Abstract: (Re)Constructing a Nation: Contesting Nationhood Within the Walls of the Metropolitan Theater of Manila

Built in 1931 during the American Colonial Period, The Metropolitan Theater of Manila (The Met) sits in an idyllic corner near the Mehan Gardens and the iconic Liwasang Bonifacio. Inspired by Felix Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song”, its architect Juan Arellano designed the Met in modern Art Deco, but infused it with local Filipino motifs. It served to showcase a cultured Filipino identity acceptable to Western audiences. But since that age of silver screen actresses and opera stars, the Met’s occupants have fluctuated dramatically across the social strata. Today, however, pounding hammers and whirring saws have invaded the space, loudly singing a new melody. Widely covered by the national media, the Grand Old Dame of Manila now enters a new chapter in its storied history, undergoing a renovation spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Touted as a restoration of a “glorified past” by bureaucrats and media alike, The Met has become symbolic for a storied Filipino identity. In this narrative, this renovation becomes the rediscovery of a Golden Age of Culture, unwillingly lost to the whims of time. Yet the propensity to emphasize the wonder of “rediscovery” reveals a refusal to engage in the historical realities that caused its disappearance from the national psyche and further assumes that past ideas of Philippine identity are consistent with the present. Therefore, countering this narrative that The Met embodies a lost Filipino spirit, I ask whether its treatment instead parallels the actual shifts of Philippine national identity. Further, I ask what does its contemporary portrayal reveal about Philippine national identity today.

Final Musings/Conclusions

I have been back in the States for about 10 days now – it is so hard to believe that my summer in the Philippines is now behind me! After a packed week of RA training back on campus, I have found a little bit of time to reflect about my time abroad this summer. Here I will focus on a couple of factors that made my summer experience truly memorable.

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A Different Role: Teaching GIS

A major component of my work this summer was implementing GIS trainings for my host organization. During my fellowship I conducted one for the staff at ANSA-EAP and another for the auditors at the Commission on Audit (COA) Regional Office in Albay.  Developing these trainings was a much more arduous task than I anticipated! Everything I previously knew about teaching GIS skills came only from my own experiences of being taught GIS – that is, in a formal class setting over the course of a whole semester.  About a week prior to the first session, ANSA informed me that I would only be given three hours per group – and so began the efforts to prune all training materials and guides I had accumulated to somehow create a comprehensive yet accessible introduction to GIS and spatial data concepts. I had to condense material into 3 hours of something that could be tangible to people totally new to the topic! Thus I was forced to really think about what few skills would be of most value to the trainees.

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Month #1 at ANSA

I cannot believe that I’ve been in the Philippines for over a month!  I’ve become (well, somewhat) accustomed to the heat, always-noisy streets, smog, and the occasionally frightening tricycle commute. Never again I will I take the ease of getting around in the US for granted – it often takes me an hour to get to another neighborhood in Quezon City, two hours to get to downtown Manila (only about 6 miles away), and three to get to the airport or beyond the Metro area.

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AidData Summer Fellows: Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and Pacific

Hello all!

My name is Caroline Davis and in about a month and a half I will be departing to work as an AidData Summer Fellow in Quezon City – the most populous city in the Philippines, nestled in the dense urban jungle that is Metro Manila.  My fellowship is with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and Pacific (ANSA).  ANSA’s primary goal is to hold the government and development policy practitioners accountable to civil society and to encourage practitioners to act in society’s best interest.  Specifically, I am assigned to work with their Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) initiative.  CPA encourages citizens to audit the policy implementation process and aims to provide a mechanism for citizen feedback in development.  Due to the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters, a good portion of government funding is designated towards disaster relief and prevention, and the allocation of these funds necessitates citizen auditing in order to maximize effectiveness.  This is where I come in – to support this auditing process for disaster-related funding by making available information to facilitate data-driven decisions.  Spatial data made available to citizens, such as risk and beneficiaries mapping as well as maps of government funded infrastructure, can enhance this process of auditing, monitoring and evaluation of government funded projects in the Philippines.

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