Twenty-five years since its closure in 1996, the Metropolitan Theater, one of the last few surviving Art Deco structures in the Philippines and one of the country’s oldest performance venues—will be opening its doors to audiences once again come April.
The much-anticipated event will happen on April 27, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Victory of Mactan, and the program will be the inaugural show for this particular reopening of Manila’s Grande Dame.
Becco Empleo, one of the architects working on the project under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), says Phase 1 of the restoration efforts is 90% complete. “It has three phases. Phase 1 is the main theater. Phase 2 would be the two wings. Phase 3 would be the interior of the two wings,” Empleo tells ANCX, updating us on the progress of the restoration. The main theater is almost done and will definitely be ready by April 27 for the quincentennial event.
Empleo says the Phase 2 of the restoration is now in full swing. “Ginagawa namin ang façade at nakapagpalit na kami ng bubong [ng dalawang wing],” he says. The third phase of the development has yet to be planned, and this will include the remaining enhancements to be made to Phases 1 and 2.
One of the things to look forward to about the restoration, says Empleo, are the fantastic architectural elements, especially in the interior. “You have paintings by [Italian painter] Francesco Monti, and we have a reproduction of a painting by Fernando Amorsolo,” he shares. “The interior of the building is fascinating because it has tropical fruits on the ceiling, and several theatrical ornamentations on the sides.”
But what the architect is personally most excited about is when the lighting and sound will finally be incorporated into the theater setting. The project has tapped the expertise of award-winning lighting designer Katsch Catoy, who was formerly the deputy director of the Theater Operations Department of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). For the sound, NHCP hired the known sound engineer and FAMAS Awards Hall of Famer Mike Idioma, known for such event movies like “Muro-Ami,” “Sukob,” “Bagong Buwan,” and “Magic Temple.”
“Can you imagine—all these Art Deco architectural ornaments, good lighting system, superb sound. I believe it’s an experience of a lifetime once you see someone perform at the Met,” he says.
The NHCP, under the tutelage of its chairman Dr. Rene Escalante, in collaboration with a team of experts worked on the project starting a year ago. It was previously handled by Arch. Gerard Lico who headed the restoration work for the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex completed in 2019.