Veteran cultural writer and impresario Pablo Tariman noticed it and wrote about it in Vera Files. An announcement from the Facebook account of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts caught his attention: “Everyone’s excited to witness the revival of the Metropolitan Theater! Now called the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Metropolitan Theater (NCCA Metropolitan Theater), this Philippine architectural heritage surely holds a significant part in the lives of the Filipinos.” The announcement was posted on May 30, 2021 at 9:03 a.m. Pablo wrote his Vera Files piece the next day. By June 5, historian Xiao Chua wrote about the same in his column in the Manila Times.
As one can see, there is no need to parse the line. As the tenor of that line goes, the change of name of the Manila Metropolitan Theater is a done deal, a fait accompli.
In such cases, a clarification from the source is in order. But repeated messages to the Messenger account of the head of the Public Affairs and Information Section of the NCCA remain unanswered. The message was sent June 2. Until this day it is not even on seen mode, which is a surprise because PAIS head Rene Napeñas is always a punctual and available communicator.
When one source is unavailable, we go to other sources. A member of the board of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts provided information but requested anonymity.
The board member’s first piece of news: The new name of NCCA Metropolitan Theater is “false news.” If so, the writer of that “false news” in the NCCA Facebook account should be investigated. Then this information: The NCCA board had, indeed, discussed the matter, and “several names were considered.” Additional information: “It has been pointed out that Manila Metropolitan Theater is a historic name. But some opined that there are reasons for historic institutions to change names to reflect new management.” So it is confirmed that a change of name is being contemplated, but that “there is no decision yet,” even if the NCCA’s Facebook account claims the contrary.
But here is what awaits the members of the board of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the country’s de facto ministry of culture, if it insists on changing the name of the Manila Metropolitan Theater: litigations. As the country’s primary culture and arts conservator, it is the first government agency we would expect to adhere to the tenets of the law.
This is what it will violate: Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Law which NCCA itself had proposed before it was legislated in 2009. Article 5 Registration and Conservation of Cultural Property Section 22 of that law needs no interpretation:
Renaming of Historical Streets, Buildings Designated as Cultural Treasure or Important Cultural Property. The names of historical streets, parks, buildings, shrines, landmarks, monuments and sites designated as national cultural treasures or important cultural property shall not be allowed to be renamed by a local or national legislation, unless approved by the National Historical Institute, and only after due hearing on the matter. Furthermore, for changes of names done to historical streets, parks, buildings, shrines, landmarks, monuments, and sites prior to the effectivity of this Act, the National Historical Institute may direct the local government units to restore their original names, also after due hearing.
The law is very explicit. The name of the Manila Metropolitan Theater cannot be changed. The Met is a declared National Cultural Treasure since June 23, 2010. Yes, it is. Here’s an account of the unveiling of the NCT marker: Returning the grand dame to her people. But prior to that declaration, the Met was a declared National Historical Landmark since 1973.
Is the NCCA using the occasion to effect a rectification of its image? The name “NCCA” in the Philippines does not ring a bell.
Whatever its reasons, the NCCA board under chair Nick Lizaso should better be ready to face litigations if it insists on a violation of the law that it is precisely mandated to uphold.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)