The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) now owns the National Cultural Treasure Manila Metropolitan Theater (Met) after the Deed of Absolute Sale (DOAS) was signed yesterday, 11 June 2015, at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Office, between GSIS, represented by General Manager Robert G. Vergara, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) represented by Chairman Felipe M. de Leon Jr. Present at this historic event was Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The NCCA, the country’s prime government agency for arts and culture, credits the efforts of the national government, led by President Benigno Aquino III, and DBM Secretary for this development. The DBM released P270 million from the National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts (NEFCA) for the sale of the Met from its owner, the GSIS.
The purchase of the Met is an important initial step towards the fullest conservation of the property by the NCCA in coordination with the concerned cultural agencies, commensurate with its status as a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark.
In addition, the NCCA Board of Commissioners emphasizes that there is a need to revive a great architectural landmark of the artistic and cultural creativity of the Filipino people and to restore it according to the highest standards of heritage conservation: “This will indeed be an iconic building of Filipino heritage that affirms the NCCA’s vision of the Filipino culture as the wellspring of global and national well-being.”
The NCCA initially envisions a restored Met to become a center for arts and culture, with additional exhibition galleries and its theater and performance halls for use by artists and cultural workers as well as by students and the general public. The Commission also expects the Met to provide additional space for its various needs in the implementation of the National Cultural Heritage Act.
The Met was designed by architect Juan Arellano in the Art Deco style and was opened in 1931. Through the years, it hosted performances by local as well as international artists. It was first declared a National Historical Landmark by the then National Historical Institute, presently the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), in 1973, and a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum on June 23, 2010.
Heritage conservation experts have said that the Met is culturally significant, being “the only existing art deco building in its scale and integrity in Asia.” Its exterior and interior elements exhibit Filipinized style of ornamentation in the melding of ingenious art deco elements and indigenous motifs interspersed by the opulent works of Italian sculptor Franceso Monti and National Artist for visual arts Fernando Amorsolo and other Filipino masters.
It is historically significant because of its connection with historical and cultural figures such as Juan Arellano, Arcadio Arellano, Amorsolo, Antonio Buenaventura and Nicanor Abelardo. It was accepted as the country’s first “national theatre,” being a venue for cultural performance, social events, and visual art showcases catering to all possible social strata and serving as a proverbial cocoon where the country’s foremost artists launched their careers. The Met has also figured in significant events related to Philippine political life as a favored social venue by Philippine presidents.
The NCCA’s purchase of the MET stems from its mandate under Republic Act No. 7356, or the NCCA Law, and Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act., both of which mandate the NCCA to formulate and implement policies and plans to conserve and promote the nation’s cultural and historical heritage by supporting and promoting the establishment and preservation of cultural and historical monuments, markers, names, and sites. Through the years and pursuant to this specific mandate, NCCA programs and projects related to heritage conservation have been funded by NEFCA.
The Met will certainly become the national symbol of the continuing heritage conservation movement in the country.