier cultural venue during the pre-war period. It is a survivor of World War II. While the buildings and other infrastructure around it have been torn down or were bombed during the war, it remained intact except for the damage on its roof,” Lico added.
The theater is also home to various works of renowned artists. National Artist for Visual Arts Fernando Amorsolo painted two murals, “The Dance”, and “The History of Music,” at the balcony. Filipino artist Isabelo Tampingco did the plant-themed carvings in the interiors; while artist Francesco Riccardo Monti created the Adam and Eve sculptures found at the main lobby.