LOOK BACK: Araneta Coliseum’s most iconic events

Alexa Villano

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LOOK BACK: Araneta Coliseum’s most iconic events


The Big Dome, now known as the Smart Araneta Coliseum, celebrates 60 years as one of the country's premiere event places

MANILA, Philippines – The Smart Araneta Coliseum turned 60 on Monday, March 16. It’s come a long way since it first opened its doors in 1960.

The coliseum or the “Big Dome” was constructed from 1957 to 1959. On March 16, 1960, the Araneta Coliseum was opened to the public.  It was – and is still – considered one of the biggest event centers in the country and has hosted beauty pageants, concerts, boxing matches, basketball games, and many other events.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest events that the Big Dome has hosted in the past 60 years. 


Gabriel “Flash” Elorde versus Harold Gomes. On March 16, 1960 the Big Dome hosted the World Junior Lightweight boxing match against American Harold Gomes and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. A capacity crowd of 36,000 screaming fans was present to cheer Elorde, who beat Gomes in the match.

Thrilla in Manila. On October 1, 1975, the coliseum hosted one of the biggest boxing matches, Thrilla in Manila, featuring Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. After Ali’s win, a mall was named after him at the Araneta City – Ali Mall.

THRILLA IN MANILA. Shoppers look at memorabilia and photo exhibit featuring Muhammad Ali at the Ali Mall in Manila on June 10, 2016. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP


Toyota and Crispa basketball games. The coliseum, which has been home to a bulk of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), has drawn in big crowds. The on-court rivalry between the Toyota Tamaraws and the Crispa Redmanizers was one of the league’s greatest. It lasted for 10 years. Their games were intense — so much so that there were reported clashes outside of the court between fans.


UAAP. The coliseum has also been home to the basketball games of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). The biggest matches, of course, as usually between Ateneo and La Salle. At its height, the collegiate rivalry drew over 20,000 during matches.

RIVALRY. The Araneta Coliseum has witnessed matches between Ateneo and La Salle for many seasons of the UAAP. File photo by Michael Gatpandan/Rappler  


Pope John Paul II visit. On Februay 18, 1981, the late Pope John Paul II held a mass inside the coliseum during his first visit. It was in the coliseum that he said: “This place will be called the Colosseo of Papal Audiences.”


Concerts. The coliseum has been home to some of the biggest concerts by both foreign and local acts including Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo, Hanson, Avril Lavigne, Sting, and many more.

TV specials. The coliseum has also hosted some TV specials including the yearly ABS-CBN Christmas special, where all off the stars get together to perform as part of its holiday line up.

Pageantry. The Big Dome has also been the home of the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant. It has also hosted other competitions such as Mister World and Miss World Philippines.

HOME. Araneta Coliseum has been the home of Bb Pilipinas since it was established. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Disney on Ice and Christmas specials. The dome has also hosted Disney on Ice and the Grand China Acrobatic Circus.


Furry friends. The coliseum has also been the choice venue for dog shows.


In 1999, the coliseum underwent some changes. A computerized scoreboard was put up, detachable/portable basketball flooring was installed, a new aluminum catwalk was put in place, and state of the art sound and lighting was installed provided. In 2010, the computerzied scoreboard was replaced by the “BIG CUBE” inside the coliseum.

As part of its partnership with Smart Communications, the Araneta Coliseum was renamed the Smart Araneta Coliseum in 2011. To celebrate the occasion, some of NBA’s biggest stars, including the James Harden, Chris Paul and the late Kobe Bryant, played against Smart Gilas and PBA All-Stars team. – Rappler.com

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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.