Manila Film Center in Pasay, Philippines

Imelda Marcos envisioned for Manila to become to the cultural center of Asia. Fresh from a successful staging of 1974 Miss Universe Pageant where a specially built spectacular theater finished in 77 days, she wanted a film center that would rival the Cannes Film Festival of France.

Employing a celebrated architect of that time Froilan Hong, a building inspired from the Parthenon in Athens was to be constructed in the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex in Pasay City. UNESCO was even consulted for the structural designs of the auditoria and the archives. With 3 months to spare before the scheduled film festival, the deadline was tight – 4000 workers were employed to work in 3 shifts across 24 hours. The lobby was finished in 72 hours by 1000 workers, a job that was supposed to entail 6 weeks.

The frenetic pace of construction didn’t allow for proper methodologies. On November 17, 1981, at around 3 a.m., scaffolding collapsed and workers were trapped in the quick-drying cement. Immediately  a blanket security and a media blackout was imposed for fear of creating a scandal. No rescuers and ambulances were allowed until an official statement was prepared. The rescuers were only allowed after 9 hours. Of course it was too late. By then, already 168 workers died or buried in the cement. Those that were hard to extricate were tapered over and poured with more cement. The deadline had to be met.

The snow must go on and 2 months after, first Manila International film festival pushed through from the January 18 to 29, 1982.

After an earthquake in 1990, the building was abandoned for structural damaged. It was rehabilatated and leased out to the private sector. It caught fire in 2013 and was since abandoned.




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