\n<p dir="ltr"> Filipinos used to dress up to watch films in the grand movie houses of Manila. In the age of malls and DVDs, these architectural landmarks have become run-down shelters for vendors, commercial trysting places, or the occasional site for second-run movies.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Quiapo is the center of many things. Roman Catholic devotees flock to the Quiapo Church. Plaza Miranda, a symbol of Filipino democracy, is found there. And while you wouldn’t know it from the area’s current state of decay, the stand-alone cinemas of Quiapo were once the palaces of pop culture, the playground of the cultured elite.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> “Noong hindi pa sikat ang Makati, QC at Taguig, Quiapo ang pasyalan ng mga sosyal ng Maynila,” said Howie Severino in the ‘I-Witness’ documentary ‘Palasyo ng Pelikula.’ “Ang madalas dinadayo rito, ang mga sineng patok sa takilya.”<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> <strong>The death of an era<\/strong><img alt="" src="http:\/\/images.gmanews.tv\/v3\/webpics\/v3\/2013\/06\/2013_06_20_10_34_40.png" style="width: 547px; height: 548px; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" \/><br \/> The most famous stand-alone cinemas were found along Escolta, Avenida and Quiapo. These were elegant landmarks designed by the day’s best architects; the Capitol Theater of Escolta was by National Artist Juan Nakpil. In these cinemas, top-billed actors like Fernando Poe Jr., Susan Roces, Dolphy, Vilma Santos, Nora Aunor and Gloria Romero had packed movie premieres.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> With the rise of mall-based cinema complexes, stand-alone movie houses lost their audience. Their reputation changed—the movies shown were less prestigious, to the point that stand-alone cinemas became known for seedy movies and prostitution.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> This darker face of the cinemas was discussed in Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Serbis,’ a film about a dysfunctional family living in an old theater, tangled in a net of bigamy, incest and prostitution. “Parang dito lang yata ito nangyayari [sa Pilipinas],” Mendoza says.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> The Pampanga theater in which ‘Serbis’ was filmed is familiar to movie’s lead actress, Jaclyn Jose. Having lived in Pampanga, she recalls: “Nakita ko yung family theater na ‘yon when I was young. ‘The Exorcist’ pa ang palabas noon, talagang big time. Nakakalungkot nga when I saw it again...nag-deteriorate.”<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> “It was an ode to cinema, lalo na to stand-alone theaters,” says Mendoza of his film. “Kasi ngayon, wala nang mga ganitong klaseng cinema. Isang bahagi ng ating kultura ay natanggal sa ating mga Pilipino, sa ating mga manonood.”<br \/><br \/><div class="media_embed"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="380" src="http:\/\/www.gmanetwork.com\/news\/evideo\/166357\/the-colorful-past-of-the-philippines-stand-alone-cinemas" width="640"><\/iframe><\/div><p dir="ltr"> <br \/> <b>Changing values<\/b><br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> During the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema in the 1950s, there were over 50 stand-alone theaters in Manila, according to the documentary. “Isa silang mahalagang bahagi ng ating kasaysayan at kultura na tila nakalimutan na,” says Severino.<img alt="" src="http:\/\/images.gmanews.tv\/v3\/webpics\/v3\/2013\/06\/2013_06_09_08_31_59.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 600px; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" \/><br \/> The Manila Grand Opera House on Avenida, built in 1890, has been demolished to make way for a hotel. The Cine Ideal on Avenida, a theater and headquarters for WWII freedom fighters, has been replaced by a supermarket.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> The Capitol Theater, designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil, is gone as well, a bar and condominium now in its former location.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> The once-popular Globe Theater on Quezon Boulevard remains, but it is no longer used as a cinema. Small businesses like optical shops and mechanical repair centers now operate inside the theater. For staffers like Romeo Prado, a janitor in the theater since 1975, the place is also his home.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Though the heydey of stand-alone cinemas has passed, film historians and archivists like Teddy Co associate them with the nation’s proud cinema heritage. “Bakit mahalaga ang lumang pelikula sa isang kultura o lipunan?” asks Severino. For Co, the answer is simple: “Pinapakita [roon] ‘yung kabuhayan ng bansa. Nandiyan yung way of life, yung kultura ng mga tao. Nagiging isang public record [ang mga lumang pelikula].”<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> <strong>A lost treasure<\/strong><br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Only four stand-alone cinemas in Manila remain operational. One is the Times Theater, located directly across Quiapo Church. Built in 1939, it was lucky to survive the bombing of World War II.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Here, the dispenser still issues orange, stamped tickets. (No computerized ticketing here, folks.) The original movie projectors are still in use, large machines resembling vintage anti-aircraft guns. According to the Times Theater staff, none of the original projectors have been changed since the cinema opened—a treat for film buffs. Even the posters showing long-retired basketball stars Ramon Fernandez and Samboy Lim are vintage: “Ang iikli pa ng mga shorts,” quipped Severino on a visit to the theater.<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Julio Diaz, one of the stars of ‘Serbis,’ grew up in Quiapo itself; Times Theater was his favorite cinema. “The center of entertainment noon ay nasa Quiapo talaga. Ang dami kong nakitang sine noon,” adds Jose’s co-star Julio Diaz, who was born in Quiapo itself. “Doon ko nakita ‘yung glory ng panahon na iyon.”<br \/><br \/><p dir="ltr"> Co shares that in its heyday, Times Theater specialized in second-run films, or replays for those who may have missed the first run. “Noong panahon na iyon, wala pang DVD, wala pang cable, walang internet. Kung gusto mong manood, talagang pupunta ka sa sinehan,” he says. “Parang second chance cinema ito.”<br \/><br \/>If only the stand-alone cinemas themselves received a second chance as well.