A Glimpse of Manila Metropolitan Theater

Manila Metropolitan Theater

You may be passing by her everyday. She, who was a victim and managed to survive the war. She, who was a witness to the bombings, powerful calamities, and countless demonstrations. She, who stood still amid the ever changing cityscape of Manila. She, who was neglected and forgotten. The classic and beautiful Manila Metropolitan Theater.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
The old yet still beautiful Manila Metropolitan Theater

A landmark on her own right, the Manila Metropolitan Theater or simply the MET was designed by the great  Filipino architect Juan Arellano, the same man who designed the Manila Central Post Office Building and Jones Bridge.

Erected in 1931 and tagged as the “grand dame” of Manila’s theaters, the MET sits along Padre Burgos Street, in the heart of the old Plaza Arroceros which spans from the current Manila City Hall to the Post Office Building. Plaza Arroceros shrunk to what is known today as Plaza Lawton.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
Bronze sculpture by Francesco Riccardo Monti

The MET is one of the few remaining Art Deco structures in the country. She is adorned outside with bronze sculptured deities by the late Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti. Her colorful facade was designed by Juan’s brother Arcadio Arellano showcasing grills, walls and columns decorated with Philippine plants, capiz and colorful tiles in an ethnic Malayan design. The translucent stained glass is made by Kraut Art Glass, a company with German origin specializing in creating finest world class stained glass.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
An empty lobby of once crowded theater

Inside are woodcarvings of native ornamentation as seen on her walls and interiors. It is made by the late Filipino sculptor Isabelo Tampinco. Originally, National Artist Fernando Amorsolo’s murals – “The Dance” and “History of Music” were displayed in her lobby, but are now in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Museum for protection and safety. The theater’s proscenium was specially made by the master in architectural decoration, House of Precast, while her ceiling is adorned by mangoes, bamboos, bananas and other native plants carvings.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
A glimpse of the interior with the detailed ceiling

During her glorious days, the MET is home to all-time favorite theatrical performances, operas, musicals and zarzuelas. Today, what is left is a dark stage; creepy halls decorated with thick dust; empty and dilapidated rooms and hallways; and neglected artworks that echo her vibrant past.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
The proscenium as seen from the upper deck.

A long ownership battle between the City of Manila and the GSIS stalled the planned restoration of the theater. It was only in 2004 when both camps agreed to set aside their differences and restore the MET, in coordination with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Museo ng Maynila, Mr. German Moreno, GSIS and the City Council of Manila, the Metropolitan Theater Restoration Steering Committee was formed.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
An old chandelier waiting to light an dark hall once more
Manila Metropolitan Theater
Empty seats waiting for usual patrons

It will take years before the MET regain her long lost glory and while that day is still out of sight, I was very lucky to be given an opportunity to have a glimpse of her. It is not everyday that I get a chance to enter inside the majestic theater, where every wall is a surprise and every detail is an art. The MET will forever be a testament of how great Manila was, and how great Manila can still become.

Manila Metropolitan Theater
Every wall is a surprise, every detail is an art

A tour inside needs a written permit duly approved by GSIS. Thanks to Mr. Lawrence Chance and the rest of Filipinas Stamp Collector Club for arranging the tour. The Filipinas Stamp Collectur Club organizes a free Postal History Tour every third Sunday of the month, you may contact Mr. Lawrence Chan at l_rence_2003[at]yahoo[dot]com to join the trip. Watch out for my Postal History Tour entry soon!

*First publication: 19-May-2010


  1. Hindi ko inaasahan na, ganito na pala ang metropolitant na napabayaan na. At hindi na nabigyang pansin ng ating pamahalaan/gobyerno, na naging land mark ito sa ating bansa.

  2. Leslie

    Hi. I was wondering if Mr. Rence Chan on facebook is the one with Rizal Park as his profile picture? I wanted to contact him and see if I can have a chance to see the Met too. 🙂 Thank you.

  3. Jemrie Cuyugan

    Hello! I’m a student from Far Eastern University, and i am having my thesis right now. My topic is all about restoring the MET into something that everyone can benefit like the tourists. And i am thinking of replacing the theatre into a hotel but the facade and design (art deco) would still be there, inside of the theatre would become a lobby of hotel, have rooms have added floors but my design would be still in touch of a theatre-ish style in remembrance of the metropolitan theatre. Do you think my idea would be possible considering the environment near MET, also the land area? It would be nice if you can name some person that i can contact for any questions about MET. That would help a lot. Thank you very much! 😉

  4. Roy Zacarias

    The first and last time na makapasok ako sa MET, when i watched El Filibusterismo, required sa Literature class ko way back1992, delapidated na that time….almost half lang napanood ko sa play…umikot ako ng umikot sa theater..its so amazing…at nakakalungkot na sa tuwing napapadaan ako ngayon…

  5. Marc Pagdilao

    Hello! I’m a student of De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde,and I am currently taking up my thesis, and the restoration of the Metropolitan Theatre is my topic, i’m just wondering do you now any anyone that tours inside Met? Can i have his/her number? it would be so awesome if you know someone. =)))

    1. Lakwatsero

      Mr. Rence Chan of Filipinas Stamp Collectors Club regularly organizes tour to MET for free. You may get in touch with him in FB, tell him I refer you to him.

