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Arts & Culture

In Photos: A Peek at the Renovation of the Metropolitan Theater

If you have been curious about the progress of the Manila Art Deco building, here are exclusive photos of its restoration and how it looks now.

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Photography: METamorphosis Facebook page & Chinggay Labrador

It’s been 86 years since the inauguration of the Manila Metropolitan Theater, and the art deco structure has undergone storied transformations through the years.

Once a hub for zarzuelas, operas, and plays, the Juan Arellano-designed building has withstood the bombings of the Battle of Manila in 1945, has opened and closed twice, and was rehabilitated in the 1970s. But over the last few decades, this landmark of Philippine architecture was abandoned and left to fade with time.

Thanks to the efforts of the National Commission for Culture of the Arts (NCCA), the building was purchased from the GSIS in 2015, and is now undergoing massive restoration aimed to reach completion in 2020.



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“It’s important for us to engage the public in every phase of this project,” remarks consulting architect Gerard Lico. “Our ‘Journey to Restoration’ gives the public an opportunity to look at the building as it goes through a process of metamorphosis.”


With the lobby now brought up to speed with fresh coats of paint on the anay finish walls, art deco geometric-patterned lighting fixtures, and ironwork adorning the second floor of the main atrium, the prospect of accomplishing the first phase of restoration by June 2018 is easy to grasp. The lobby’s notable sculptures, Adam and Eve by Francesco Monti (Adam is being restored in the photo above, and Eve, in the photo below), are also currently being brought back to their original state.

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Though the building is currently boarded up and shrouded in scaffolding, the exterior renovations are also evident to passersby. “We’ve cleaned and retained the white exterior of the building, and we’re now waiting for new coats of paint—which color to use is still in discussion,” says member of the Met Theater’s architectural staff, Timothy Ong.

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Bringing the public to participate in the Met Theater’s transformation is key in giving them a stake in the building’s future. With clean-up drives garnering 2,000 volunteers as well as the Met’s participation in the recent London Biennale, plus the recent revival of Escolta, there is reason to hope that the old capital’s Cultural Triangle (involving Escolta, the Met, and the Post Office) will come to a full revitalization. The tours of the current restoration help shed light, not just on the history of the Met but also on its intended future.

READ: 12 Hauntingly Beautiful Photos of the Metropolitan Theater (to take a look at the Met post-cleanup and pre-renovation)

Exterior


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According to Brian de Asis, the infamous pink walls of the Met were not true to Juan Arellano’s plans, but were actually done in the 1970s, when paint was donated for the revival of the building. Today, the façade is receiving some major restoration work and scrubbing to bring it back to its former glory.


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The sculptures depicting women on the Met Theater’s exterior are significant to Pinoy pop culture as they were later inspirations for local comic book superhero, Darna.


The Met’s stained glass windows (seen above in an older photo of the early stages of the renovation) have been returned to Kraut, the original supplier (and also manufacturer of Manila Cathedral’s windows), for safekeeping until the official reopening of the building.

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Lobby


One of the more finished parts of the project, the Met’s lobby plays host to a rainbow of colors, as well as two of the building’s more famous residents, Adam and Eve.


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Printed placeholders are put on either wing of the lobby, signifying the Amorsolo paintings that will don the Met’s walls once restoration work is done (the originals are currently kept at GSIS).


Intricate curlicues and other magnificent details on the wrought iron railings can now be seen clearly in the orchestra hallways (above) and in the restroom signages (below).

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Paint Swatches


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Scraping was done on the building’s walls to find out what types of paint were used to coat the walls. Swatches of vibrant pinks, corals, yellows and greens now don the second floor walls to give spectators an idea of what’s to come. An array of costumes from past performances is also highlighted at the tour.

Ornamentation


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Local flora and fauna, seen as “exotic” by the pensionado Arellano, who studied architecture in the US, were the main elements used to deck the main theater’s ceiling. With mangoes, bananas, and plants now swathed in bright yellows and deep greens, and wildlife depictions done in plaster (parrots), the interior possesses a quintessentially Filipino character.


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Proscenium


The main theater, containing 1,640 seats, is undergoing massive works to bring it up to par with today’s modern theaters.


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Remnants of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’s renovation of the building in the 1970s are seen with the batik textiles, now peeling from the loge’s walls.


As work progresses, more details about the building’s life are revealed—through the months, the Met team has discovered false walls and an old proscenium. The more original details are uncovered (above), the longer restoration work takes place.

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Soon, a gradient of pink will cover the actual theater’s interiors—a tribute to the pink paint that covered the Met’s exterior in its latest run. (The original color of the main theater is said to have been green).

Roof Deck


Scrubbed clean, the top floor of the Met is white, with distinct art deco details true to 1930s Philippine architecture.

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The finials and spires of the Met are said to have been inspired by Arellano’s visits to Borobodur and Paoay Church. Now clearly concrete, these architectural elements were originally golden bronze in color.

Structural Elements


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A peek through the loge will show the building’s structural framework—trusses that are similar to those that compose the Ayala Bridge. Though built in 1931, the Met passes current standards for earthquake safety.

Performances


Tours led by Ivan Man Dy, John Brian de Asis, and Timothy Ong help visitors understand the colored past of the Met as well as the complexity of its restoration. To launch the Journey to Restoration, performances by graduates of the University of the Philippines College of Music and members of the UP Dance Company were held at the lobby last December 9, 2017, the 86th anniversary of the Met. 

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To learn more about the ongoing restoration of the Metropolitan Theater, follow METamorphosis on their Facebook page. 

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