Those passing to and from Quezon Bridge would have notice this imposing pink structure across Liwasang Bonifacio. Since 1996, the Manila Metropolitan Theater had been abandoned and is in dire state. There have been several reports that the local government of Manila has been working to revive its former glory. I thought I could wait until such time and post an article about a restored and functional national theater. But I think I’ve become impatient.
Built in 1931 by Architect Juan Arellano, the Metropolitan Theater was erected to house Manila’s growing cultural and artistic life. Deeply influenced by the Art Deco movement, a prevailing style in 1930’s, it was described as Arellano’s most romantic work.
Collaborating with Arellano were noted artists amongst them were National Artist Fernando Amorsolo who painted two murals by the staircase, ateliers Isabelo Tampingco and Francesco Ricardo Monti who decorated the interior and exterior walls of the theater with bas-relief and sculpture and Juan’s brother, Arcadio Arellano who designed the theater’s colorful façade.
The monumental building barely survived World War II ally and enemy bombings and took several decades when it was restored in the late 1970’s. Within its short-lived revival, the theater was home to theater production companies like Tanghalan Pilipino. Stage plays and musical productions including the t.v. variety show Vilma graced its stage. In 1996, stage curtain was permanently lowered, the Metropolitan Theater was closed down for good.
I was able to watch the stage musical Pepe en Pilar before the Metropolitan Theater closed down. That was my first and last time to have viewed its interior. As a child, I vaguely remember the two-storey lobby and marble staircases where the two Amorsolo mural and the modern sculpture by Monti greeted the audience on their way to the auditorium. What I vividly recall though was how I kept looking up while the National Anthem was being played before the start of the play and fascinated by the embossed tropical fruits like mango and banana that lined the auditorium ceiling parallel to the stage.
Today, we can only imagine what the theater must have been by looking at the still beautiful façade with its pastel pink walls embroidered with festive colors; the Art Deco birds of paradise grill work at the main entrance; the great rectangular stained glass which corresponds the size of the stage; the collage of colored tiles on either side suggesting the rich colors of tropical plants and carved wall ending in finials that resembles a tiara with Muslim minarets.
I hope I can post another article about the Metropolitan Theater in the future, this time about a national theater, restored to its former glory and fully functional.