Opinion

Goodbye: More Than a Building, the Planetarium was Magic

After 46 Years, the National Planetarium in Manila is decommissioned.
IMAGE NATIONAL MUSEUM
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Millennials and Gen Xers remember the National Planetarium from their childhood days as a staple for field trips. Here, we were taught that the Earth is not flat and is not the center of the universe. 

As a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, a trip to the Planetarium was one of the most astonishing experiences: Our eyes glimmered with wonder as projected images of the Sun and Moon traveled across the dome. While we were educated about the cosmos, we were also left with many questions about the experience—how did they put the Moon there and make it move? Is this a real night sky? What kind of magic was employed in this spectacle of the stars?

Science fiction writer Arthur Clarke very succinctly unriddled that feeling: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The Planetarium, from the point of view of a child in the ’90s, was magic. 

And now, as the Planetarium bids goodbye, we get the same feeling again of a child stepping out of the dome’s darkness and into the bright daylight of reality. A deflating feeling. 

According to the National Museum, which runs the Planetarium, the current structure where the Planetarium stands will be “decommissioned.” It is a possible euphemism for “demolished.”

In a statement, the National Museum explained why this has to happen.

“This is to give way to the development plans of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) in the central and western sections of Rizal Park, at the same time as the National Museum of the Philippines has taken over the eastern section of Rizal Park – where the National Museum of Anthropology and National Museum of Natural History around Agrifina Circle are located – with development plans of our own in this area for the National Museum Complex (including the adjacent area on which the National Museum of Fine Arts stands) as mandated by our charter, Republic Act No. 11333.”

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The National Planetarium was inaugurated in 1975. In the 2000s, it was closed for a time, but its facilities were upgraded in 2017 and 2019 when it finally reopened to the public. 

But I guess nobody goes to planetariums anymore, not that there are many in the Philippines—there are four: Mayon Planetarium in Tabaco, Nido Fortified Science Discovery Planetarium, the PAGASA Planetarium in Quezon City, and the National Planetarium, now closed. 

Although the National Museum has promised to “breathe new life into the National Planetarium as a beloved institution,” it remains unclear whether a new planetarium will be built to replace the aging dome that left children wondering about the magic of the cosmos. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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