Lifestyle & Culture

Restoration of the MET: A Necessity of the Times

For over 90 years, the Manila Metropolitan Theatre, simply known as the MET,  has served the country with so much glory. It stood witness to the country’s rich history, through thick and thin, between the country’s glorious years and wars.

Many might recall the MET as an eerie abandoned dusty pink building with wild plants crawling in every nook and cranny. Some may call it a familiar hotspot for snatchers and pickpockets. Yet beneath the grime and peeling paint, the MET holds so much more. 

The theater was an iconic landmark of Manila during the city’s glorious years as the “Paris of Asia” – nearly 100 years ago. The National Artist, architect Juan Arellano, designed the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, which was one of the Art Deco gems of the time mixed with neo-classical and modern architectural styles. Francesco Riccardo Monti, an Italian master, enhanced the theatre’s facade. While for its interior, Isabelo Tampingco, a local artist, decorated it with embossed ornaments depicting local plants.

Rising from the ashes

The theater was inaugurated on Dec. 10, 1931, until the battle of Manila in 1945 came, which led to its disrepair. After the war, Americans reconstructed the theater, but yet again it was neglected afterwards.

In 1978, a restoration initiative of former First Lady Imelda Marcos took place. Due to conflict in ownership, between Manila City and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in 1966, the theatre closed. Unutilized, the building started to deteriorate badly.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) bought the building from the GSIS in 2015. Following the acquisition, The NCCA came in for the clean-up drive, drew up design plans, and began the restoration.

Last year, the long-awaited revival of the “Grand Old Dame” of Manila came to an end as the newly restored Metropolitan Theatre rose again, stronger and greater than ever. 

To meet the 21’st century’s demands, the new MET will be an improved entertainment hub with a black box theater for small productions and a cinematheque. It will also reserve spaces for exhibitions. 

“It won’t be commercialized, but it will be more of a cultural hub and [a space where anyone can] appreciate the arts,” consulting architect Gerard Lico describes.

RELATED: #LookingForward to Watching Live Performances Again

Today, we recognize its contribution to culture and nationhood, for new generations to remember it and care for it.

Epitome of Filipino identity

“The Met was a symbol of creating a national identity in a colonial social milieu. As an architectural work, it’s a testament to the ability of a structure to transmit cultural memories,” says Lico.

Restoration of historic theatres, specifically, offers an additional benefit, offering a window into our cultural past. Now the current generation gets to experience and enjoy the magic that the MET theatre brings. With future generations, they’ll be able to step into a wonderland of Filipino heritage, filled with beauty and old-world charm.

Visit the MET Theatre today, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of our heritage!

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