How NET25 welcomed 2024 at Philippine Arena

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
How NET25 welcomed 2024 at Philippine Arena
The Starkada of NET25 in their opening number on Dec. 31 at the Philippine Arena.

Last Sunday, Dec. 31, was my first time to attend NET25’s annual New Year’s Eve Countdown at the Philippine Arena. Since I arrived early, I had time to explore the areas surrounding the Arena, which is located in Ciudad de Victoria in Bocaue, Bulacan. I had no idea that the grounds offered such a wide range of attractions and activities for families and friends to enjoy.

Among them are the Museum of Death with its ghoulish, hair-raising exhibit of skeletons, corpses, and murder/torture devices; and the House of Mirrors and Illusions for those who want to post amusing and distorted selfies/groufies on Instagram. There’s also a food fair along Gancho street where concessionaires serve an assortment of foods and drinks. For those who are in the mood to shop, there’s a wide-ranging selection of merchandise as well. Contributing to the theme park feel are game booths and amusement rides for kids, and thrill rides for the more daring.

Band members of Lola Amor backstage.

How delightful it was to see families and barkadas enjoying the Ciudad’s sprawling grounds, with some groups pitching tents while others brought picnic mats. These “veteran” visitors obviously knew that there was so much to do here that they needed a spot to rest or take a nap in between activities. 

That day, though, the red-letter event was the NET25 concert and the countdown to 2024 in the Grand Staircase of the Philippine Arena that would culminate in a spectacular fireworks display.

With the band members of the very popular group from Baguio City, Dilaw.

There was a pre-show that started at 7:30 p.m. hosted by Jon Lucas and Miyuki de Leon, during which prizes were given away to lucky members of the audience. JC Regino, son of the late April Boy Regino, then serenaded the audience with two numbers. After JC came a dose of girl power. From Starkada, the NET25 talent arm headed by Eric Quizon, came Gia Gonzalez, Celyn David and Omelia Brianna, who sang their spirited rendition of That’s My Girl. Not to be outdone, Starkada boys Migs Rubia, Nate Reyes, Zach Francisco, David Racelis and Juan Atienza sang and danced to Macho Guapito to the audience’s delight.

Rap icon GLOC-9 entertaining the crowd.

At 9 p.m., the main countdown show began with all 34 young artists of Starkada singing Dreamers, the song popularized by the FIFA World Cup. The Starkada youngsters were a revelation that night. Despite being launched only last September, their transformation as artists was apparent, each performer brimming with confidence and knowing exactly how to project for the cameras of direk Bobet Vidanes, who was capturing the event live for the TV audience. After the heartwarming opening, the main hosts of the evening — Tonipet Gaba and Love Añover of the daily morning show Love Tonipet and Everythaang — came onstage to greet the audience and televiewers and began the countdown to midnight.  

Main hosts of the New Year countdown are Love Añover and Tonypet Gaba.

The concert was headlined by top bands Jumanji, Mayonnaise, Dilaw, Lola Amor, and rapper GLOC-9 much to the delight of the very energetic and enthusiastic audience who sang along with the performers.

The theme of the show — “Together we soar this 2024” — was quite apt as the symbol of NET25 is an eagle. NET25 has indeed taken flight in 2023 with the addition of these major artists to its stellar roster of stars: Tito Sotto (Reality Check), Vic Sotto (Love Bosleng and Tali), Joey de Leon (Oh No! It’s Biro Only), Korina Sanchez-Roxas (Korina Interviews), Aga Muhlach (Tara Game Agad Agad), Pia Guanio (Kada Umaga), and Eric, Epy and Vandolph Quizon (Quizon City). Soon to join the network are Empoy Marquez and Alessandra De Rossi (May Forever) and Diamond Star Maricel Soriano (3 in 1).

As midnight approached, hosts David Chua, Regine Angeles and Gianna Llanes called on stage consultant for Programming and Productions Wilma Galvante and NET25 president Caesar R. Vallejos (CRV). In his message, CRV thanked the loyal viewers of NET25 and announced that the network would be building more transmitters to reach a wider audience and beefing up its programming and live event offerings.

Caesar Vallejos, president of NET25, enjoying the beautiful fireworks display to welcome the New Year at the Philippine Arena.

Minutes before midnight, there were three podiums on stage. The hosts announced that during the last 30 seconds of 2023, the giant buttons would be pressed at the 30 seconds, 15 seconds and zero second marks to usher in the New Year. At the stroke of midnight, as CRV pressed the last button, a dazzling, awe-inspiring fireworks display began, illuminating the sky for 15 minutes while the audience oooohd and aaaahhhdd in delight.

After the fireworks, the hosts and Starkada sang an upbeat version of Auld Lang Syne (which literally means “old long since” or “for old times’ sake”). Everybody then danced to the music of Sumayaw Sumunod as the festivities wound down. 

Wonderful as it was to see all the top bands and performers entertain the crowd of thousands, what made the event truly magical for me was the breathtaking fireworks. No wonder thousands upon thousands of people troop to Bocaue, Bulacan from near and far just to catch a glimpse of the awesome display.

If you’d like to catch (or relive) the spectacular Philippine Arena New Year Countdown to 2024, just go to NET25’s YouTube channel.

POSTSCRIPT: As I was finalizing this article, I saw that Monday First Screening — the Gina Alajar-Ricky Davao romcom that was the very first movie produced by NET25 Films — was the No. 2 movie on Netflix! How’s that for a soaring start of the year? Congratulations to NET25 on this wonderful achievement, which I am sure will be just one of many milestones the network will achieve in what is already shaping up to be a banner year. Continue to soar in 2024, NET25!

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