WE have been waiting for the chance to praise something Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has done and it has come. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Sunday, August 23, announced the release of P9.48 million for the initial stages of the restoration of the historic Manila Metropolitan Theater, or the Met.
Earlier, in June, he released P270 million for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to buy the Met from the Government Service Insurance System.
“Rehabilitating the Met will restore dignity to the Crown Jewel of Manila Theaters after years of neglect and disrepair,” Secretary Abad said. “”Bringing the Met into the modern age will also boost our country’s tourism industry, as the proper management of our cultural heritage will support the gains of our economic growth.”
“Ultimately, funding the Met’s rehabilitation will not only preserve a piece of history from our country’s storied past. It is also a cultural investment for future generations of Filipinos,” he added.
NCCA Chairman Felipe de Leon Jr. says, the Met will serve as a mini Cultural Center of the Philippines, a people’s theater, with high-end theater productions and art exhibitions will be hosted at the actual CCP.
For many years the City of Manila and the GSIS fought over rights and no work was done to restore the Met. The government pension fund owned the building, and in 2004, the city was given the right to repair and rehabilitate the theater in coordination with the NCCA. Nothing happened. The national government could not spend on the theater because the city had the usufruct over it. Now that problem has been solved.
The Met is an 84-year-old national cultural treasure and one of our country’s rare art deco buildings still standing. National Artist Fernando Amorsolo and other masters such as Isabelo Tampinco had worked on its design. And famed performers, like Honorata “Atang” dela Rama, the National Artist known as the “Queen of the Kundiman,” performed there. The structure survived World War II, but not the neglect of the government since then.
Restored, the Met will cease to be a symbol of urban decay and government inability to preserve cultural treasures.
The NCCA says it will take two years for the Met to be restored to its old glory. That’s great, considering how notoriously slow government, specially this Aquino government, is. And we have to say, thank you. Mr. Abad.