Sunday, March 31, 2013

A part of my life: The PhilAm Life Theater

When I was a kid I used to pass by this wonderful building, wondering why it was so amazing. No joke. The U.N. Avenue was a common route to my old "office" where I used to sell chocolate lollipops every weekend at the National Federation for Women's Club building, a post-war era building that stood on what was once a pre-war site where heroines helped each other in helping a noble cause.

United Nations Avenue, then, was filled with small flags of the different countries of the world. And at the end of the road was the building of the PhilAm Life. I used to wonder what the inside of the structure was like, seeing schedules of shows outside and of different events being held in that auditorium until one day, due to the incidental play of our school, a re-presentation of "A Dreamer Named Joseph"

Honestly, I wasn't focusing on the play. I found myself staring at the ceiling of the auditorium and being mesmerized by the glass panels that they used for the lighting. And I would so often glance at the wooden sculptures at the sides, making out every detail in the darkness of the theater. Some months after that, I myself got the chance to perform on its hallowed halls.

The Philam Life Auditorium

And with that was the opportunity to relish the details of the hall.

The Pop Koro festival of 2012, of which I was a participant, was held in that auditorium. I actually was all smiles as I looked at the murals above the doors to the theater and the sculptures inside, during the five minute breaks and the free time when I explored the area (I was very pasaway, then as now, leaving the group just to discover everything about the venue.) 

And with the practices that we had, taping our feet on the wooden floor of the stage, we were told by our conductor and choirmaster, Patrick Frias, that the acoustics of the whole area was excellent... and he should know. He has been there before, with the Marian Choir of Cavite and his other choirs. To prove this, our choir performed with no microphones on stage.

The JGSS Children's Choir
Months passed after that last performance, my last performance on stage, when news of the theater facing demolition. It was devastating. The theater that I once loved, the last one where I performed on stage with my choir mates, to be destroyed. But, far from that, I wondered what will become of the things that captured my fascination before?

The facade of that building, the murals and the wooden relief sculptures... what would become of that? It was a horrific thought that something that has been part of my life, and probably the lives of many performers who have performed on its hallowed halls, would be destroyed to make way for something that is not remarkable and is unimpressive, just for the sake of profit.

What has become of our nation? Why is it able to sacrifice its beauty, heritage and culture for the sake of money?

And to think that this had such a glorious past! It was beautiful in every definition of the word.

I have always said that a nation that does not regard its past with importance can never move forward. Destroying structures like the PhilAm Life for the sake of financial gain is like destroying a library full of books on wisdom for the sake of putting up a store there, which is the case of many areas here in our country. And I lament that fact.

Why? Because these places are significant. We learn from them. And without them our country will be nothing more than a hollow shell of condominiums and malls, devoid of any art or a sense of importance of its past. And, let's face it, who would appreciate a mall or a condominium that looks exactly like any mall or condominium around the country? We can never cut off the past because that would be like snuffing out the flame of light that guides us through a dark road. 

This is my side of the argument: Do we want to be a country of malls and condominiums? A country without a history? A country devoid of art and culture? Think about it.

Save our heritage. Save the Philam Life Building.