Philippine Arena hassle: Concertgoers lament missing parts of Bruno Mars’ show, NLEX traffic

June 26, 2023 - 12:59 PM
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Philippine Arena
An undated photo of the Philippine Area in Bulacan. (Philstar.com/File photo)

Concertgoers’ complaints about their recent experience heading to and from the Philippine Arena, the concert venue of American singer Bruno Mars, filled local social media over the weekend.

The 15-time Grammy Award winner, whose mother is a Filipino, held a two-day concert in Bulacan on June 24 and 25 where he performed his chart-topping hits that have constantly played on Philippine radios.

These include his fan favorites “Runaway Baby,” “Grenade,” “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Billionaire,” “Uptown Funk,” and “Marry You,” among others.

Bruno also endeared Pinoys by peppering his stage commentaries with some Filipino phrases such as “Miss na kita, mahal” and “Masaya ako na makita ko kayo!”

This was the award-winning performer’s fourth concert in his mother’s homeland. The last time he visited the country was in 2018 when he staged his “24K Magic” world tour.

On his latest Philippine visit, Bruno took a while to open the show due to heavy traffic encountered by some attendees, according to Philstar.com’s report.

This was evident in the experiences of television host Maine Mendoza, musician Paolo Valenciano, and ABS-CBN reporter Shiela Reyes, who documented their experiences online.

Maine tweeted that she was only able to witness Bruno performing his “last two songs” before the concert ended.

“Went to see Bruno Mars in Philippine Arena and made it to the finale (smiling-face-with-tear emoji),” she wrote on Saturday, June 24.

“Happy pa din kasi umabot sa last two songs. Napaka-hassle lang talaga ng entry and exit! Has it always been like this? Kumusta ang previous concerts dito? And ‘Tamang Panahon?!’ Shocks, sorry kung ganito din ka-hassle,” Maine added.

“Tamang Panahon” refers to a special episode of “Eat Bulaga”  where Maine as “Yaya Dub” and Alden Richards of the noontime show’s “Kalyeserye” portion met for the first time without obstacles in October 2015.

The event was staged at the Philippine Arena, which was reportedly “packed right up to the very last row.”

Meanwhile, Maine also tweeted that she might not attend concerts at the Bulacan site for now following her experience during Bruno’s concert.

“Pass na muna siguro ako. Arrive early then suffer after the show, [ganoon]. Yikes,” she said with a hot face emoji.

Shiela of ABS-CBN also described the traffic to the venue as “brutal” in her concert review published on Sunday, June 25.

“At around 6 p.m., the northbound lanes of NLEX resembled a massive parking lot,” she said, referring to the North Luzon Expressway, the toll expressway connecting Metro Manila to the provinces of Central Luzon, including Bulacan.

“Vehicles were inching forward at a very, very slow pace, and the anxiety of missing a significant portion of the concert started to become burdensome,” Shiela added.

According to the reporter, she left the ABS-CBN Compound in Quezon City at around 4 p.m.

“During this period, ‘NLEX,’ ‘BrunoMarsinPH,’ and ‘Philippine Arena’ had already become top trends on Twitter, primarily due to the predicament faced by numerous fans who were still making their way to the complex,” the reporter said when she was in transit at around 6 p.m.

“I arrived at the concert venue past 8 p.m. and Mars was already halfway through his set list. Despite my frustration, I considered myself fortunate compared to those who missed out on more of Mars’ performances or, even worse, were unable make it to the venue at all because of the traffic jam,” Shiela added.

A Twitter account giving updates about Philippine concerts also reported that “many fans of Bruno Mars arrived late due to heavy traffic at NLEX” last Saturday.

Social media personality Macoy Dubs also shared a screengrab of an Instagram message he supposedly sent Bruno on the concert’s first day.

“15 mins [minutes] grace period po sir Bruno, barado lang NLEX,” Macoy wrote as a caption on his social media post.

Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee also took to Twitter to ask fans how early one should leave for the concert.

“Asking for Rhian [Ramos]: How early should she leave Makati to make the #BrunoMarsinManila concert?? Heard a lot of people didn’t make it?” she wrote on Sunday, 2:09 p.m.

By 4:46 p.m., the beauty queen tweeted that the actress had “just left.”

Paolo, a son of veteran performer Gary Valenciano, also shared that he has “been on the road 2 [two] hours” as of Saturday, 8:08 p.m. He shared his estimated arrival time at the Philippine Arena, which was pegged at 9:20 p.m.

“I guess sa TikTok na lang [kami] manonood,” he tweeted with a clown emoji, adding the hashtags “#BrunoMarsInPH,” “#brunomars,” and “#nlex.”

Some online users said they walked along NLEX just to go to the concert venue.

Following the deluge of complaints about traffic woes, some Twitter users commented that concert producers “should stop holding concerts in that place.”

“So many complaint tweets about the Philippine Arena from last night’s Bruno Mars concert. Complaints are on the heavy traffic and many being late to the concert,” Twitter user @wawam wrote on Sunday.

Other users agreed with @wawam in the replies thread.

“This is precisely the reason why I didn’t go to see Bruno Mars. I went to Katy Perry’s concert there several years ago and I now refuse to go back! Nawala enjoyment from the concert because it’s so stressful to go there and come home!” another Twitter user wrote.

“I attended@BLACKPINK’s concert in PH [Philippine] Arena and grabe [‘yung] trapik. ‘Yung tipong mas matagal pa [‘yung’ binyahe mo sa duration nung mismong concert. Buti na lang enjoy [‘yung] concert [pero] I told myself na hindi na ‘ko uulit na concert ‘pag dun [‘yung] venue,” a different Pinoy said.

Others, however, commented that fans should have “left early” for Bruno’s concert, given its location.

“So apparently, some Bruno Mars stans arrived late in PH Arena due to traffic. Y’all should take note from [K-pop] fans who [arrive] way too early, like, literally too early, before the show starts, lmao,” a Twitter user said.

“I know for a fact na f**ked-up talaga ang traffic situation sa PH Arena tuwing may concerts, pero this Bruno Mars situation showed how [K-POP] stans are built different,” another online user wrote.

“Also, while there are some na busy talaga during the day kaya hindi nakapunta nang maaga sa venue, I think may mga iba sigurong pinairal pa rin talaga ang Filo [Filipino] time (?),” the Twitter user added, referring to “Filipino Time,” a phrase referring to a habit where someone always arrives later than expected.

The venue

The Philippine Arena is considered the world’s largest indoor arena, with a maximum seating capacity of 55,000 in a fully enclosed structure.

The Guinness Book of Records also recognized it as the “largest mixed-used indoor theatre” as of 2014.

The structure serves as a primary major church gathering venue of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), whose education institution New Era University owns the site.

Due to its huge seating capacity, the arena has also become a prime choice for event organizers, including concert producers.

It is located in Bocaue, Bulacan. The province is commonly accessed via NLEX by those coming from Metro Manila.

According to a Philippine Arena guide by Spot.ph, concert organizers like Live Nation have shuttle services to and from the venue.

It added that there are also “street teams” which might provide van rentals or carpool services for fans. The publication said they can be accessed through Facebook groups or Twitter threads.