Cebuanos — and even people who have lived in Cebu for only quite a while — have been educated with the fact that Colon Street, constructed in the 16th century, is the oldest street of Cebu. In the present era, heaps of museums and buildings that were established centuries ago are now still standing on the grounds of the said street. Each time a person walks around Colon and notices these, some might think that they are just old-looking, Spanish-inspired architecture. Still, some may know the story of how and why it was built. Nonetheless, these known, old buildings located in the oldest street of Cebu tell a story, their history so unique and interesting. An example shall be cited: —the Vision Theater.
Dante Guidetti, an Italian expatriate, sculptor and professor, visited Cebu during the pre-war era. He opened up a studio at the corners of Mabini Street and Colon. There he had students whom he taught ancient Roman and Greek sculpture. With the help of Agustin Jereza who built the Vision Theater in 1930, Guidetti sculpted relief sculptures of full-bodied, nude muses from Greek mythology onto the establishment. The statues of the establishment were done in relief, a sculpting technique. Cebuanos who were known to be conservative back in the day were not pleased with the imagery of the sculptures and called the whole design scandalous. When World War II came, it was said that the Vision Theater survived the bombings.
The Vision Theater then became a popular movie theater in Colon that showed the latest movies and housed plays back in that time, such as the play La Vidua Alegre or The Merry Window by Franz Lehár. Back in those times, film was not properly produced and the audio sounded lousy, but that did not stop the Cebuanos to rush to the Vision Theater just to catch the latest films. As the years progressed, things have changed in the theater, one of them being an installment of air conditioning inside the establishment. The success was continually rising as the Vision Theater continued to have audiences coming to and fro. The establishment survived a couple of decades until it was shut down; it was not announced what year it did.
It is lovely to know that our ancestors had their source of income just located in the streets of Colon. This neoclassical-inspired movie theater is still standing erect in the streets of Colon in this present day. Did the Vision Theater come back as a movie theater? Sadly, it did not. In this generation, we already have malls to provide movie houses for us. The Vision Theater is still in business alright — it is currently a ticketing shop for ships and airplanes, joined with a money transfer service outlet and a DVD shop that sells pirated and adult films.
From the birth of building and sculpting the neoclassical-inspired movie theater to it becoming a ticketing and DVD shop, the change just happened very quickly over the past two to three generations.
Is Guidetti now looking down at the Vision Theater from above and wondering what recklessness the Filipinos have caused to his masterpiece? He may be or not be doing so, but it is indeed a huge shame to see that historical establishments like the Vision Theater, a neoclassical-inspired architectural masterpiece with its beautiful muses getting neglected.
History is something that Colon Street holds dear. The older the constructions, the longer the history, the more interesting the story of how these constructions came to be will become. Little do people know that they are passing by these wonderful structures once in a while. Instead, in this generation, Cebuanos are more focused on catching the latest hot gossip through entertainment shows on television.
It has become a habit to take the nearest old structure , which perhaps holds a unique history, and turn it into some mediocre business just to earn income —a sad reality indeed. The economy can slow down, businesses can die and sales can become weak, as seen in the country. How will one Filipino survive without bringing home the bacon? However, does this give us a warrant to transform a masterpiece into a business stall?
Still, living in the current situation the Filipinos are living with right now, seeing something that was once an ancient historical masterwork get turned to something inferior is not a shock. Knowing that the Vision Theater was actually once an actual movie theater and seeing it transform into a ticketing and DVD shop is something normal in our country.
In conclusion, these architectural monuments that made Colon Street look dashing like the Vision Theater may be in neglect in the present era, but these ancient buildings still tell a story, with a history that is still so unique and thought-provoking. Will you pass by and look at the Vision Theater the same way you did before?