'SM considering keeping Philam Life Theater'

Posted at 03/21/2013 3:59 PM | Updated as of 03/21/2013 6:39 PM

Philam Life Theater  Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines – Executives of the SM Group have met with the French conductor who is spearheading an online campaign to save the Philam Life Theater on Wednesday night.

According to Olivier Ochanine, music director and chief conductor of the PPO, he presented his petition, signed by more than 5,000 people, to the SM Group, which bought the former property of insurer Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. along UN Ave. in Manila in a bidding last year.

SM’s property development unit, SM Development Corp. (SMDC), has already announced plans to build a condominium complex on the property.

“Henry Sy Jr. of SM asked his team to meet with me and to hear from me about the petition and why it is so important to save Philam Theater,” Ochanine said on his Facebook account.

Ochanine said he brought along acoustician Ray Sison to the meeting to present “the special characteristics of the hall's acoustics.”

“Surprisingly, I was told by his team that SM had not even considered a performance hall in the development before they came across my petition!!” the French artist wrote. “Now, he is even considering keeping the hall itself and doing some renovations. They promised to stay in touch with me and asked that I be a consultant on this journey.”

In a statement released last Monday, SMDC said it “intends to build a condominium complex that includes a world-class, state-of-the-art theater that will be the future home for orchestras, cultural events, school recitals, and the like.”

“SMDC is fully cognizant of the heritage that the site has for many Filipinos and will try to preserve its cultural importance,” the SMDC statement added.

Ochanine said he is hopeful about the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting. “We must hope for the best. In the meantime, we should also keep calm and optimistic. I informed them that the petition will remain until we know the hall is safe.”

In a later post, Ochanine admitted he is taking a “real risk” in campaigning for the Philam Life theater.

“People so often decide to sit back and just cross their fingers. This is an issue that needs particular attention and I am shocked many high profile music personalities have no participation,” he wrote. “Whatever happens, I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do.”

On Wednesday, another petition was launched to have the Philam Life Theater transferred to a heritage park after a certain Juan dela Cruz created a petition on Change.org asking Jose “Jerry” Acuzar, owner of the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, to buy the theater and have it moved to his property in Bagac, Bataan.

Last week, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra had its final performance at the Philam Life Theater with guest Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak.

Ochanine was the one who created an online petition on Change.org to save the theater.

“This is one of the best performance halls in the entire Philippines and must be saved. It has some of the best acoustics for Manila’s orchestras, choirs and solo musical artists and its destruction would be a gigantic loss for Filipino culture and heritage,” Ochanine said in the petition, which has 5,175 signatures as of writing.