Last month, Giacomo Puccini’s renowned opera Turandot was staged at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.
The opera is noted for Nessun Dorma, its aria, which culminates the third and final act. This particular segment is very difficult to perform, even for the world’s most seasoned tenors.
Turandot was a project of the CCP, the Philippine Opera Society Foundation, Inc., and the Rustan Group of Companies. Its major sponsor was the Embassy of Italy in the Philippines.
The CCP President is 1973 Miss Universe Margarita Moran Floirendo; the Philippine Opera Society Foundation, Inc.
President is former Marcos-era Secretary of Education Jaime Laya, who is listed online as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the CCP; and the Rustan Group of Companies head is Zenaida Rustia Tantoco. His Excellency Marco Clemente is the current Ambassador of Italy to the Philippines.
With that lineup announced in the news, the affair was expected to be fabulous, indeed, one fit to be the culminating cultural event in the Philippines for 2022.
Turandot was favorably received, and the gala night was well attended.
Many of my friends were pleased to learn about the Turandot performance at the CCP, and purchased their tickets in advance.
Some of them bought tickets for parterre boxes, while others got the less expensive balcony tickets.
The latter tickets cost about P2000 for the gala performance, but discounts were available to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and students.
While the performance itself was outstanding, the basic facilities of the CCP failed to live up to expectations.
First, the showcase escalators prominently located at the south side of the main lobby were not functioning.
Patrons had to line up for the few available elevators on the north side of the theater, or make their way through the grand staircase.
Only those who had orchestra tickets did not notice the embarrassing problem as they didn’t need to use the escalators or elevators.
Second, the rest rooms on the higher floors did not have running water. Those using the rest rooms had to settle for alcohol sprayed on their hands by janitorial employees.
Third, there were no lounge seats for the elderly and the disabled to use while waiting for the theater doors to open, or while they waited for their ride home.
It was raining when the opera ended, and this made the wait more stressful.
Left with no choice, many elderly and disabled sat down on the available spaces on the grand staircase.
Were CCP’s Floirendo and Laya aware of the problem?
Undoubtedly, the state of neglect at the CCP left a bad impression on many patrons.
The CCP today is a far cry from the CCP during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., when then First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos was its guiding light.
Since the CCP first opened its doors to the public in 1969, and during the entirety of the Marcos administration, it was undoubtedly the premiere center for the perfoming arts in the country.
Among its famous shows during that time were the zarzuela Walang Sugat and the musicale Man of La Mancha.
Prior to the martial law years, then Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. vehemently opposed the creation of the CCP.
For Ninoy, the CCP was a cultural venue for the elite. He also insinuated that the construction of the CCP was a waste of public money, it being a mere “monument” in honor of Mrs. Marcos
History, however, has proven Ninoy Aquino wrong.
Although the CCP is known as a venue for renowned performances by local and foreign artists, it had a section called “Balcony II” tickets to which were sold at affordable general admission prices.
This section was far up in the back, but the acoustics of the main theater made clear listening possible even in the far-flung balconies.
At any rate, audiences seated in the balconies were allowed to bring binoculars to allow them glimpses from an orchestra seat perspective every so often.
The big irony is that months after Ninoy was assassinated in August 1983, artists paid tribute to him in a program at the CCP main theater, with no objections heard from the Marcos administration.
Anyway, it appears that somewhere through the decades, the Balcony II section was phased out, leaving patrons on a budget to either pay for more expensive seats, or do away with theater patronage completely altogether.
During the Marcos era, the CCP was meant to be a cultural center for the Filipino people because of the affordability of tickets to its Balcony II section.
Today, the CCP has become a cultural venue for the elite, as Ninoy predicted, but with broken escalators and waterless rest rooms, and without lounge seats for the elderly and the disabled.