It looks like a hands down triumph for an iconic piece of cultural history in architecture, after the SM Development Corporation (SMDC) announced on Thursday that it “will save and preserve the culturally historic Philam Life Theater” in Manila. The company arrived at the decision following a “dialogue between SMDC Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henry Sy, Jr. and Olivier Ochanine, music director and chief conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO),” according to an official statement. Ochanine had spearheaded an online petition to prevent the demolition of the building after it was sold last year to SMDC, which has announced plans to build a residential complex on the property. “This is one of the best performance halls in the entire Philippines,” according to the peititon statement posted on Change.org that garnered more than 10,000 signatories. "Its destruction would be a gigantic loss for Filipino culture and heritage.” Built in 1961, the Philam Life building was designed by architect Carlos Arguelles and is known for its excellent acoustics. Arthur Espiritu, the first Filipino tenor to sing at the La Scala di Milan, has said the Theater’s amazing acoustics ranks right up there with Carnegie Hall's little theater.
Local classical music afficionados had been alarmed when they discovered that the Philam Life Theater had been bought by SMDC, thinking it would be turned into a shopping mall. Ochanine presented the petition and met with officials of SMDC, the company statement said. “We are fully aware of our responsibility as corporate citizens. In envisioning a progressive, convenient, upscale yet affordable lifestyle for Filipinos, we also value our cultural heritage especially in communities where we operate,” Henry Sy, Jr. said, according to the statement. The Philam Life building and compound along UN avenue in Manila had already been sold to the mall developer when it was believed to be on its last legs with what was the final performance at the Theater's auditorium: award-winning Ukrainian pianist Sofya Gulyak with the PPO.