Walls are given a new lease in life with fresh coats of at least two layers, dirt accumulated from decades past are expelled from hand-painted tiles, the posture of ailing arches and pillars straightened and reinforced to dominance, and the marble-clad horizontal is seen to reflect light once again. These are only a few out of the large number of marks catered by restoration. All steps in the process require thoughtful implementation; every step must convey meaning into every motion.
Of repair, of renew, of air breathe in after a long interruption—these were the emotions induced after the National Commission for Culture of the Arts (NCCA) announced its purchase of the building from the GSIS. Another feeling of lightness was felt when its massive restoration was announced back in 2017. What followed were accounts detailing the project, like clean-up drives gathering some 2000 volunteers, sculptures being repainted, and the arrival of various coats for the exterior. Before the restoration of the Manila Metropolitan Theater was reportedly cancelled for unspecified reasons on November 11, 2018, these promises told to the public were slowly taking the shape of a language awaiting to be spoken by everyone.
On the day the conclusion of the Met was stated, architect Gerald Lico made a post on Facebook, addressing an issue wherein he was accused of dalliances made under-the-table while he was still part of the project. Lico tried to shed light on the matter by saying that he was not removed, but instead, took a sabbatical leave to concentrate on his recently formed design firm. He then followed his statement by attaching a letter from the NCCA for proof. It acknowledges his contribution to the Met project, therefore clearing him of such allegations. The issue was later kept in control after the person who accused Gerald Lico apologized in a personal message. However, the reasons as to why the restoration has come to an end is still unknown.
It was previously mentioned in several media platforms that the budget allocated for the first phase of the restoration was P269 million. Last year, around 40 percent restoration work was done for the theater proper, and another 20 percent for the complex. With this dispirited report in mind, these massive numbers immediately become nothing but figments clutched tightly inside hands.
First revealed to the public on December 10, 1931, the Manila Metropolitan Theater had seeped through the gaps of fingers numerous times, its unwanted shapelessness being defined over and over for years. An instance of near loss is seen on one of the tiles in the roof deck of the building. The top is scarred with bullet marks, remembering images of the Second World War. Another case is when a bomb from the emancipation of Manila was located inside the folds of the theater.
If these unknown reasons have decided to attend to other advancements instead of choosing to restore the Met, then it may be a reflection of the fact that as Filipinos, we are veering away from progress, culturally and politically undressing ourselves of identity. The Manila Metropolitan Theater not only holds remembrances of cultural activities and other familiars, but it also largely encompasses the Filipino image. It was, after all, a theater built for the people.
Along with its decolorized pink façade, one is left hopeful that this is just near loss, that this decaying structure will still be transformed into a figure recognized and valued by all.