My daughter, Sam, a Photography major, had a assignment to shoot an abandoned building, with both digital and film cameras.
When she first told me about the assignment, my first suggestion was the Manila Film Center. But she has heard all the creepy stories about the workers who died there during the construction and the tales about how their spirits haunt the place. She refused to shoot the Manila Film Center. Instead, she wanted the Metropolitan Manila Theater, or the MET.
So, we went to the MET. As usual, I did my own shooting — this time, with my dSLR and a wide-angle lens. Night time photography with the G10 is cool but shooting low-light images with a dSLR is so much cooler.
It was around 2.00 clock in the morning when we got there. After midnight, the MET is a spooky sight to behold. Although whoever “owns” the MET (there is a dispute between the City of Manila and the Government Service Insurance System) still pays guards to watch over the place, the MET has been in a state of disrepair for a long time and it can easily fall into the “abandoned building” category. The moon was high in the sky and shooting the MET with the moon was too irresistible.
An art deco structure designed by Juan M. Arellano, the MET was inaugurated in 1931. It was badly damaged during the World War II “liberation” of Manila when the Americans bombed the city. Since then, the MET has gone through a roller coaster of reconstruction, disuse, reconstruction, disuse and, finally, decay. Even in decay, it is still an imposing structure.
It wasn’t until much later when I was downloading the photos to my iMac when I wondered why the “abandoned building” assignment. Then, came the obvious answer — Halloween, of course. Old abandoned buildings are often wells of ghost stories and shooting one with the right lighting and mood can create spectacularly spooky images.
What I didn’t know (and I’m sure Sam didn’t either) until I started reading about the building was that the MET is reputedly haunted by ghosts, just as the Film Center is. Not just in the generic haunted old buildings way but, rather, a real reputation about how the old artists who performed there never really left. In fact, organized tours of Manila’s “spookiest spots” often include the MET.
Did we see anything? Did we feel anything? I don’t know about Sam but I didn’t. Not while shooting and not afterwards when I pored through the photos, scanning them inch by inch, wondering if there were faces peering behind the doors, windows and glass. Nope, nothing. If there are ghosts there, perhaps, they don’t haunt the grounds — just the inside of the building.