Aug 6, 2020

We don’t want to be the bearer of even more bad news, but the historic Philam Life Theater is currently being dismantled.

GOODBYE, PHILAMLIFE. The dismantling of a Manila architectural icon continues today on United Nations Avenue. Photographs taken by Gregory Dorris on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

Posted by Icomos 20th Century Heritage Philippines on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The fate of the performing arts theater was first brought to question in 2012 after it was revealed that the complex was purchased by a mall developer. Now, people’s worst fears were confirmed as photos of the building without the glass curtain walls began circulating around the internet.

Prior to this, a petition asking the developers to spare the complex from demolition was launched by former Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra musical director Olivier Ochanine. 

“This is one of the best performance halls in the entire Philippines and must be saved,” the petition said. “It has some of the best acoustics for Manila’s orchestras, choirs, and solo musical artists and its destruction would be a gigantic loss for Filipino culture and heritage.”

Philam Life Theater has also been recognized by local and international musical talents for its superior acoustics. Photo by Urbanroamer on Wikimedia Commons.

Located in Ermita, Manila, the Philam Life Theater first opened its doors in 1961 and served as Manila’s cultural center in the years that followed. The building, designed by architect Carlos Arguelles, is inspired by International Style architecture: a style that emphasizes the use of modular forms and flat surfaces.

The theater was known for its acoustics, which was designed by Bolt, Beranek & Newman. This company was also responsible for designing the acoustics of the Sydney Opera House, the United Nations Assembly Hall in New York and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Its interiors feature multi-panel carved narra murals by sculptor José Alcántara, which depicts the country’s folklore and mythical characters.

[READ: National Museum now displays Jose P. Alcantara’s 50-feet relief sculpture]

The theater was once home to one of sculptor Jose Alcantara’s biggest carved wood pieces, which depicts elements from Philippine history and folklore. Photo by Urbanroamer on Wikimedia Commons.

In its 52-year history, the theater served as the home of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philippine Educational Theater Association. It has also hosted performances from world-renowned musicians such as opera icon Renata Tebaldi, piano prodigy Cecile Licad and contralto Marian Anderson.


Header photo by Urbanroamer on Wikimedia Commons.

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TAGS: heritage nolisoli performing arts Philam Life Theater