The Night Before the ULTRA Stampede

You've probably heard about the stampede this morning at the Philsports Arena (formerly known as ULTRA). I was there last night.

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I wondered why there were so many people on the streets around ULTRA. One four-lane road was closed, and its sidewalks were teeming with people. The four-lane side road that leads to Lanuza and C-5 was transformed into a one-lane, one-way road.

I thought there was a demonstration, or something. But people were not shouting any slogans or calls for someone's ouster.

They were just standing around or trying to walk near the six (?) aqua green portalets, or crossing the road to probably get something to eat, getting in the way of traffic with nary a care in the world.

Afterall, they overwhelmed everyone with their sheer number.

I saw about 8 security guards/traffice enforcers/barangay tanods trying to direct the motorists (I couldn't see Meralco Avenue, though). Even a security officer on a motorcycle had trouble motoring down the slowly vanishing road.

There were simply too many people on the streets.

When I finally got home, that's when I heard on the TV that the popular show Wowowee was going to celebrate its First Anniversary on Saturday... at the ULTRA.

And that's when all of Friday's images started to make sense: the people who looked like they've traveled from afar, the standing-can't-sit-anywhere crowd that seemed to be waiting for something or someone, the weary, hungry, squished-like-sardines faces who probably won't be able to sleep that Friday evening...

And then we have the Saturday morning tragedy.

Clearly, ULTRA is not the proper venue for a free TV show celebration that's going to be patronized by too many tired people (who have been camping around the place for days).

I once attended a Barry Manilow concert many years ago at the ULTRA, and the crowd then was only about one-fifth of the crowd I saw last night. Still, it was already a stifling, tiring, and practically claustrophobic experience for me.

Willy Revillame's Wowowee is at least five times more popular than that Barry Manilow concert. I can't understand why ABS-CBN picked the Philsport Arena.

This truly is a senseless tragedy, one which I hope can and will be avoided in the future.

[ First posted on 02/04/2006 by Manuel Viloria ]

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