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The Philippine Arena: an architectural wonder

By Kenneth A. Ouano

THE “BIGGEST INDOOR ARENA in the world,” the Philippine Arena is a testament to a monumental triumph of members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) and of Filipinos around the world in general. It stands as the majestic centerpiece of the 140-hectare Ciudad de Victoria (CDV), which means “city of victory,” located in Bocaue and Santa Maria, Bulacan. The Philippine Arena is iconic not only because of its record size but also because it was built at record speed—one of the world’s fastest construction timelines—and also one of the top five earthquake-resistant megastructures in the world.

Colossal size
Not to be mistaken as an outdoor venue or a roofless/partially roofed structure such as Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium (80,000-seater), London’s Wembley Stadium (90,000-seater), or the Great Strahov Stadium (250,000-seater) in Prague, the Philippine Arena is a permanently roofed or fully closed indoor structure.

Other facilities of its category are Paris La Défense Arena (40,000-seater), the Romexpo in Bucharest (40,000-seater), the Saitama Super Arena (36,500-seater), the Olympic Stadium in Moscow (35,000-seater), and the Gwangmyeong Velodrome in South Korea (30,000-seater). The Philippine Arena, measuring 243 meters long and 193 meters wide, can accommodate up to 55,000 people, with its expansive floor area of 99,000 square meters.

Earthquake resistant
Because the Philippines is situated within the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the country is prone to tectonic movements and volcanic activities that cause devastating earthquakes. The land where the Philippine Arena sits on is only 24 kilometers away from the West Valley Fault, a long active fault line that runs through Metro Manila and some provinces in Luzon. Thus, the Philippine Arena had to be designed and constructed to withstand the strongest of seismic vibrations. The Philippine Arena has been featured and hailed as one of the Top 5 Earthquake Resistant Structures in the World.

Since the 10,000-ton domed roofing is its greatest load to carry, the Philippine Arena was constructed with thick core shear walls using 1,127 tons of steel and 541 major concrete columns. The foundation of the arena is braced by mechanical devices called lead rubber bearings (LRB) which can absorb tremendous amounts of external forces that can be generated by earthquakes, strong typhoons, and heavy rains. The load support system of the entire edifice consists of 55,000 cubic meters of concrete and almost 8,000 tons of reinforced steel bars.

Construction speed
Even before the CDV groundbreaking ceremony led by the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, on August 17, 2011, the firms involved in the construction and engineering work in this highlight of the INC Centennial projects knew that time was of the essence. The deadline was set since the Centennial of the Church was immovable. They needed to make innovative, yet safe and sure ways to speed up the construction—an ambitious task for any builder.

Material procurement and initial construction work began immediately after breaking ground. A throng of 2,500 construction workers and 40 engineers worked different shifts round the clock. Having access to prefabrication technologies was key to speeding up construction. Methods such as the laying of precast concrete components and applying the sandwich plate system (SPS) paved the way for faster and lighter work compared to more time-consuming conventional reinforced concrete methods. In a span of two years and nine months, the Philippine Arena was completed, setting a record as one of the fastest timelines successfully pulled off for the construction of a megastructure.

Environmental impact
To make Ciudad de Victoria as energy-efficient as planned, a 100% on-site power plant is installed for its facilities and serves as a backup to cope with the intermittent supply of commercial electricity. The state-of-the-art generators reduce the Carbon footprint of CDV’s facilities and prevent unstable surges in neighboring towns from the high demand of the arena. Also, to combat flooding and minimize erosion, run-off and rainwater collection features such as high-volume sewage pipes and retention ponds were incorporated to the design to prevent damaging the local drainage systems.

The landscaping of the Philippine Arena and throughout CDV do not only serve as aesthetics, but also define how the architectural space of this great edifice is nature-inspired and environment-friendly. Replacing the muddy plains and corn fields of this portion of land in Bulacan are the lush trees, shrubs, flowers, and lines of greenery tended to by teams of landscapers and horticulturists.

National pride
Since its inauguration, the Philippine Arena has hosted many notable events with massive crowds. From concerts of renowned celebrities, national and international sports events, to New Year countdowns and summer activities, CDV has become memorable to fans and tourists alike, greatly boosting tourism in Bulacan. Mr. Bartolome Ramos, former mayor of Santa Maria, Bulacan, stated that having the Philippine Arena at the foreground of their community will “help create employment and livelihood opportunities for Bulakenyos.” Also, former Bulacan governor, Mr. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado stated that “whatever development that Bocaue and Santa Maria will enjoy, it will cascade to all barangays and will benefit the whole province and the country as well.”

Most importantly, the Philippine Arena has been and will continue to be a venue for the historic activities and gatherings of the Church Of Christ.

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