A stone’s throw from the turbid waters of the Pasig stands a structure derelict with age and neglect, a remnant of a different city and a different time. Where once thrived a botanical garden, now roil exhaust fumes that blacken the old building’s flanks, shrouding the looming edifice in generations of soot and carbon. Where once stood a symbol of our culture now towers a monument to our apathy and shame.
Were it to evanesce, would no one notice its absence?
The Metropolitan Theater’s halcyon days, just within living memory, resonate with diminishing echoes across the chasm of time. And as mournful Manilans cast vacant stares at its withered façade, we lament its passing prematurely, as if it no longer stands before us.
Its architects, the brothers Arellano, now long dead, would have wept to see their work reduced to its present state of abject disrepute. Despite having risen from the rubble of a World War, the MET knows the ravages of battle are not the only requisites for ruin; indifference is deadlier by far.
Still, its black turrets defy the changing of the seasons, and Monti’s stoic quartet of Siamese dancers mock the elements with their tragic smiles. Meanwhile, acid rain steadily melts away Tampingco’s bas reliefs and curlicues. Proud hallways that once sheltered Amorsolo’s art are now naked and bare. Inside its gutted auditorium, beads of rainwater drip down from cracks in the ceiling, a curtain of droplets drawing ripples on the stagnant murk of the flooded orchestra pit. The stage’s cavernous maw anticipates any apparition that might deign to perform upon the timbers of its crumbling proscenium.
Yet, dare we long for the day when the dulcet harmonies of a Manila Symphony Orchestra emanate from within that theater ever again?
It would be best, for now, to be wary of those who fan the flames of false hope.
The 90million pesos allotted to the MET’s resurrection have evaporated. Held hostage to fortune, the aging edifice awaits either life or death at the hands of those to whom its legacy has been entrusted. However, it is painfully observable at present: the theatre is more dead than it is alive.
Its plight has eluded any salvation through the graces of political will, and remains hitherto unaided by the otherwise outstretched hand of corporate philanthropy. This long-suffering victim of circumstance is an anachronism that, sadly, holds no currency in this present age of Industry.
The Metropolitan Theater faces the desolate and luckless reality of having survived years of abasement, only to be euthanized in an era where cultural inheritance yields no returns.
This is not merely obsessive nostalgia; an architectural artifact is worth more than the steel and concrete from which it is built; it possesses within its lines and spaces the ideas and ideals its creators held dearly enough to bequeath to posterity.
Yet we would relegate our patrimony to oblivion, paying lip service to history and feigning regret, as we knowingly abetted the annihilation of their memory.
The old building stands, unregarded and unremembered, its fate uncertain; a decaying specter clinging to the last scraps of its dwindling dignity; a shameful reminder of the beggared state of our Culture and Art.
Should we surrender the MET to a heartless future that holds no place for it, we would not only have lost part of our Heritage, we would also be guilty of the ignominious act of having thrown it away.