SM: We will save, preserve Philam Life Theater

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2013 12:32 PM | Updated as of Apr 05 2013 04:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Real estate developer SM Development Corp. (SMDC) on Thursday said it will "save and preserve the culturally historic Philam Life Theater."

In a statement, the property development unit of the SM Group said SMDC vice chairman and chief executive Henry Sy, Jr. had met with Frenchman Olivier Ochanine, music director and chief conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), who started an online petition to save the theater.

“We are fully aware of our responsibility as corporate citizens. In envisioning a progressive, convenient, upscale yet affordable lifestyle for Filipinos, we also value our cultural heritage especially in communities where we operate,” Sy said.

The SM Group bought the former property of insurer Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. along UN Avenue in Manila in a bidding last year.

SMDC has already announced plans to build a condominium complex on the property.

Ochanine earlier reported about the meeting with SM, which also included flutist and acoustics expert Ray Sison and Architect Albert Yu of ASYA Designs.

“Surprisingly, I was told by his team that SM had not even considered a performance hall in the development before they came across my petition!!” the French artist wrote on his Facebook page at the time. “Now, he is even considering keeping the hall itself and doing some renovations. They promised to stay in touch with me and asked that I be a consultant on this journey.”

According to SMDC, the meeting with Ochanine led to a series of talks about the property developer’s plan.

"Although the development plan is still in its initial stage, SMDC stressed that the complete theater including all its elements and most especially its acoustics will be preserved. This will be done in close consultation with the country’s music, acoustics and design experts," the SMDC statement released on Thursday said.

"The hall may be moved within the complex to complement the overall master plan of the property, which will also include a larger parking area for the benefit and convenience of the theater-goers," it added.

SMDC said that planning and development of the entire project would "entail a long process to ensure that all possible structural and design components are carefully considered."

Ochanine was the one who created an online petition on Change.org to save the theater.

“This is one of the best performance halls in the entire Philippines and must be saved. It has some of the best acoustics for Manila’s orchestras, choirs and solo musical artists and its destruction would be a gigantic loss for Filipino culture and heritage,” Ochanine said in the petition.