Last Updated: November 13th, 2018
Widely known as one of Manila’s most haunted buildings, the Manila Film Center was commissioned to cater to the first Manila International Film Festival. While the circumstances leading to its completion remain controversial, this architectural landmark fell into disrepair–wasting much of the government funds that was earmarked for its construction.
1. The Manila Film Center was designed by Architect Froilan Hong.
Born in Gumaca, Quezon on October 5, 1939, he later obtained his degree in Architecture at Mapúa Institute of Technology (now Mapúa University).
He went on to top the licensure exam a year after graduating and was later offered a teaching job at Mapúa. Seeking to expand its School of Architecture, the University of the Philippines recruited Hong–who, together with Dean Aurelio Juguilon, spearheaded the Architecture curriculum of the School of Architecture to become a separate unit from the School of Fine Arts.
2. The building’s design was inspired by the famous Greek Parthenon.
3. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos envisioned the edifice to be capable of:
- Housing a 360-degree theater that showcases the panoramic views of the country’s famous tourist spots.
- An archival section capable of being operated as the national film and audio-visual archive.
- Audio-visual rooms.
- A filmmaking laboratory.
4. Among the features of what was then known as the “Film Palace” include a central auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,600. And right above it are two auditaria that can each accommodate 500 people–while at high level is a series of viewing rooms with the largest one capable of accommodating 100 people.
5. It was built at a cost of US$25 Million.
6. The first international film festival that it hosted (January 18-29, 1982) was envisioned to rival that of Cannes and Venice. Among those that were present during its opening include big names in Hollywood including Brooke Shields, Jeremy Irons, George Hamilton, and Robert Duvall.
7. The Philippine Government–at that time–tapped UNESCO to serve as a consultant for the construction of Manila Film Center. The Director-General of UNESCO arranged for a consultant to carry out a mission to design the film archives level, specify technical equipment and supplies, advise staff trainings, and to set out administrative procedures for cataloguing documents, among others.
8. With a tight deadline to follow, a total of 4,000 workers worked round the clock until its scheduled opening.
9. On November 17, 1981, tragedy struck, when a scaffolding collapsed–trapping over 160 workers under a quick-drying cement. While the official tally of those who perished remains to be disputed, it is estimated that at least 30 to as high as 100 lost their lives that day.
Security measures were immediately taken by the Marcos regime to keep the press away. And official rescue teams were not dispatched until 9 hours after the incident happened.
10. Immediately after the incident, Prime Minister Cesar Virata disapproved the US$5 Million subsidy that was allotted for the festival. A Presidential decree (No. 1986) was later passed to allow leniency in the films that can be screened at the festival–allowing for soft-porn films under the guise of artistic films to be screened. This was done to recoup expenses spent during the festival.
11. The building fell into disrepair after the 1990 earthquake that struck Manila and the rest of Luzon.
12. The rehabilitation of the Manila Film Center was spearheaded in 2001 by then CCP President Armita Rufino, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Architect Froilan Hong. The estimated cost spent at that time stood at Php300 Million.
13. The theater would later become home to the Amazing Show led by mostly transgender performers until their lease expired in 2009.
14. During the time of former Senate President Franklin Drilon, the Philippine Senate considered relocating to the Film Center. The plan was scrapped after a three-hour fire on February 19, 2013 damaged the building.
The Manila Project
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