Saturday, January 05, 2008


During a super lazy Sunday just before Christmas, I decided to loiter around Escolta at 7AM. The sun has just risen and and has washed the almost dilapidated buildings in this area in a fresh, warm glow. The rains are already over and they have helped wash away the grime that have covered these buildings for years and for the first time, I had the chance to appreciate the now-closed Capitol Theatre which I first saw during a walking tour with Ivan Man Dy.

Designed in 1935 by National Artist for Architecture (c. 1973) Juan Nakpil, it joins many other theatres in this part of Old Manila as one of the most visited and admired.

I wanted to take many photos of this architectural marvel because many of the blogs I have come across only have the token facade photo. When it finally goes down (and we all know it will but just deny it unless some investor saves it), at least we have in our possession many photos of this once regal lady.

Detail. The lobby of the theater. Notice the wonderfully repetitive designs of the ceiling. The forums at claim that the theater is now a shell. Capitol Theatre was also one of the few airconditioned theatres in Manila. Juan Nakpil commissioned artist and educator Victorio C. Edades (National Artist, c. 1976) to do a mural for the lobby.

Documents say this was in 1934, a major breakthrough for the artist who then has just returned from the United States and was trying to change the Philippine landscape dominated by Amorsolo and Tolentino. For his assistant, he chose Carlos V. Francisco (National Artist, c. 1973) who in turn brought Galo B. Ocampo (who designed the Seal of the President of the Philippines in 1947 and the Great Seal of the Republic). Together, they were to form the triumvirate in modern Philippine art.

Questions: Where is this mural now? What did it look like? Who commissioned Nakpil to build the theatre? Did its ownership ever changed hands?

The facade sports a chinese character that must have been part of its history as having a restaurant at the ground floor. The theatre seated 800 (Source: and has two balconeys.

Oh, here's a link to an interesting case about overselling of tickets by the manager in 1938. I wonder what show was being presented then, he he!
Detail. Broken windows on the second floor.

Detail. Upper half of the facade. Only the letters I and T are left of the words that spell CAPITOL. During the Japanese Occupation, the theatre was host to productions and shows as the local movie industry was non-existent. In fact, one of the more prominent producers then was Fernando Poe, Sr. (Source: Emil Jurado)

Detail. The theatre, having been built in the 1930s, reflects the architectural style that was the rave in Manila during that period - Art Deco. Here, one can appreciate the combination of strong lines and graceful curves that make up most of the theatre's facade.

Another look at the main tower. Still majestic after all these years.

Detail. Closeup of the iron detailing of the main tower. Beautiful, 'no?

One of the two Filipinized muses that adorn the facade of the main tower. Note how the pleats of her terno fold carefully on top of each other. It's a mixture of masculinity (strong lines) and feminity (smooth curves). This particular muse is holding a mask...

...while the other is playing the lyre. Note the detailing around and below the bas relief.

Other buildings by Juan Nakpil:

Geronimo de los Reyes Building, Magsaysay Building, Rizal Theater, Capitol Theater, Captain Pepe Building, Manila Jockey Club, Rufino Building, Philippine Village Hotel, University of the Philippines Administration and University Library, and the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna. He also designed the International Eucharistic Congress altar and improved the Quiapo Church in 1930 by erecting a dome and a second belfry.(Source: Wicki)

The Capitol Theatre
Calle de la Escolta
City of Manila


Mark said...

Having grown up in the town of Fremantle , Western Avisit ustralia , where so many old buildings are heritage listed , its fantastic to see these pictures of old buildings in Manila , I will definatelty stroll through the area next time I visit .

Anonymous said...

Le Muse sono state scolpite dallo scultore italiano Francesco Riccardo Monti nel 1935.
Le due Allegorie rappresentano La Tragedia e la Musica
Bibliografia: G. Mascherpa, Francesco Monti è da 26 anni nelle Filippine. Un italiano inquieto ha ricostruito Manila, in "Il Giorno", Milano 1955

caryn said...

could the 2nd muse be holding a lyre?

gonli said...

If I remember correctly, the chinese figure below the signage was up when it became a venue for showing Chinese movies. I remember passing there on my way to pick up my mother at the old PNB head office right beside it. They used to show Kung-fu movies there.