As good as gold

/ 09:29 PM May 24, 2013

Early this year, we were shocked to hear that the storied Philam Life building on UN avenue in Manila had been sold to SM.

Was the prime example of ’50s architecture, which housed the prized performing venue, the Philamlife auditorium-theater, going to end up as the latest in a long line of lookalike malls?


What a tragic denouement that would be for one of the city’s most celebrated stages!



To better wrap our mind around that chilling prospect, we asked some colleagues in heritage advocacy for details. The confirmation came soon enough—as well as news that a “save the Philamlife Theater” movement had been initiated—to which we obviously second the motion and hope that many artists will also do the same!

We have watched many memorable productions at Philamlife, and have been a fan of its fabulous acoustics, thanks to the beautiful wooden bass-relief mural running along both sides of the theater’s interior.

Wood is one of the best conductors of sound, so the theater’s acoustics are better than most, and it would be such a pity if they could no longer be gratefully heard.

In the course of our theater career, we have acted in and directed many productions at Philamlife. It was such a pleasure speaking or singing with no need for microphones, thanks to the venue’s uniquely intimate and resonant acoustics.

Young theater people should be able to savor that experience, too, and of course the city’s theater and music lovers shouldn’t have to do without it!

That’s why we’re heartened to hear that SM has pledged to save and preserve the Philamlife building and theater, in full cognizance of “our responsibility as corporate citizens.”

We trust that the pledge is, like the theater itself, as good as gold, and that, in due time, we will again enjoy many more memorable shows at Philamlife.


To be sure, heritage advocates have to be on their guard, because some pledges end up not being kept. For instance, when Rizal Theater was torn down, it was pledged that a new theater would be built—but, to this day, it hasn’t been replaced.

Happier ending

Another heritage story with a happier ending involves the Metropolitan Theater: When we first came to Manila to study and become a part of the arts scene, it was in ruins. Later, parts of it became a boxing ring—and another had crassly reinvented itself as a gay bar!

When we started our career as a journalist, we penned a “conscience-stirring” piece about the Met ruins—and, wonder of wonders, Imelda Marcos happened to read the piece and heeded its call to rebuild the Metropolitan Theater to its former, celebrated glory. —And, happily for all of us, that pledge was kept!

Here’s hoping that a similar happy ending of kept pledges is in store for us, thanks to SM, at the olden and golden Philamlife!

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TAGS: Auditorium, Malls, Manila, Philam Life building, SM, Theater
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