In the heart of Manila still stands an old, curious-looking structure called the Manila Metropolitan Theater, or simply known to Manileños as MET. Abandoned for nearly two decades, most people have dismissed it as just another rotting relic from the past. However, more than just another spooky spot, the MET is actually a historical and architectural gem waiting — and hoping — to be restored to its former glory.
Looking at the now gloomy and decrepit Manila Metropolitan Theater, it’s kind of difficult to imagine that it was once a beautiful architectural gem during pre-war Manila. Designed by Filipino architect Juan Arellano and inaugurated on December 10, 1931, the Art Deco building boasted of Filipino and oriental touches both inside and out. Capiz shells, ornate stained glass windows, and Siamese dancer sculptures by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti adorned the theater’s front facade, while detailed relief carvings of Philippine plants by Isabello Tampingco served as accents of its lobby walls and interiors.
The MET was severely damaged during the devastating World War II bombings around Manila. It was reconstructed by the Americans after the war, but fell into disuse in the 1960s. It went through meticulous restoration in 1978 but eventually fell into ruin once more, until it was finally closed and abandoned in 1996 due to ownership dispute between the city government and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Despite the plans and efforts to renovate and reopen the MET, the theater has remained a shadow of its former self. Through the decades, tales of its glory days — of the shows and plays that graced its stage, of the lavish after-show parties where the rich and the famous rubbed elbows over cocktails — have been replaced with ghost stories dubbing it as the Philippines' Most Haunted.
Until that fateful day in February 2012 when I joined the free Postal Heritage Tour organized by the Filipinas Stamp Collectors' Club , I was oblivious to the plight of this historical and cultural gem. It was something that I passed by mindlessly while on my way in and out of Manila. Sadly, no one knows what the ultimate fate of the MET will be, so I try to visit it every now and then, searching every shabby nook and cranny for remaining stories to document in film.