Manila Film Center
The Manila Film Center scaffolding collapse was an alleged industrial disaster that occurred on November 17, 1981 in which it is thought up to 169 workers were killed when a scaffold collapsed.
Building the Film Center
Ferdinand Marcos, the president of The Philippines at the time, decided to build an expensive film center as a way of enhancing the reputation of The Philippines around the world.
Unfortunately, it appears that both he and his wife, Imelda, began to change the building plans while the structure was being built, forcing construction delays. As a result, the center was being completed as quickly as possible in time for its inaugural film festival.
During the construction of the center, a scaffold collapsed, causing workers to fall into wet cement - many being impaled on steel bars. Because the cement was setting at the time, many became trapped - some being cooked alive. Since the recovery of bodies would take too long and required dried cement to be dug up, Imelda Marcos ordered that the remaining bodies be covered by cement and the construction work continued. Up to 169 people died in the accident, their remains entombed in the building.
While this story is well known amongst people living in Manila, there were no news reports that covered it at the time. While it is true that Marcos may have ordered the media to refrain from reporting the story, it is also possible that the event is actually an urban myth.
It has been over two decades since the alleged disaster took place, and yet there is no recognized history of the event that has been accurately recorded. Survivors and the families of the deceased have not come forward to speak of the tragedy, despite the fact that speaking against Marcos is no longer an undesirable activity.
However, the date of the disaster and the description of what occurred indicates a specificity of the story which may indicate some level of truth. Given the nature of Marcos as a dictator and the danger associated with badly designed and quickly built structures, it is entirely possible that an accident of the sort may have occurred. It may be that the disaster was actually an accident that claimed only a few lives, but has taken on a "life of its own" as it spread throughout The Philippines in the years afterwards, with each retelling adding more victims.
The only way for the mystery to be cleared up is for the foundations of the center to be excavated in the hope of finding the remains of the buried workers. Since the structure is still being used (it is a government office building now), and because no one is agitating for information about the alleged incident, it is unlikely for such an excavation to take place.
Apparently, many Filipinos avoid the place because of the fear that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the dead workers.
The 1990 documentary On Borrowed Land has scenes depicting this disaster, clearly showing the victims buried under the rubble.
- The Manila Film Center mystery - A ghostly place or an urban legend?
- Haunted? - the case of the trapped workers (Asiaweek 2001)