the MANILA FILM CENTER
Little did I know that this building would someday be home to my dreams… and I guess home to some of my occasional nightmares, and by the latter I don’t mean the ghostly reputation of the building but rather my new-found professional life.
I loved the way Howie Severino describes the building in his blog; http://blogs.gmanews.tv/sidetrip/blog/?/archives/42-The-Manila-Film-Center-mystery-A-ghostly-place-or-an-urban-legend.html
The Manila Film Center, in a far corner of the Cultural
Center complex on Roxas Blvd., is probably the country's most infamous structure. Some would say it is cursed, although a Korean-owned company is currently making a flamboyant effort to rehabilitate its image with a transvestite Las Vegas-like act. Now housing the "Amazing Philippine Theatre," the massive building is patronized nightly by dozens of Korean honeymooners who pose in front of the kitschy Egyptian Pharoah figure above the doorway before entering to enjoy the performance by the "country's prettiest gays." Most of the couples are completely unaware of its ghostly reputation, if one doesn't consider Filipino males with long hairless legs as apparitions. But prettiest
gays or not, ordinary superstition-loving Filipinos have avoided the building
Even before it was finished in 1982, in time for the Manila International Film Festival, Imelda's film palace -- as others would call it -- suffered the first of its outrageous misfortunes. On November 17, 1981, during the pouring of cement, an upper floor collapsed, sending an untold number of workers hurtling into fresh cement or onto upright steel bars where they hung like barbeque (this was a witness's analogy, not mine) for hours until their bodies were retrieved. The story all this time, or at least as I and countless others believed it, was that Imelda immediately ordered the bodies in the cement to be paved over so that work could resume and her looming deadline met. News
about the tragedy was censored during the martial law era, so rumors and ghosts
filled the vacuum.
So in all honesty, the first time I saw the building, I said to myself that it wouldn’t be easy heading up a team for the preparation of set designs and set pieces for the Amazing Show since by that time, I was already music and art director. It was our task to make the set pieces for the show with all the 14 sequences and a hell of a lot of technical difficulties given that the theatre was never really designed for theatre.
In short, my team and I, as well as the engineering contractors practically lived in the building for the next three months without electricity, water or a decent comfort room. Slowly, we cleaned and renovated the building to get it ready for a December maiden presentation. There was this particular instance where the entire team boycotted works as apparently “something” or “someone” helped one of the crew carry a 12-foot ladder at the intermediate level. I simply said that they should have just been appreciative of the fact that the ghosts here are friendly and if I might add “familiar” with construction work. I guess that they didn’t find it funny… because I ended up with three other people brave enough to spend the rest of night at the Film Center as we hanged a 26-foot high back drop onto one of the battens.
Upon the signing of the new lease of the building and with no investors whatsoever and with the amount of losses that we’ve suffered over the previous couple of years, we are still at it. Developing, renovating and improving the Manila Film Center. It is really a gargantuan task considering about 76,000 sq.m. of floor area, we’ve yet to cover half of the objective.
But work goes on, dreams remain and hopefully, much like the field of dreams… if we build it, they will come