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26.09.10; Sober Sunday, 19:12

Latest sickness: Loss of voice, thanks to two consecutive weekends of videoke + drinking spree. Yeah, everybody made fun of me. To the extent someone had to call me Smeagol. No. of siopao consumed this week: 3. No. of spaghetti this week: Lost count. No. of pounds lost: Next question, please?

Dear Niwee,

Thanks to Couchsurfing Manila, I get to hear about interesting events like the Silent Film Festival, Meditation Session in Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple (finally got to attend it this morning) and the free Postal Heritage & Nature Trail Walking Tour.

Every third Sunday of the month, the Filipinas Stamp Collectors’ Club holds a walking tour within Manila area to rediscover most of the city’s well-loved establishments. To my surprise, it’s been happening for more than a decade now. At the same time, their club holds meetings and auctions for stamps at this time of the month.

Last weekend, Lawrence Chan took us inside the Metropolitan Theatre (a dream come true for me!), Arroceros Forest Park and the Manila Post Office. We’re supposed to cover the Intramuros area after that but our group (comprised of Architecture, Tourism & HRM students, photographers, etc) probably lost momentum or got pooped after the much-awaited merienda time and short talk about philately. After this tour, Kat and I expressed our desire for time travel back to old Manila. Our ancestors must be very lucky.

The exteriors of Metropolitan Theatre (also known as Met). Photo by Kat.

Since I laid my eyes on this abandoned building in college, I felt the urge to come inside and surprise myself with proof of restoration efforts. Lawrence Chan says there’s an ongoing attempt to do so but, as usual, arts & culture always take the back seat. I doubt it’s the current administration’s priority either.

The creepy interiors of Met. Photo by Kat.

I was disappointed to see modern-type seats with cup holders instead of the wooden-type ones the prior generations were accustomed to. According to Lawrence Chan, restoration in the Philippines does NOT involve finding the original materials to attain the old look. Methinks it’s about bending to the meager budget alloted by the government and/or acquired from donations. Speaking of, the donors’ name appeared at the back of each seat. It was pretty dark to check each one of them but I noticed Rep. Manny Pacquiao was very generous and possibly serious in keeping this old theatre alive.

There was one painting from a local artist that, upon closer scrutiny, proves to be a tarpaulin that made use of low-resolution image. The old dressing room with its cluttered costumes and props  and the hallway never failed to give me the chills; I was truly relieved I have no developed third eye.

Shattered stained glass and the view outside. Photo by Kat.

In spite of the moldings, dust and broken stained glass, among others, it does not take an architect to appreciate the building. It was a showcase of European, Asian and even local materials like bamboo and capiz. We ascended to the top of the building for that rare view of the apathetic world outside and  the much-deserved fresh air that humid afternoon. If you’d get the same opportunity, you’d linger, too, for the colorful design on tiles.

Needless to say, I felt depressed afterwards. How did Asia’s erstwhile cradle of arts and monument of the Filipino talent die like this? If it were true that there’s a little Imelda in all of us, what is our action plan to revive this building?

A walk along the Arroceros Forest Park leads to this view of the Pasig River. Photo by Kat.

Manila Central Post Office in Lawton. Photo by Kat.

After the forest park, our group retraced our steps back to the Post Office. It served as our refuge after a long walk under the punishing heat. For a frequent letter and postcard sender, it was my first time to appreciate Architect Juan Arellano’s ionic pillars, door details and the building’s neoclassical entirety up close.

There was an ongoing exhibit of Jose Rizal’s letters and poetry inside. I also took my time to read some of the students’ writings posted on the board.

The emptiness of its interiors (it was a Sunday afternoon) made me imagine the unresting souls of World War II casualties who hid in this building. Turns out there are walking tours for paranormal experts to communicate with them or simply to pray for them. It’s NOT for the faint-hearted like me, obviously.

We attended an informal talk about stamp collecting. Sadly, it’s a dying art as most people would prefer to take advantage of the technology than line up in queue in front of the post office. What’s worse: the passionate philatelists are…well…dying, too. They’re looking for younger people to continue the appreciation and investment of these miniature artworks.

Upon learning that rare collections, especially erroneous ones, can equate to huge bucks, I nearly went on purchasing spree of the new Philippine stamp with wrong scientific name for beetle (the same stamp a huge number of Japanese stamp collectors went gaga over recently) and inspect all the stamps on my postcard collection.

It was great to hear that this walking tour rekindled Kat‘s interest in stamp collecting. As for me, I’d continue supporting the local post offices by sending numerous posctards to different local and international towns and/or cities. Join us!

Kat and I would like to join the next tour, hopefully with Fristine, Abbee and Anne. If you’d like to do the same, here are the contact details:

Ms. Josie Tiongson – Cura ( 0917-9800708 ) Landline 735-5001 / 881-1432 Monday to Saturday 1pm to 5pm only!
Ms. Nena De Guzman ( 527-00 -96) Postal Museum and Library. Call her between 8AM to 5PM ( Monday to Friday) for parking instruction
Lawrence Chan ( 0919-3901671)