Commentary

Has NCCA committed grievous culture crime by renaming the Met?

While we commend the agency for undertaking this renovation, renaming it after a government office is out of the question

The ownership fund of the Manila Metropolitan Theater came from the National Endowment Fund of President Benigno Aquino III's administration, not from the NCCA coffers. (Photo courtesy of CCP)

After all the hoopla about the third reopening of the Manila Metropolitan Theater comes a big letdown: it reportedly carries a new name.

Along with the announcement of the reopening timed for the 123rd Independence Day celebration on June 12, the official Facebook page of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has announced its new name: the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Metropolitan Theater (NCCA Metropolitan Theater).


Announcement on the official Facebook page of NCCA that drew reactions from the culture sector

While the NCCA has not confirmed this with an official statement, its official Facebook page has repeatedly referred to the Met as the NCCA Metropolitan Theater.

An insider confirmed that the change of name was discussed by the NCCA board, but obviously nothing came out of it.

The NCCA official Facebook page should stop referring to the historic building as the NCCA Metropolitan Theater. While we commend the agency for undertaking this renovation, renaming it after a government office is out of the question.

For one, Section 22 of Republic Act No. 10066 prohibits renaming of national cultural treasures or important cultural property by local or national legislation without the approval of the National Historical Commission. This applies to the Manila Metropolitan Theater, as it was declared a national cultural treasure (NCT) in 2010.

Just look at the outrage from the cultural sector when the NCCA post was seen on the internet. Writer and conservation advocate Bambi Harper said the move is simply ridiculous, and whoever had thought of it has no sense of history.

Conservation advocate Bambi Harper said whoever thought of the renaming has no sense of history

Writer Belinda Olivares-Cunanan thinks the new name will have people mistaking the landmark for a basketball venue. “That’s what NCAA was all about in the days of Caloy Loyzaga, Moro Lorenzo, and all the great basketball stars. Manila Metropolitan Theater is a very dignified name. Why attach the NCCA? Why do we always spoil a good thing? We should demonstrate in front of the Met and protest the NCCA attachment.”

 

Writer Elizabeth Lolarga posted on FB that for continuity’s sake, the old name of the Met should be retained. “It’s a historic landmark.” Writer and editor Thelma Sioson San Juan noted that the decision spoke of the “tarpaulin mentality” of bureaucrats. “Can you imagine if Carnegie Hall or Sydney Opera House changed its name every time governments changed?”

Actor-director Frank Rivera said the new name might confuse audiences who might mistake the theater for a basketball arena because of the initials NCCA. “The acronym cannot help resurrect the glory of the Metropolitan Theatre as the seat of arts and culture.”

Columnist Antonio J. Montalban pointed out that NCCA, which was created during the post-Marcos period, has no historic value compared to the Met. “Why choose non-history over history?”  Culture vulture and photographer Bernie Cervantes said that with this unpleasant development, Ms. Conchita Sunico and Nenita Manzano (former Met caretakers) must be squirming IN their graves.

From painter Phyllis Zaballero: “Why do they have a penchant or disease which makes people want to rename historic buildings, avenues, streets, plazas ad infinitum after themselves? Why erase the past? Why think that by renaming, they can lay claim to any improvement? It is we, the taxpayer, who have the moral power to do that. (This is) distressing and unbelievably ignorant.”

The NCCA was created only in 1992 under the new constitution, when Congress enacted Republic Act No. 7356, which institutionalized the establishment of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

After an ownership tug-of-war with the City of Manila for some time, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) sold the Met to the NCCA for P270 million, courtesy of the National Endowment Fund of then President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, arguably the biggest fund outlay for culture and the arts in recent years.

The theater was with money from the National Endowment Fund of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, not from NCCA coffers

In other words, the ownership fund did not come from NCCA coffers. The money used was given by the previous administration, and not from the agency’s regular budget.

It is just a few days before the 123rd celebration of Independence Day, with the theme “Kalayaan 2021: Diwa sa Pagkakaisa at Paghilom ng Bayan,” and featuring cultural events.

The Met re-opening—about 26 years after it closed in 1996—is also a celebration of the fifth centenary of the Victory at Mactan and 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. “The event will serve as the maiden show of the MET after 25 years, since its closure in 1996,” NCCA said in a statement.

The Met officially opened in 1931, and re-opened in 1979 after the renovation spearheaded by Mrs. Imelda Marcos.

We hope the NCCA doesn’t ruin the celebration by committing a grievous cultural crime on its third re-opening.

We note that the initial celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in Cebu was marred with the guest speaker (Sen. Bong Go) referring to Lapu Lapu as of Tausug origin, and a native of Mindanao.

But that is another story.

Read more:

Why I can never forget Tita Conching and the Met

About author

Articles

He’s a freelance journalist who loves the opera, classical music and concerts, and who has had the privilege of meeting many of these artists of the performing arts and forging enviable friendships with them. Recently he’s been drawing readers to his poems in Facebook, getting known as the ‘Bard of Facebook.’

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