Panes: Momentary apologetics

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, August 4, 2014


IN THE past week, the nation was treated to a douse of honour. No, I am not referring to PNoy's Sona. I am not also referring to the plan of the Baguio City Government to make the hallowed Melvin Jones parade grounds a parking lot. I refer to the INC-owned Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan standing on 74,000 square meters with a capacity to seat 55,000 warm bodies. Its public relations arm proclaimed it as the largest indoor arena in the world.

A major media outlet was kind enough to prepare an infographic entitled “The Philippine Arena versus World Stadiums.” ABS-CBN illustrated that INC’s Philippine Arena was larger than the Staples Center (21,000) in Los Angeles; the O2 Arena (20,000) in London; and Mall of Asia Arena (20,000) in Pasay.

Well, it did show that the Hongkong Stadium can also seat a maximum of 55,000.

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What could have been also said?

Well of His Excellency President PNoy, I wish that in his obligatory SONA he had humbly admitted before his bosses (the Filipino people) the error of treading on a dishonourable path of name changing the now maligned legislative’s PDAF to the executive’s DAP which has become his cookie jar of good intentions. In humbly admitting risk was taken on the advice of one of his trusted cabinet members, the president could have become a bigger man in the eyes of the nation.

Of the honourable city mayor, I wish he had better places to build a parking facility other than the Melvin Jones grounds. Is better utility of the space the city’s concern? One of the predecessors of the mayor’s office once planned to lay artificial turf on those grounds. This concept could be worth adapting. This will give field sports a booster. The Baguio sports community particularly the local football clubs who have been recently enamoured by Lionel Messi’s moves in the World Cup will surely welcome a better place to duplicate those flashy moves.

Will you get “pogi” points? Sure, your honour and the entire city council behind the “Act to Set Aside the Parking Lot Plans” will smell like fresh air. Fewer vehicles discouraged from roaming within the city’s central business district would mean less carbon monoxide emissions. The quality of air which the Baguio mainstay breathes everyday will be better. Besides, I believe that most of those flashy sedans suffering the dearth of parking spaces will not be casting their votes for you. The registered Baguio resident will.

Of the claim that the Philippine Arena is the biggest indoor arena in the world I wish that before the “claim to fame” deluge in the media, more diligence was exercised. A disclosure of its esteemed purposes would have been fitting since bold comparisons with structures denominated as arenas and stadiums in the world had been made. There is after all in Pyongyang, the 150,000 seater Rungrado Stadium standing on 207,000 square meters. I hope that the mercuric North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un had not been offended by this omission. The country does not have Israel’s Iron Dome.
To most, an arena is almost always identified with a venue for sporting events. A web dictionary defines it as a level area surrounded by seats for spectators in which sports, entertainment and other public events are held. The common perception of what an arena is consistently embraces with the letters of the textbook’s definition.

Arena, the word had its origins in Latin. Derived from the word harena, it means sand or a sandy place. It also means a place of combat. Historically, the Roman amphitheaters were also called arenas and these were venues where gladiatorial contests and other spectacles would take place, the central part of which was strewn with sand to soak up the blood spilled from the combatants. Do you remember a scene in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator where Russel Crowe hollered, “Do you want to be entertained?” Yes, that was an arena.

In Greek, stadion was its counterpart. Literally, it means a fixed standard of length. The stadion was a race track or a running oval, one stadia in length. Old English bibles translated stadia as a furlong in length. That length today in today’s track and field oval is 400 meters. Unlike the Roman arena which sand was soaked with blood, this Greek stadia was a track oval.

In the language of today however, this has become the stadium – a large open structure with tiers of seats for viewing sporting events.

This much or little, I now know. An arena or stadium is the same banana with a different name. As to purpose and function, both are associated with sports or entertainment. Certainly, the infographic comparing it against the world’s biggest arenas or stadiums known for sports and entertainment did not veer away from the inevitability of a conclusion that the Philippine Arena is dedicated for sports or entertainment.

I have chosen to write not because the journalistic Jogins of this world are screaming in the social media that a gospel truth short of its fullness has been made. A little leaven, a distinguished rabbi who saw the Light wrote, leavens the whole lump.

I did not write to dampen spirits. I instinctively felt that a sliver of truth deserves its place in the sun. As what the Philippine Arena is truly the largest, Guinness adjudicator Kaoru Ishikawa awarded the INC mega-structure the title of the largest mixed-use theatre in the world. Kudos!

But arena or stadium, it wasn’t. Semantics? That notwithstanding, the nation has something in the territory of the largest to be proud of. Congratulations, INC!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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