A few months ago, I was trying to convince friends to attend a concert with me and a few seemed interested — that is, until they heard where the concert was going to be: the Philippine Arena. To that, all of them simply went, “Ugh.” And true enough, when I asked again, they weren’t willing to make the trip to Bulacan, even if it is to watch world-class acts.
Here’s the thing: Bulacan isn’t actually that far, just an hour or so away from many places in Metro Manila. But a nighttime event at the Philippine Arena is definitely less than ideal, with heavy traffic, packed parking, and limited public transport options. Not to mention, you’ll be sharing all of these with tens of thousands of other concert-goers.
But the Bulacan arena is here to stay. Nowadays, some of the biggest acts coming to the country are staging concerts in the Philippine Arena, from Harry Styles to Blackpink to Bruno Mars. If you’re a music lover, you’ll want to make your way there sooner or later.
And so, we’ve put together a handy Philippine Arena guide. Based on my recent trip to the Bulacan venue, here are some of the things you can expect and the best ways to get a not-so-stressful experience at the arena.
With the Philippine Arena’s seating capacity of 55,000, it shouldn’t be a problem securing a couple of tickets for you and your friends, right? Unfortunately, that’s not really the case.
Luck plays a big part in snagging concert tickets online, but it helps to be prepared. For instance, knowing your priority seats, secondary options, and backup plans ahead of time is a must. If you can swing slots during the pre-sale, then do so. And if you’re attending the concert with a group, multiple people can attempt to buy tickets for even better chances.
Moreover, don’t limit yourself to buying tickets online. If you can make the trip to a physical ticket booth, then it may be worth queuing up in person — and you can attempt an online purchase as well, even while you’re in line at the booth. (After three days of trying to buy Coldplay tickets online, this is how my friends and I finally got ours.)
For reference, some of the upcoming performers at the Philippine Arena include: Tomorrow x Together (13 Aug 2023); Twice (30 Sep and 1 Oct 2023); and Coldplay (19 and 20 Jan 2024). Have you gotten tickets yet?
How to get to the Philippine Arena
A major downside to attending concerts in the Philippine Arena is the lack of easy public transportation to the area. It’s possible, though: Commuters can hop on a Bocaue-bound bus and take a tricycle to the arena. But keep in mind that commuting back home might be more challenging due to the late hour.
The good news is, shuttle services from the concert organiser will typically be available, usually coming from Vertis North and Mall of Asia. Round-trip fare ranges from ₱450 to ₱600, based on recent concerts. If you’re coming from Metro Manila or nearby areas, this is probably your best bet.
Driving to the Philippine Arena? Pick your route wisely. It’s best to consult Waze and Google Maps, of course. Although the Ciudad de Victoria Exit is closer and offers a direct route to Philippine Arena, we opted to take the Bocaue Exit as we were planning to leave the arena that way, too.
There are a lot of parking spots near the Philippine Arena. Parking areas A to D are closer to the arena, but if you’re planning to leave via Bocaue like us, then you’ll want to park at Parking Area E3 or E4. It’ll be more than a kilometre from the arena, but you’re subjected to a much shorter drive exiting the arena complex. Take a tricycle to the concert venue if you’re not keen on walking.
Expect mind-numbingly slow traffic at night, with thousands of people trying to leave through two exit points; it took us more than an hour to leave the complex behind. Although tricycles are readily available to take you to your parking spot, you’ll be much faster on foot — it’ll probably take you forever on wheels. (When we were walking to the parking lot after the Bruno Mars concert, even an ambulance couldn’t squeeze through the bumper-to-bumper traffic.)
Prefer to stay close to the concert grounds? You may want to book accommodations nearby instead of making the long drive home.
Food and drinks
As is the case with most concert venues, you can’t bring your baon inside the Philippine Arena. You won’t have to go hungry, though; there are plenty of vendors selling all kinds of food both inside and outside the arena. From milk tea and fast food to tteokbokki and siomai, snacks and drinks are sold in abundance. Expect long lines, so don’t wait too long to grab a bite.
Another option is to pack lunch and dinner, and then just leave the food in the car. If you come early, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a meal before the concert. And afterwards, you might as well have dinner before facing the traffic, right?
For older attendees or anyone who finds it difficult to walk to the parking areas, consider hiring a private car and driver who can wait for you and pick you up near the arena. It’s also best to be prepared to walk a ton and climb a lot of stairs, especially if you’re seated at the Upper Box sections. Elevators are limited and will only take you to your door entrance. Thus, wear comfortable shoes.
Bring cash. We know Gcash is king right now, but huge crowds at the Philippine Arena mean that mobile data and phone signals can be unreliable.
Don’t bring too much stuff. Not only will you have to lug them while being on your feet for long periods, but you also run the risk of getting items confiscated. (Our queue had a particularly strict staff member who took my sister’s pen.)
That’s it; we hope this guide to the Philippine Arena means that you won’t have to stress out and overthink your upcoming concert as much as we did!
Featured image credit: dann_garcia | Flickr