A country’s theater is a landmark—the CCP should be a tourist destination

The 50-year-old main building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines finally gets a facelift

CULTURE FIX The Main Building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines will have its long-overdue facelift through a three-year rehabilitation plan starting this year until 2025 (Rodel Valiente)

Turning 53 this year, the main building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) will finally have its long-overdue facelift through a three-year rehabilitation plan starting this year until 2025.

The plan emanated from the building audit done from 2018 to 2019, which became the basis on what needed to be addressed and rehabilitated.

“The building audit diagnosed the extent of the repair needed. The evaluation of the data gathering indicated that there are problems with multiple-site damages, such as leaks, corrosion, and structural weaknesses brought by water seepage, earthquakes, and fatigue. Further, we have to update the center’s fire protection, environmental protection, and other building codes,” said CCP chairperson Margie Moran-Floirendo.

CCP president Arsenio J. Lizaso iterates that the center is a source of pride for all Filipinos, and a showcase of the best of the Philippine arts and cultures. This is why there is a strong need to rehabilitate the CCP.

GRANDER HALLS Renovation of venues includes the Silangan Hall, located at the fourth floor of CCP’s Main Building (Kiko Cabuena)

“The Filipino audience deserves a national center of culture where they can enjoy the arts in comfortable surroundings redesigned for the times. Our artists need new and better stages and venues to showcase and display their talents and abilities. We need venues that can fit more modern productions, as well as globally competitive staging facilities and equipment. We need training facilities for our actors, dancers, and other performers,” Lizaso said.

The entire project costs approximately ₱950 million, of which ₱440M has been earmarked for the first phase, and ₱515 for the second phase, which should cover the renovation of the hydraulic pit, the freight elevators, and the light and sound systems for the theaters.

During “Bulawan,” the CCP 50th anniversary gala, Moran-Floirendo spearheaded the fund-raising project for the rehabilitation and renovation of its facilities, with BDO Unibank Inc. underwriting the gala concert and donating the first ₱1 million.

“We’re hoping for additional fundings from the government so we can include other important elements. We envision that when fully renovated, the CCP main building would last for another 50 years,” said CCP administrative manager Teresa Rances.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN Escalators at the CCP Main Theater lobby

The rehabilitation project of the Tanghalang Pambansa (CCP main building) begins on the fourth floor, roof deck, and at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). Over the next two years, the plan targets the other floors. Renovation works will continue to the upper and lower basements until 2025.

Based on the plan, the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) will be the last to be rehabilitated, probably starting in 2024. This includes the renovation of the hydraulic orchestra pit, which has not been changed since it was installed in 1969.

The freight elevator, which is often used to bring massive sets, heavy equipment, and musical instruments straight to the theater stage, will also find a new lease in life. Both theaters have flooring problems, and wooden planks on the walls have termite infestations that must be addressed.

The building foundation will have some strengthening works, although its overall condition is still quite stable.

LITTLE BIG REHAB The Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, otherwise known as CCP Little Theater, undergoes renovation works (Kiko Cabuena)

The audit report also showed that there was a need to overhaul the electrical lines and the drainage system. The old drainage system has too many corroded metal pipes.

The CCP plans to construct a new outdoor cistern tank at the South Parking area to supply water to the main building and the nearby Production Design Center (PDC).  It will also supply water to the Fire Protection System, which will be built side by side with the cistern tank. It will generate water for the sprinklers. Although a foam-type fire system has been installed in areas where artworks are located to protect CCP’s valuable assets.

Currently, the sewage plant is connected to the CCP main building and the PDC. This year, the CCP intends to connect the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (CCP Black Box Theater) and the Finance/Administrative Building to the plants.

A new electrical line has been installed, running from Buendia to CCP, passing through the Liwasang Kalikasan and the Power Center before connecting to Black Box Theater.

AUTO STAIRS Escalators leading to the CCP Main Building’s fourth floor are among the ongoing renovation works at the center

The fountain has been refurbished. Nozzles and fixtures were repaired, and lights were replaced with LED lights. The chandeliers have undergone rehabilitation too.

There are other areas that demand attention. “Because of climate change, the surge of water is quite different now. There was a time when establishments around the complex and along Roxas Boulevard were flooded due to a typhoon. The lower basement is already below sea level, and we anticipate that the water could surge in, reach the power banks, and might cause an explosion. By bringing them out, we hope to prevent that kind of problem in the future,” said Rances.

The materials used for the rehabilitation—from the kind of waterproofing, the replacements for the corroded parts, the type of cement, among others—have been studied to adapt to the current climate. “We move slowly but surely,” said Rances. Every detail is being studied, from the materials down to the work itself. We look for the best possible options. Being by the bay on reclaimed lands needs a thorough consideration.”

The project is made possible through the CCP board of trustees through the ad-hoc committee on renovations, which is led by trustees Stanley Seludo and Marivic del Pilar, and the office of the CCP president. The administration services department (ASD) will oversee the whole project, and work with project management firm Oscar R. Ruivivar and Associates and construction company Vista Green Builders.

POWERED BY One of the Center’s engineers inspects the power center located at the CCP South Parking area (Kiko Cabuena)

CCP has been blessed to have its own engineering team who undertakes the responsibility to bring the building to its former glory. “Our engineers regularly monitor the health of an ageing structure, and we are fortunate that we have an excellent in-house team, project managers, and the contractor who won the bid,” said Moran-Floirendo.

The CCP makes sure that it remains true to the original blueprint designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin, hoping to preserve it to the extent possible.

Lizaso hopes that once the rehabilitation is been done, the new CCP complex will become a tourist destination, drawing people from all over the Philippines and the world. It will then become self-sustaining, and will no longer need big government financial subsidies.

“In the end, we aim to be at par with theaters worldwide, in terms of technology, space, and content. A country’s theater is a landmark. The CCP is the home of the Filipino artists, and it should be a tourist destination. For the artists and cultural workers, the wish list is long. But with the rehabilitated building, we can be at least assured that the structural health of the building will last 50 more years,” concluded Moran-Floirendo.