SEA Games, PhilSports Arena
Makati,  Mandaluyong,  Pasay,  Pasig,  San Juan

SEA Games 2019 in the Metropolis

With the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) drawing to a close, it is safe to say that the holding of the event in the country for the past 11 days has been a resounding success.

Throughout those 11 days, people have been trooping to the different venues to watch the various events live. Of these venues, the ones that got a lot of attention were the new facilities in New Clark City, namely the Athletics Stadium and the Aquatic Center, as well as the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex which recently got quite a massive makeover and was featured here last week.

The Urban Roamer was fortunate to have visited some of these venues to watch some of the sporting events of the SEA Games. Unfortunately, due to schedule and logistical restraints, there were some venues in Metro Manila and events missed such as the World Trade Center Manila, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, Mall of Asia Arena, Muntinlupa Sports Complex, UP Diliman, Filinvest City, Philippine Marine training grounds, PICC, and Manila Hotel. But hey, you can’t do it all.

PhilSports Arena

Apart from the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, one other venue that went through a massive renovation was the PhilSports Arena in Pasig, better known to some people by its old name: the University of Life Theater and Recreational Arena or ULTRA.

SEA Games, PhilSports Arena

Originally built in the 1980s (1985 in some sources), the PhilSports Arena is part of a sports complex which a track and athletics field and a swimming pool that, in turn, used to form part of the University of Life (the UL in ULTRA). The University of Life is itself a controversial institution, owing to the fact that it was founded by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos herself. Thus, when the Marcoses were overthrown in 1986, the University of Life closed down as a result. However, the sports complex remained in operation and it eventually was administered by the Philippine Sports Commission in 1990. The sports complex was renamed as the PhilSports Complex and ULTRA became the PhilSports Arena.

Ownership changes aside, the PhilSports Arena served as an important sports and entertainment venue, rivaling that of the Araneta Coliseum. In particular, it served as a longtime home of the Philippine Basketball Association or PBA and was a venue of many concerts in the 1980s and 1990s. But by the 1990s, the PhilSports Arena went through a slow decline which started when the PBA moved to the Cuneta Astrodome (more on that later). Then in 2006, a live event of ABS-CBN’s game show Wowowee turned tragic when a stampede caused the death of 74 people. It also didn’t help that newer and larger venues like the Mall of Asia Arena diminished PhilSports Arena’s significance though it still served as a venue for some events.

The PhilSports Arena would get a new lease of life with the decision to hold the volleyball events of the 2019 SEA Games at the venue. The decision brought about some renovations such as the installation of new floor tiles, cooler airconditioning and adding some “plastered” elements to the facade to make it more contemporary-looking from its concrete 1980s facade. Suffice to say, the PhilSports Arena has returned to the public consciousness.

Here’s hoping that it would be the start of better things ahead for the PhilSports Arena, much like how the renovation has helped the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

Coronado Lanes at Starmall EDSA

When it was first announced that the bowling events will be held at Coronado Lanes at Starmall EDSA, there were some who questioned the decision. After all, Starmall is not really a mall on the levels of SM, so there was the perception that the bowling area there is of the same quality. Besides that, Starmall is owned by the family of businessman and political figure Manuel Villar, so there is suspicion of politics at play.

As an Urban Roamer, it has been my mission to find value in the metropolis’ overlooked places. This is no different, especially that those opinions reek of discrimination, ignoring the overlooked value the bowling venue, and even of the mall, has to offer instead of being of “lower class.”

Firstly, Coronado Lanes is a cherished brand for a bowling venue as it has been around ever since the late 1960s. And behind this brand is the well-known Puyat family who have long established themselves as pioneers of bowling in the country. In fact, Coronado Lanes is one of the 5 bowling venues being managed by the Puyats through their AMF-Puyat group.

Secondly, Coronado Lanes is actually quite massive with a whopping 38 lanes, much more than many bowling venues in the metropolis. And considering international bowling competitions require a venue of at least 32 lanes, Coronado fits right in. In fact, it has been the venue of many national and even some international bowling competitions. More so, the Philippine bowling team practices here as well.

Thirdly, Philippine bowling legend Paeng Nepomuceno helps manage the venue, along with other Puyat bowling places. And as a bowler himself, he has made sure that they are up to world bowling standards.

As they always say, never judge a book by its cover. And this certainly applies here in this case. No renovations were made in the venue though, but it still served its purpose well.

Filoil Flying V Centre

Owned and managed by the San Juan city government, the Filoil Flying V Centre was built in 2006 to be the city’s main multipurpose venue, replacing the San Juan Coliseum which was not easily accessible and suffering from urban blight. It is fairly smaller than other venues, so it’s more of a venue utilized for collegiate and amateur sports events and other small-scale live events.

It was originally named the San Juan Arena and it bears the long-wielding title of sorts “Entertainment and Recreational Arena of the People” (AKA “ERAP”, you know the former San Juan mayor and President’s nickname). In 2009, the San Juan government entered into a naming rights agreement with oil company Filoil Flying V, thus the San Juan Arena would be rechristened into the Filoil Flying V Arena, eventually Centre. Currently, it is one of the two sports venues in the country that bear corporate names, the other being Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Filoil Flying V Centre was chosen to be the venue for the esports events of the 30th SEA Games. It did not go through a renovation in preparation for the event but it still served its purpose fine.

Cuneta Astrodome

Opened in 1993, the Cuneta Astrodome was built by the Pasay city government as the city’s own multipurpose venue. It was built during the term of longtime mayor Pablo Cuneta, hence the name. And yes, his daughter Sharon has held a concert there.

It made its mark in the map when it began hosting the games of the PBA. It still hosts PBA games but not as frequent as it was during the 1990s. It also was a venue for a number of concerts, sporting events, and other gatherings.

For the 2019 SEA Games, Cuneta Astrodome was chosen as the venue for the kickboxing events. There were not much renovations that were done in preparation and it showed. The seats are not in good condition and the paint has worn out. Of the SEA Games venues the Urban Roamer visited, this is probably the worst-looking relatively speaking and it’s such a shame for such a storied landmark.

Manila Polo Club

This exclusive members-only venue was chosen to be the venue for squash events of the SEA Games. And it gave people an opportunity to step inside this exclusive venue. However, the fact the facilities were not made for quite large events showed as the squash courts were crowded with the limited space available. (Also, photography around the Manila Polo Club grounds were not allowed because the club apparently are exclusivist snobs)

Originally, the plan was that the games will be held in a dedicated squash facility being built in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, the first public squash courts to be built in the country actually since the squash courts in the metropolis are actually in private member clubs. However, the construction could not be completed in time for the SEA Games so they had to move the events there.

However, the work on the RMSC squash courts continues and it is expected to open by March next year.


As we close the 30th SEA Games, let us give our appreciation to the athletes, volunteers, organizers, supporters….basically everyone who, in their own way, helped make this event a success.

Let us also give our appreciation to the people who worked at the venues, those who worked in the renovation, especially of the RMSC and PhilSports Arena, those who made sure the venues were conducive to the sporting events held there, and those who helped keep the order in those places.

To paraphrase the slogan of this SEA Games, we all won as one.

Maraming salamat sa inyo at mabuhay kayong lahat!

Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia

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