Cultural Center of The Philippines - History

History

"On the first year, I'll cover the soil. On the second year, I'll drive the pile. On the third year, the building will rise. On the fourth year, the curtain will rise"

Imelda Marcos to John Rockefeller III in 1966.

Before the turn of the 20th Century, artistic performances were primarily held in plazas and other public places around the country. In Manila, the Manila Grand Opera House, constructed in the mid-19th Century, served as the primary venue for many stage plays, operas and zarzuelas and other notable events of national significance. Conditions improve with the construction of the Metropolitan Theater in 1931 and smaller but adequately equipped auditoriums in institutions like Meralco, Philam Life, Insular Life, Ateneo de Manila University and Far Eastern University. In 1961, the Philippine-American Cultural Foundation started to raise funds for a new theater. The structure, designed by Leandro Locsin, was to be built on a 10-hectare lot in Quezon City. In the meantime in 1965, Imelda Marcos at a proclamation rally in Cebu for her husband's bid for the Presidency, expressed her desire to build a national theater. Marcos would win his election bid and work on the theater started with the issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 20 on March 12, 1966. Imelda, now the First Lady, persuades the Philippine-American Cultural Foundation to relocate and expand plans for the still-born theater to a new reclaimed location along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. To formalize the project, President Marcos issues Executive Order No. 60, establishing the Cultural Center of the Philippines and appointing its board of directors. The board would elect Imelda as chairperson, giving her the legal mandate to negotiate and manage funds for the center.

You do not develop culture by putting up a 50-million building on the bay...

“ ” Ninoy Aquino

Prior to her husband's inaugural, Marcos already started fund raising for the Cultural Center; an initial half-a-million Pesos was made from the proceeds of the premiere of Flower Drum Song in the University of the Philippines, and another ninety-thousand Pesos turned over from the Filipino arm of the Philippine-American Cultural Foundation. This was however, insufficient to cover the projected cost of PH₱15 million needed to construct the theater. Much of the theater's funding came from a war damage fund for education authorized by the US Congress during President Marcos's state visit to the United States. In the end, the theater would receive US$3.5 million from the fund. To make up for the rest of the construction costs, Imelda approached prominent families and businesses to donate to her cause. Carpets, draperies, marble, artworks to decorate the interior of the theater and even cement were all donated. Despite the success of the First Lady's fund raising, the project cost ballooned to almost ₱50 million, or 35 million over the projected budget by 1969. Imelda and the CCP board took a US$7 million loan through the National Investment Development Corporation to finance the remaining amount, a move that was heavily criticized by government opposition. Senator Ninoy Aquino strongly objected to the use of public funds for the center without congressional appropriation and branded it as an institution for the elite. Unfazed with the criticism, Marcos went ahead with the project and the Theater of Performing Arts (Now the Tanghalang Pambansa) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines was opened on September 8, 1969, three days before the President's 52nd birthday, with a three-month long inaugural festival opened by Lamberto Avellana's musical Golden Salakot: Isang Dularawan, an epic portrayal of Panay Island. Among those who attended the inaugural night were California Governor Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, both representing United States President Richard Nixon.

Early into the 1970s, the Center was in the red mainly due to the costs of constructing the Theater of Performing Arts. In 1972, the board of the CCP asked Members of Congress to pass House Bill 4454, which would convert the Center to become a non-municipal public corporation and allow it to use the principal of the CCP Trust Fund to pay off some of its debt. The bill would also continually support the center through a government subsidy amounting to the equivalent of 5% of the collected Amusement Tax annually. The proposed piece of legislation was met with strong opposition, and was never passed. However, with the declaration of Martial Law on September 23, 1972, Congress was effectively dissolved; and President Marcos signed Proclamation No. 15 s. 1972, essentially a modified version of the proposed bill. The proclamation also expands the Center's role, from that of being a performance venue to an agency promoting and developing arts and culture throughout the country. Other notable developments during the year included the institution of the National Artist Awards and the foundation of the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, the center's first resident company that would later become the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

During this period of the Marcos Presidency, the CCP Complex played host to major local and international events under the guise of the Bagong Lipunan (New Society), which would mark the start of a series of major construction projects in the area. When Filipino Margie Moran won the 1973 Miss Universe Pageant, the Philippine Government agreed to stage the succeeding year's contest, and plans for an amphitheater commenced. Weeks of planning and discussions resulted to the commissioning of the Folk Arts Theater (Now the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas), an open-air but roofed structure that could seat up to 10,000 people. Construction of the new theater, which was also designed by Leandro Locsin, was completed in a record 77 days and was inaugurated on July 1974 with the grand parade, "Kasaysayan ng Lahi" ("History of the Race"). Right after the inauguration of Folk Arts, ground was broken for the Philippine International Convention Center and the Philippine Plaza Hotel, both for the country's hosting of the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in 1976. Although not owned by the Cultural Center, these buildings were nevertheless built at the complex and designed by Locsin. One of the more infamous additions to the Center was the Manila Film Center, built in 1981 for the Manila International Film Festival. The structure was built on a strict critical path schedule, requiring 4,000 workers working in 3 shifts across 24 hours. An accident occurred on November 17, 1981, when scaffolding collapsed and sent construction workers into quick-drying cement. Despite this, construction proceeded and the Center was opened for the Film Festival, some 15 minutes before opening night. The building's ownership would be transferred to the CCP in 1986, when the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines was dissolved. Straying from the brutalist style typical of the buildings in the CCP is the Coconut Palace, a showcase on the versatility of coconut as an export product and construction material, designed by Francisco Mañosa. The financial and human costs of constructing these buildings, in a time of widespread poverty and corruption, was seen as symptomatic of the First Lady's edifice complex, a charge Imelda has nevertheless welcomed in her later years.

1986 saw the end of the Marcos regime through the peaceful People Power Revolution. Consequently, the CCP underwent a period of reform and "Filipinization". President Corazon Aquino appoints Maria Teresa Roxas as the first President of the Cultural Center in the post-Marcos era; and once critic of the center for its promotion of elitist culture, Nicanor Tiongson, accepted the position to be the new artistic director. Together with its vice president, Florendo Garcia, the new leadership consulted with various stakeholders to formulate a new direction for the CCP and officially redefine its mission and objectives in pursuit of "a Filipino national culture evolving with and for the people". To set about decentralization, the Center formulates guidelines for setting-up local arts councils in local government units and establishes the CCP Exchange Artist Program to provide opportunities for regional groups to showcase their talents across the country. For the first time in her presidency, Aquino visits the center on January 11, 1987 to confer the National Artist Award to Atang de la Rama, marking the first time the awards were conferred through a process of democratic selection in addition to rigid criteria. Aquino would later confer the same award to Leandro Locsin in 1990, in recognition of his contribution to the field of architecture in the Philippines and in spite of his many contributions to the Imelda Marcos's architectural projects. Also in 1987, three groups joined the roster of the Cultural Center's resident companies: the Philippine Ballet Theatre, the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and Tanghalang Pilipino. As part of its outreach and research programs, the CCP produces a number of notable publications, including: Ani (English: Harvest) (1987), an arts journal; the Tuklas Sining (English: Discover Arts) (1989) series of monographs and videos on Philippine arts and the landmark 10-volume CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (1994). Despite its attempt at reforms, some people still see the center in a less positive light. For instance, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that she finds the CCP to be "imposing, unapproachable, and elitist" for Filipino masses.

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