SMDC vows to preserve PhilAm Life Theater

SM Development Corporation says it will 'save and preserve' the historic PhilAm Life Theater

UNMATCHED ACOUSTICS. SMDC says they will preserve all the elements and acoustics of PhilAm Life Theater. Photo from the Save PhilAm Life Theater - Manila Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Petitioners for the preservation of the historic PhilAm Life Theater had their hopes renewed on April 4 when SM Development Corporation (SMDC) announced that it would save the structure.

Here is SMDC’s official statement:

SM Development Corporation (SMDC) will save and preserve the culturally historic Philam Life Theater. 
 
This was the outcome of a dialogue between SMDC Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henry Sy, Jr. and Olivier Ochanine, music director and chief conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO).  Likewise present in the dialogue were flutist and acoustics expert Ray Sison and Architect Albert Yu of ASYA Designs.  Ochanine, along with Sison previously met with key officials of SMDC to open the door to a series of talks about the property developer’s plan.
 
Although the development plan is still in its initial stage, SMDC stressed that the complete theater including all its elements and most especially its acoustics will be preserved.  This will be done in close consultation with the country’s music, acoustics and design experts. The hall may be moved within the complex to complement the overall master plan of the property, which will also include (sic) a larger parking area for the benefit and convenience of the theater-goers.  
 
“We are fully aware of our responsibility as corporate citizens. In envisioning a progressive, convenient, upscale yet affordable lifestyle for Filipinos, we also value our cultural heritage especially in communities where we operate,” says Henry Sy, Jr. 
 
SMDC said that planning and development of the entire project would entail a long process to ensure that all possible structural and design components are carefully considered.
 
Earlier this year, Ochanine started an online petition requesting the new owner of the Philam Life complex to save the theater. At the time of the said petition, ownership of the property had not yet been finalized.

Theater spared

The SM Group bid for the property in 2012. The building, which houses a theater, stands on United Nations Avenue in Manila. It was previously owned by insurer Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co.

SMDC’s announcement resonates among many who value the theater (also referred to as the hall) because of its matchless acoustics. 

SMDC’s statement says, “The hall may be moved within the complex to complement the overall master plan of the property, which will also include (sic) a larger parking area for the benefit and convenience of the theater-goers.”

Though moving the hall may alarm heritage advocates or lovers of the theater, Ochanine told Rappler, “They may move the hall, yes, but that’s been done before. In Shanghai, a much bigger concert hall was moved by lifting it. If it’s done safely, it’s fine and the acoustics are safe.”

Ray of hope

Though SMDC has announced it will preserve the theater, Ochanine is still trying to persuade them to preserve the facade and main building.

SMDC has previously announced that it will erect condominium towers within the property.

Future developments in the issue will have heritage advocates holding Sy to the latter part of SMDC’s statement:  

“We are fully aware of our responsibility as corporate citizens. In envisioning a progressive, convenient, upscale yet affordable lifestyle for Filipinos, we also value our cultural heritage especially in communities where we operate.” – Rappler.com

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