  6. sarrah kay

    Thank you for the post. Its really informative. When I was in high school I watched a documentary regarding MET, I told myself I would like to restore the building to it’s former glory. Today, I’m a senior Architecture student and my thesis phase. I proposed for the restoration of MET which my adviser gladly approved. I now have the opportunity and I want to ask for some help. Thank you. God bless. Help save MET. 🙂 [sorry for the long post]

  7. […] The MET is one of the few remaining Art Deco structures in the country. Enhance outside with bronze sculptured deities by the late Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti. Its colorful facade was designed by Juan’s brother Arcadio Arellano showcasing grills, walls and columns decorated with Philippine plants, capiz and colorful tiles in an ethnic Malayan design. The translucent stained glass is made by Kraut Art Glass, a company with German origin specializing in creating finest world class stained glass. (https://www.lakwatsero.com/spots/a-glimpse-of-metropolitan-theater/) […]

  8. Danny

    Wolfgang at the MET! June 18, 2011. See you there! =)

  9. this is awesome. been there myself just a few days ago to watch a play.

  10. Randele A. Arcilla

    The Manila Metropolitan Theater was destroyed and bombed by the stronger of the combined American and Philippine Commonwealth military ground forces to defeated and fought against the Japanese Imperial forces in the city and urban fighting on 1945 during the Battle for the Liberation of Manila.

    When the Filipino troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the American troops of the United States Army to enters to liberated in Manila Metropolitan Theater and defeated Japanese troops, marine soldiers and sailors of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces.

  11. Reynaldo Principe

    I raise my hat to the members of the Restoration Steering Committee, and to Mr. German Moreno, and many thanks for their efforts in bringing back life to the Met. I pray and hope for their success, and to see the Met functional again in the future. It is indeed a very significant part of our past Manila. My father, Domingo A. Principe, was once a part of the zarzuela and stage shows. I also used to regularly walk around the area in the early 70’s when I attended the Mapua Institute of Technology, located along Muralla Street in Intramuros. It was already in bad shape then. I would love to get the chance to watch a classic Tagalog movie, live show, or concert in this theatre whenever I come to visit the Philippines.

  12. mikhaela santos

    noong nakita ko yan, sakay ako sa lrt, nasabi ko sa sarili ko na ang laki-laki pero walang pakinabang kaya KAPAG yumaman ako, bibilhin ko yan tapos papagiba ko kasi mukang wala ng pagasa, yung lote gagawin kong mini-forest talaga, pero ngayon na nalaman ko kung anu PALA siya at kung gaano siya kaganda, naisip kong mali ang plano ko.. 🙂 may mas maganda pa palang dapat gawin sakanya.. :))

    1. Well said mikhaela 🙂

  13. Mark

    Thanks for those beautiful photos. Please keep us posted! May be you should set up a facebook page for the ‘Save the Met’

    1. Thanks Mark 🙂

  14. Cielo

    Good day sir! It’s Lawrence CHAN :))

    1. Hi Lawrence :))

  15. Wow! ..this is the first time i saw the interior of the Met..maganda and elegant pala although dilapidated na…sana someday..sana pag naayos na ung Met..makapasok ako sa loob and makaattend ako sa mga events na iheheld dun..thanks for posting this pics… 😀

  16. angelindisguise

    nung student p lng ako and i happen to pass by there natatakot ako tumingin kc feeling ko me mumu!pro gus2 ko cya pasukin,sayang n building ang laki dpat n pakinabangan!

    1. Sayang talaga! We should value it because it’s one of the few remaining structures in the city that remind us of our vibrant past!

  17. lil-bro

    wow! gusto ko din po makapasok dyan! sana marestore na sya.

    1. It will be restored! But it will take some time.

  18. yin

    at yung isa pa, manila central post office..pero dun nakapasok ako.. 🙂

  19. yin

    ndi ko ito inaasahan sir…
    napakabilis mong ipinamahagi ang mga larawan..hehe…nung student pa ako, lagi ako napapahinto diyan, kelangan ko kasing maglakad para makasakay ng jeep na Blumentrit-dimasalang…iniisip ko “anu kaya ang laman?”..misteryo tlga to saakin.(seryoso yan!) salamat at nakita ko na.. 🙂

  20. It looks like it has so much potential! I hope they can restore it to its full glory soon! It will certainly give the Filipino morale a boost.

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