Three of the Philippines’ arts and culture heavyweights—urban planner Paulo Alcazaren, heritage conservationist Eric Zerrudo and playwright and director Floy Quintos—shared their thoughts on how to keep the Metropolitan Theater, which reopens on April 27, sustainable.
Quintos suggested that the theater be restored but no longer as an institution that depended on theater activity for its survival. He proposed transforming the main hall into a multi-purpose hall that could house exhibits, bazaars and trade fairs that featured Philippine handicrafts, while cultural shows would be staged for tourists. Halls with movable seats could also be rented out for graduations, seminars and all types of ceremonies.
Zerrudo, who worked with the GSIS Museum, echoed Quintos’ view that the Met would not stay alive as a theater alone.
A cultural heritage specialist and currently director of the UST Graduate School Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics, Zerrudo suggested to make the Met an arts academy for architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, music, performing and film stories.
For him, this is possible due to several schools surrounding the theater: UST, San Beda, La Consolacion, Far Eastern University, University of the East, Lyceum of the Philippines, Letran, Sta. Isabel, Mapua University, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and a number of high schools—all constantly in search for classroom space. In his view, the Met could be shared as a performance venue by these schools.
“These [academic institutions] could and should fuel a steady calendar of events that would benefit both their students as well as the general population,” added Alcazaren.
The urban design expert, meanwhile, believes that the Met could be sustained only with connectivity to its surrounding structures and schools.
In a Facebook post, Alcazaren wrote that “the theater will not last without the context of its function as a cultural venue for communities around it.”
He further wrote: “The potential is that we can bring back not just the original plaza (originally Lawton, now Liwasang Bonifacio) but also create a new plaza to provide a better foreground for the Met Theater. With this, we can recover the public realm for people to use and enjoy; a venue of celebrations that would complement the theater and Post Office.”
The three agree as well that business development studies must also be done instead of “waiting for the general appropriations act or the National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts every year.”
Considered a National Cultural Treasure, the Manila Metropolitan Theater, or Grand Old Dame, has been opened four times over the last 90 years: 1931, 1946, 1978, 2010. Its fifth reopening on April 27 will be in time for its inaugural show, the 500th anniversary of the Victory of Mactan.
Photo: Tatler Philippines