The ultimate survival guide to attending concerts in the Philippine Arena
Since the end of the pandemic lockdowns, the concert and festival scene in the Philippines just keeps getting better. Passionate fans don’t hesitate to flock to venues, may it be open areas or huge arenas, to see their favorite artists.
The SMDC Festival Grounds in Parañaque, Samsung Hall in Taguig, and the New Frontier Theater, Araneta Coliseum, and North EDSA SkyDome in Quezon City are the most common performance venues for major acts. The Philippine Arena in Bulacan, meanwhile, is gaining popularity as a concert venue despite its distance from Metro Manila, but most remain unfamiliar with its ins and outs.
If you’re planning to attend a concert at the Philippine Arena or still contemplating if you should even go, then, here’s what you should consider.
(NOTE: These tips are all based on the writer’s personal experience; such experiences might not be the same for everyone, and it could still vary depending on the organizers of each specific concert.)
Compared to the usual concert venues in Metro Manila, the Philippine Arena in Bulacan has no option for mass public transportation such as Grab, Angkas, jeepneys, or trains, which makes getting there already a big hurdle for most attendees.
Make sure to iron out your mode of transportation days (and even weeks!) before the actual show dates. Lucky if you can bring a private car, but if not, best to avail of shuttle or bus services to make things easier for you.
In our case, we joined a bus rental effort for when we attended SEVENTEEN’s Be The Sun Bulacan concert in December. Fans started these initiatives months ahead of the actual show dates, with attendees being able to choose the closest pick-up points in their area.
And for those planning to bring their own cars, why not start a carpool with fellow fans living close to your area? This way, you won’t alone during the drive and you’ll be able to share expenses such as toll fees and gas.
If you’re a fan looking for these bus and car rentals, best to check Twitter or Facebook groups to see if there are these initiatives near your area.
If you’re wary of these fan-led projects, you can also see if the concert organizer will provide a shuttle service of their own. During the SEVENTEEN concert, the local organizer did open a shuttle service days before the concert, with several pick-up points and travel times. As of January 2023, though, it remains unclear whether the same initiative will happen for the BLACKPINK and Harry Styles concerts, but best to be on the lookout!
After finalizing which mode of transportation you’re taking, start planning your route. There are several routes (Ciudad de Victoria Exit, Marilao Exit, and Bocaue Exit, among others) concert-goers can take, depending on where they’re coming from. Don’t forget to monitor news regarding road closures and diversions so you can change your route accordingly.
According to a December 2022 post from Department of Public Works and Highways Regional Office III, the Ciudad de Victoria Southbound Exit Ramp will be temporarily closed from January 4 to March 31, 2023. So for those planning to attend the Harry Styles concert on March 14 and the BLACKPINK concert on March 25 and 26, best to take the Bocaue Exit instead when heading to the Philippine Arena.
Expect heavy traffic, too, considering that an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 concert-goers will be heading to the venue. There are also only about two entrance and exit points around the arena, so expect a huge vehicle build-up both before and after the concert. Best to leave early, especially if you’re coming far from the venue, to give leeway for the hours you’ll possibly be stuck in traffic.
Plan your departure time depending on the time you’re supposed to be at the venue. For example, VIP Soundcheck ticket-holders are usually required to be at the concert venue before noon, while most Upper Box or General Admission ticket-holders can wait until the moment doors are expected to open. Make sure to check the organizers announcement regarding these notices so your group can adjust your plans accordingly.
Best to familiarize yourself with the site map of the arena, too. Local organizers usually post a photo of it days before the concert, so make sure that you download a copy of it to help you navigate the area. The Philippine Arena area is huge and it could be overwhelming for those who are going there for the first time.
Having an idea about the placement of important venues – such as the medic, baggage counter, ticket and merch booth, CR, parking spots, and entrance points – would really make things smoother for you on the actual show dates.
Make sure to know which vehicles are designated to which parking area, too. In our experience, small private vehicles were allowed in parking areas A to D, while buses were only allowed from parking area E onwards. Knowing where each parking area is will be really helpful, especially if you’re going back to your vehicles after the concert.
Just a heads up, too, that there’s a high possibility your vehicle will be stuck when you’re exiting the area, as everyone’s trying to go to their respective homes after the concert, so better be patient!
Most concert junkies know that attending a concert can be physically exhausting (yes, even if we’re not the one dancing and singing onstage.) Many of us spend hours waiting for the actual concert, roaming around for fan-made gifts, taking photos with fellow fans, and lining up, so by the end of the show, our feet are already aching and our arms feel sore.
This is why fans usually prefer to check-in at nearby accommodations around the concert venue so they could rest as soon as possible after the concert, instead of taking the hours-long commute home.
Concert venues in Metro Manila are usually surrounded with several accommodation options, such as hotels and condominiums, which are often within walking distance.
