Like a lowly caterpillar wrapping itself in a cocoon with the hope of one day emerging into a beautiful butterfly, so is the vision for the long-abandoned Metropolitan Theater which fell into disrepair and left covered in dirt and rust after an ownership dispute five years ago.
Not much is left of the theater's former grandeur after decades of erosion and abuse. Its colors have faded with time. Graffiti were painted along its arcades and glass shards and pieces of broken tiles have reduced this once renowned monument into an urban ruin.
The theater’s bid to regain its former glory was not lost to some employees who volunteered recently for #METamorphosis, a clean-up and restoration campaign also participated in by UST College of Architecture students and several other individual volunteers. The main goal -- to clear the theater’s arcades, trim the surrounding grass, sweep the scattered debris, and collect trash – jobs which the volunteers happily accomplished.
Lyber Taruc was one of the volunteers whose interest in the arts led him to help in the restoration drive. “Although it will definitely take time for the theater to be completely restored, I still believe that if we make an effort to save this piece of cultural heritage -- one that has witnessed the growth of Filipino Art over the years -- perhaps one day, we can witness its complete metamorphosis unfold,” he said.
On the other hand, Masanori Takamoto can’t help but get sentimental in doing her part in the restoration, having heard wonderful stories from her mom who used to perform as a MET dancer. “I am delighted to learn that there are opportunities for me and the other employees to carry-on my socio-civic engagements that started when I was still a university student.”
It was not all work, however. It was also a day of fun as volunteers were treated to a short program of music and guitar trio and intermission, a heritage tour of the theater, and lessons on the theater’s history and architecture by architect Mary Rajelyn “Raj” Busmente.
The art deco building was designed by renowned architect Juan M. Arellano in 1935 and has been considered a national heritage, being one of Manila’s few remaining pre-war buildings.
The design was inspired by the German song "On Wings of song" (Auf Flugen de Gesanges) written by Heinrich Heine and put to music by Felix Mendelssohn. Despite its Western inspiration, the theater still retains its national "Filipinized" theme.
However, years of neglect had led to the deterioration of the theater before it was deemed unusable. This prompted the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to lead METamorphosis.
“Our employer provides its employees with opportunities to nourish their soul through community involvement. This not only allows the company to give back to the country but also enables our employees to contribute to social development which in turn, keeps them happy and engaged,” said one of the volunteers.
Driven by its commitment to sustainability, employee volunteerism enables companies to create a #WonderfulPH through nation building. Certain companies provide activity-based and skill-based volunteering to support the work of a partner community or organization by joining various advocacies and providing pro-bono services, skills transfer, or capacity building.
Everyone who shares the same passion for volunteerism and nation building, may continue to do so by communicating with NGOs and civic societies whose programs include the preservation of heritage structures.