Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sites in the Book: The Metropolitan Theater

"It sat there alone in the moonlight, looking like a magnificent art deco birthday cake."

You may have noticed by now that several locations in The Yellow Bar still survive to this day. Over 90% of Manila's buildings were reduced to rubble. All the others were shot or burned to hell. The Manila Metropolitan Theater is one of the survivors. Just barely, but I'll tell you about that in a minute.

The MET was built in 1924 and no expense was spared; it was a palace made out of marble, wood and stained glass. Italian and Filipino artists heavily decorated the theater with sculptures and reliefs. It was (and still is) an art deco masterpiece.

The MET stayed open through most of the Japanese occupation, staging plays, operas and variety shows. It was heavily damaged in the Battle of Manila but was quickly repaired after the war.
But by the 1970s, she was not looking too good and there was talk of the MET meeting the wrecking ball, as the Metropolitan is on a prime piece of real estate on the heart of Manila. Once again, First Lady Imelda Marcos (Love her or hate her, she was a patron of Philippine arts.) came to the rescue and had the MET restored.

Things were fine until the Philippine Revolution of 1986 kicked the Marcos out from power. Funding was lost and the theater once again went back into ruin. The fine garden behind the theater was converted into a bus terminal. Political infighting almost doomed the Metropolitan but 2010 it seems  that a compromised was reached. The theater has been renovated and there are plans to keep her running as a legitimate theater. However, I must say this: Manila is not known for being kind to its historical sites. Real estate speculators (those snakes in the grass) have no love for history. For example, in 2000, the historical Manila Jai Alai was demolished upon the orders of Mayor Lito Atienza to make way for a project that that never built. I hope that there is enough political will to keep the Metropolitan standing for hundreds of years to come.

Interior of the Metropolitan after restoration.

B&W photos compliments of John T Pilot.
Click on any image to see a larger version.


Below are three new photos of the Metropolitan Theater that I took on my Manila December 2012 trip. I went early on an early Sunday morning to avoid the traffic. I found a lonely standalone building with no one around. Buses are now using the driveway for impromptu pick-ups. Weeds are growing in its cracks and paper trash is building up in several corners. It doesn't look like it has been used in a long time. At this point, all it will take is a stray cigarette butt to set the whole place on fire.

A shadow of its former self.
This is one of the most historical and beautiful buildings in Manila. I can't for the life of me understand why it has been abandoned so. All the new, trendy towers and malls that are now being built in Manila haven't got half the glamour of the Met. In any other city, this jewel box would be THE place for shows, ceremonies and other events.

If anyone has any information on groups or individuals that are actively trying to save the Met, please feel free to email me or post a link here. Maybe it's not too late.

Broken stained glass window
Paper Fire Traps


  1. I would love to see more historical pictures of the phillippines. Allison

  2. I think the group of Mr German Moreno is making efforts in restoring the MET.