“Do you know what this is?” says Ito Kish with a mischievous tone in his voice. I couldn’t quite put a name to it but I knew I had seen it before. “It’s the Metropolitan Theater!” he exclaimed excitedly. That’s it! Yes that stunning old derelict building that I often passed whenever I had to go somewhere in old Manila. You can see it quite clearly – the geometric shapes iconic of the art deco era embodied in these handcrafted vases.
During an interview for the Philippine Star, Ito personally toured me around his showroom ending with the very first preview of his latest design – the Arellano Vase. He at first didn’t want me to talk about it but later that day I received an email with this stunning photo saying that he changed his mind and in case I wanted to write about it. Lucky for TheGypsetters.Net, this is the first time it has ever been showcased since it’s unveiling in Maison et Objets Asia just this week and will only be released to the Philippine market in this October’s edition of Manila Fame.
“Art Deco influenced angles, sunburst patterns and linear design,” points out Kish. “These vases of Philippine handmade fine bone china personify the era and the Manila Metropolitan Theater, Juan M. Arellano’s masterpiece.” This vase is an homage to the stunning pre-war architectural heritage Manila was once known for. The Manila Metropolitan Theater was inaugurated in 1931, at the height of the Art Deco era when during the Common Law period Manila was a vibrant, cosmopolitan Asian capital.
“The Philippines needed a modern cultural center for operas, concerts, and plays, and he planned to achieve a monumental one through its dimensions, elevations, and splendid decorations, and through its harmonious liens it would symbolize an organ or a cathedral.” Explains Arellano about his design during one his interviews in January 1930. The interiors had many collaborations with artists such as Italian sculptor Francesco Ricardo Monti, Isabelo Tampingco and national artist Fernando Amorsolo who painted two stunning murals entitled “The Dance” and “The History of Music.” Sadly the bulding has been left to ruin and is in such a poor state that it is too dangerous to even enter.
As a seasoned Gypsetter, I always find the historic appeal of other cities so enthralling. I love old buildings and even more so the integration of the past and present. This is something we see in the region notably Singapore and Hanoi and of course I’m not even going to mention the countless beautiful cities in Europe. I find it sad that while most of us appreciate it as tourists abroad we can’t seem to muster up the support to preserve our own heritage spaces. I think it’s wonderful that the effort is coming from the private sector with places like Blackbird in the old Nielsen Tower, Eric Paras’ A11, the newly opened The Henry Hotel and the recently renovated Juan Luna Place in Binondo. There is some hope however, as Manila City Hall is negotiating to buy back the theater from its current owner GSIS so that they may restore it. They are hoping to convert one of its wings still in use by GSIS offices for students in the performing arts.
I can’t wait for the day when I can walk into the Metropolitan Theater after a massive overhaul to see it resurrected in all its glory for a beautiful gala performance… But for now I will settle for a symbol of hope and homage in the form of this iconic Arellano vase.
Love and Light, Stephanie
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.