The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued a cease and desist order against the demolition of the historic Capitol Theater, the pre-war art deco building designed by the Philippines’ first National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil, and one of the last surviving structures in the Battle of Manila in 1945.
Officials from the NCCA arrived at 11am yesterday to deliver the order and save what was left of the 800-seater theater, which began to be demolished in 2020, according to heritage advocacy group Renacimiento Manila.
As a landmark designed by a National Artist, the Capitol Theater is considered to be an Important Cultural Property (ICPs) under the National Cultural Heritage Act.
Yet news of the Capitol Theater being torn down first surfaced in 2017, and its demolition was previously approved by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Historical Historical Commission of the Philippines and National Museum as required under law.
This was to make way for a high-rise development by Ascott Resources & Development Corp., which was ordered to retain the theater’s tower and facade.
Heritage advocates sounded the alarm anew over the continuation of the theater’s deconstruction earlier this month after an advocate witnessed the facade being demolished.
“This is what happens when you completely ‘trust’ a developer without actually making repercussions for breaking agreements,” Renacimiento Manila wrote. “So what is the plan now? To let the developer just recreate the tower and facade making a hamfisted work of the original with no regards to the age and value of what is currently standing in the location? Have the agencies totally given up? Has the city government in charge of Manila also given up in saving the city’s heritage and will just sit happily in the squalor of being a faceless city in urban decay, a city not worth visiting in Asia?”
Netizens also wondered whether the NCCA’s act came too late.
“This demolition has been going on for some time and it’s not as if the Capitol Theatre was a lost landmark. Why only now does NCCA finally act, when there is next to nothing left to save?!” one user commented.
“At this point why bother? It’s going to cost way more and take three times as long to rebuild. As much as I want to save the building, that property could be used for something more useful to the local economy,” another argued.
“NCCA comes in just when the building has been totally wrecked,” one lamented.