Passions and Obsessions

Sine Pop featured in Monocle: Our cinema in the ‘bamboo forest’

Repurposing a post-war home was an attempt to create something
with a sense of humility and honesty

The blend of concrete, bamboo and light frames the repurposed 1948 house at night.
The blend of concrete, bamboo and light frames the repurposed 1948 house at night.
Panoramic window frames the bamboo 'forest.'

Panoramic window frames the bamboo ‘forest.’

UPDATE: Sine Pop, the cinema in a “bamboo forest” that the TheDiarist.ph featured in our premier issue in December 2020, when it had just opened, is featured in the July/August 2022 issue of Monocle, the informative and prestigious magazine which, it is said, helped bring back people to reading even in this digital age.

The feature titled Independent Means said: “Ancestral houses in Metro Manila are typically refurbished into trendy cafes but Carlson Chan had a different idea when he acquired a 1948 home from its longtime owners of almost 70 years. He opened a cinema.”

In a seperate message to TheDiarist.ph, Chan, an advocate of Filipino contemporary culture, says that Sine Pop now does private film screenings but only occasionally, and it’s mostly used by film industry workers for events or workshops.—Editor

INTRODUCTION. While we fight ennui and struggle for survival in this pandemic, an interesting  “house” is taking shape quietly in Cubao, Quezon City. It’s a postwar house that has been redefined into a boutique cinema called SinePop. In FB, entrepreneur and design connoisseur David Kaufman, posting in the Philippine Modernism Appreciation Society page, calls it the “first beautiful adaptive reuse in the country,” adding, “I loathe Disneyland fake heritage.” He didn’t even know the architect and asked people to help him connect.

It is a 1948 house repurposed into a small cinema to screen Lav Diaz’s Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, and in the process help promote and share the love of indie  Filipino movie-making. There has been only one screening for a handful of people, the allowed attendance.

The 48-seat boutique cinema has DCP projector, 7.1 surround sound system and 7-meter screen. Located on St. Mary st. in Cubao, it is less than 8-minute walk from public stations.

In FB posts by its original owners, the house’s history is finally revealed:

Pedro Eugenio—
“This house was constructed in 1948 and was finished in December of the same year.
“The house stands on a 750sqm lot—it was built and designed by my father, Sotero Pasion Eugenio, who was a civil engineer from Laoag City, and his wife, my mother, Lourdes Sabas Segui, a pharmacist from Batac City, Ilocos Norte.
“My family lived in this property for almost 70 years (until 2017), during which we tried to preserve its original beauty, as it was built by my parents.
“I have many wonderful and tender memories living there. I’m happy to see that it has been restored beautifully.”

“Angelo Angeles—

“Proud that this was my grandfather/lolo’s house before Pedro Eugenio.
“Thank you for preserving this place, with so much memories since I was a kid. This was built by hand by my great grand lolo Sotero. I still recall every detail of the house from my lolo’s room where we spent countless of movies, my cousin’s room where we slept and took naps, and the living room where we had a bunch of Christmas memories. Now with a great design, even with the renovation it still takes me back.”—Editor  ️


Credit: Video by Bruce Rojas

I remember my first visit. The house had an air of happiness and  sadness at the same time. There was beauty in its decay. It had seen better days. But it was still beautiful.

It was only much later that we learned that the house was built in 1948 by the owners’ father, Pasion Eugenio, a civil engineer from Laoag City. There were two other structures on the site: a row of apartments and a bungalow. Judging by the windows, these two must have been added later at different times.

There was the main house (the one we kept), a row of apartments to the right (where the bamboos are now), and a bungalow at the rear (where we built the cinema). Originally we planned on demolishing everything to build a bigger cinema. But later due to budget concerns, and by happy accident, we decided to keep the main house and build the cinema behind it.

We were not going for a particular look. Rather, it was an attempt to build something with a sense of humility and honesty. We did not desire to create a striking facade. Instead we hid the cinema behind the old house and a bamboo “forest.” We did not want it to stand out. We wanted it to disappear.

Honesty led to our use of concrete, stone and unfinished materials. Whatever material we used had to serve a purpose. We wanted to use the material as it is, and not have to hide it behind a layer of paint or tiles. In the end this saved us additional costs, no more plastering or varnishing to hide the imperfections. We embraced the imperfections.