But that’s not the same case for the Philippine Arena. However, there are several places that do offer short-term stays. Best to scour Facebook groups, AirBnB, and Agoda listings and book ahead. Make sure to consider the price and the distance from the venue and find the best one that fits your needs.
Aside from your transportation and accommodation options, it’s best to plan your food for the actual concert dates, too, as there are no nearby malls or restaurants around the area.
Our advice? Better to bring your own water and pack your meals, instead. If you expect to be there before noon, make sure that you have food options already for your lunch, snacks, and even dinner. You can buy meals on the way and just leave them in your vehicles when you’re attending the concert.
In our experience, the organizer partnered with several food establishments to have them set up stalls at the outdoor stadium near the arena during the day of the concert. However, lines for each stall were long and fans had to line up for an hour for their food. Imagine, fewer than 30 food stalls were available and there was an estimated crowd of around 40,000 – it’s no surprise that it was hard to meet the demand of the attendees.
There were also several food stalls at the lobby of the arena, and as expected, there was a long queue of attendees ordering food when the concert was finished.
At least if you brought your own meals, you won’t have to line up for so long. And you have the freedom to choose what you’d like to eat, too, as not all stalls might offer what you’re craving for.
One of our friends also attempted to have food delivered instead, since she didn’t want to line up at the stalls, but decided not to push through since it was hard to figure out the exact pin location, given the vast area of the venue and the big crowd.
Phone signals are unstable at the venue. We had Smart, Globe, Sun, and TNT SIMs, but all of them weren’t able to provide a stable connection.
If social media applications – Twitter, Telegram, Messenger – are your main mode of communication for your circle of friends, best to save each other’s phone numbers instead and make sure that you have enough mobile load to text and call your friends, if needed.
Make sure to agree on a meet-up place at the venue, so that you and your friends will have a place to go to in case you have a hard time reaching each other.
Reminders for concert dates
The preparation doesn’t stop there! Here are more tips that might help you on D-day!
Wear something comfortable. Promise, we know we strive to be extra for our concert OOTDs, but for a venue as huge as the Philippine Arena, trust us when we say that it’s best to put comfort and safety as your priority.
We usually wear platform boots and high heels for concerts at MOA Arena or Araneta Coliseum, as we have nearby accommodations, but we traded these for rubber shoes instead in for the Philippine Arena. That was a good call since we recorded 13,000 steps during the December 17 concert (imagine what would happen to us if we were wearing heels!).
The complex is huuuuuge (we’ll keep on reiterating this) and attendees have no choice but to walk, walk, walk from one point to another (even tricycles are only allowed at some areas), so best to find a footwear that you’re comfortable in.
Heads up, too, that Upper Box ticket holders have to climb a lot of stairs (although there’s an elevator, but there will obviously be a long line for that) to get to their seats. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to ask around if there were specific areas for persons with disabilities, but we did see several staff members assisting PWD attendees.
Make sure to bring an extra top, too. Or better yet, change to your concert fits before lining up for the entrance instead and just go for casual attire if you’ll be roaming around the area for the whole day. Or you can choose to stay inside your vehicles instead of roaming around if you arrive there early to avoid getting dirty and tired.
Bring necessities. Before leaving your house, double-check if your concert ticket, vaccination card, and IDs are already in your bag. You won’t be able to enter the venue proper if you don’t have any of these.
Bring an umbrella and portable fans, too, since the complex is mainly an open area. Although there are some areas where there’s some shade, it can’t really accommodate a huge crowd, especially when it rains.
If you have a medical condition, make sure to bring your medications, too. We usually bring over-the-counter pills for headaches, pain relief patches, mint lozenges, and Band-aids. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic so don’t forget to bring extra masks, alcohol, and tissues, too!
Also, make sure to bring cash! There are no nearby banks or ATMs and not all stalls accept credit cards or online transactions. And given the unstable mobile data, it’s best to not rely too much on online banks or cashless transactions.
Don’t forget to charge your power banks, and if you can bring an extra power bank, please do so.
Behave properly. Our queuing experience was a nightmare (that’s for an entirely different article), but thankfully, the co-attendees I was lining up with weren’t unruly. Everyone was giving way when others were asking for space, especially when some had to leave the queue because they were already starting to get dizzy.
With how chaotic and cramped the situation was, fans could have run amok, but luckily, that didn’t happen as they were just trying to help each other enter the venue. Fans were also helpful and responsive when we asked them for instructions and clarifications.
Admittedly, we still think that the Philippine Arena is not that concert-friendly compared to other venues in Metro Manila, but we do recognize that it has now become an option for organizers and performers who’d like to play for a bigger audience. Hopefully, though, organizers and staff will also improve their services so it will be a good experience for concert-goers. – Rappler.com