How about the interiors?

Before we renovated the house, it had a ground floor with very low ceiling. We deduced that the original structure was a typical post-war Filipino house­—it had a raised living space with a silong below. We believe that the family just dug into the ground to raise the height of the silong to a liveable height, then converted it into an additional living space. This made it very prone to flooding. Water would seep in from underneath when it rained. We decided to raise the whole house by about 1’ (300mm) to maintain the height of the ground floor and alleviate the risk of flooding.

The second-floor ceiling was high so we kept this height. The height and the roof vents keep the house cool even during summer. The windows on the second floor were capiz, which were painted over with layers of different paints. On the first floor, the windows were glass jalousies. We kept the original frames of all the wood windows.

The house has features that can be seen, and features that cannot be seen. It is difficult to explain in words some of the features. They must be experienced. If you don’t want spoilers, you can skip this part and experience the cinema for yourself.

You let the place lead you where it wants you to be. It is maze-like

 

As you arrive you are greeted by the rustling sound of bamboo leaves and the hum of tricycles in the background. You look around and see only a nice old house surrounded by bamboo trees, a veritable bamboo forest. You think, “Am I at the right place? I don’t see a cinema?”  You walk further down the road, and then head back to where you started.

Like finding the answer to a riddle, you discover a concrete box peeking through the bamboo grove. This must be it. You decide to enter.

You use your intuition and let the place lead you where it wants you to be. It is maze-like. There are several paths to enter, several pockets of delight to discover. Getting into the cinema is both puzzling and exciting. But in the end you will find your way.

As you walk on the path between the old house and the bamboo forest, you find something peculiar. There is a bridge that connects the old house to a concrete monolith that may be the cinema. A portal to inner space. This must be how you get in. You try to find out how to enter. You see someone in the old house.

When you enter the space, panoramic windows frame the bamboo forest outside. Looking out you feel like you’re watching a movie. It smells like wood. The walls are bare, except for a panel of African fabric.

The layers of the concrete counter echo the perimeter walls outside and the walls of the cinema. You ask the person behind the counter how to get to the cinema. They point you upstairs.  You walk up the stairs to the second floor. A large painting greets you. White walls and old capiz windows make you feel safe and comfortable.

On one side, a window frames the bamboo. On the other side, it frames a concrete wall. You think it is the neighbor’s ugly firewall, but upon closer inspection you realize it is the wall of the cinema. You then find it beautiful.

Within the clean white walls of the second floor gallery, there is something that seems out of place. A black box emerges from the corner of the room. It has several functions. It hides the utilities, serves as the ticketing counter, and marks the transition from old house to cinema. You walk down the dimly lit hallway.

At the end of the hall you see a rusty metal door framed by thick concrete on all sides. Passing through this door, you enter another world.

The rest I will leave you to discover.

Aside from things you see are things you do not see. Crystals were placed in a three-dimension grid inside the cinema. This grid connects to other grids located in the cafe, the bamboo forest and the courtyard.

These crystals were cleansed with a mix of holy waters. Some water was taken from the grotto at Lourdes, which I visited with my grandmother several years ago on the 8th of September, the birthday of Mother Mary. This holy water was mixed with water from Mt. Shasta, a holy mountain in Northern California, which some believe to be the crown chakra of the earth.

The crystals were then charged under several full moons, blue moons, and super moons, and lovingly placed in the structure during different stages of the construction process. If you look hard enough, you may see a crystal embedded in the concrete somewhere.

The cinema is not just a cinema. It is a vortex of energy that helps bring peace to those who visit.

Embracing the imperfections—is how the architect/author describes the blend of stone, concrete, metal. (Photo by Marco Protacio)Boutique cinema is in a structure hidden behind the house.The lavatory is like a stone sculpture hidden from view. (Photo by Marco Protacio)The pathway lined by concrete leads to another world. (Photo by Marco Protacio)Concrete structures frame the sky.Guests can linger in this cafe at Sine Pop.The 1948 house under construction—like a black-and-white paintingCrystals are imbedded in the concrete.
About author

Articles

Justin Xaver Dy Guiab is a 2015 Architecture graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He placed third in the 2017 architecture board exams. His interests include but are not limited to crystals, architecture, ballet and film. He loves nature, animals, and making weird but beautiful things.

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