Come to think of it, the defunct, iconic PTA grounds (now People’s Park) was like an endearing member of our family, who has gone ahead of us. So sad it had to go. During its lifetime, it served us lasting joys, excitement, exuberance and the things that we love – sports and competition, shows, celebrations, festivities, those that enriched our lives and removed us from boredom and lethargy.
It was a great arena that hosted thousands of exciting events in almost 70 years of its existence and gifted the Davaweños an experience of a lifetime.
Many a time we watched frenzied fans, up on their feet, cheering, chanting and roaring at the dying minutes of a winner- take- all basketball thriller or watching runners, hurtling through their last hundred meters to the finish line in blurring speed. We also witnessed, all too often, the victory celebrations and sadly, the sight of a heart- rending, agonizing face of defeat.
Sure, the place is still there but the very soul and the raison d’etre have left us cold and wanting. Having been transformed into an oasis with its aesthetic scenery is fine. But, believe you, me, it can never, ever, replace the immense entertainment value, the thrills and excitement bequeathed to us by this great arena.
Located along Camus and Palma Gil Sts, it stood as a venue for the historic events and other magical moments in Davao’s glorious history. Its track oval and grounds were sites of track and field, baseball, soccer, volleyball, javelin, shot put, hammer throw, long and high jump and others. An indoor basketball court and a ceremonial stage added more luster to its glorious past.
The famous Sheum’s Circus, a Chinese company that regularly toured Southeast Asia came to town in the late 50s. We witnessed a great spectacle of amazing circus acts, acrobats, jugglers, laser-accurate rifle and pistol shooting, animal acts, heart-stopping roller coaster rides and sideshows of human oddities.
Abe Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters, the famous international clowns of basketball also added to its colorful history by leaving their footprints on the stadium’s basketball court in the late 50s for an exhibition game with their perennial opponents, the Washington Generals.
Basketball-crazed Davaweños jam packed the gym, spilling over the stands and up to the rafters to watch this once in a lifetime sports spectacle. Shocked and awed, the jubilant fans witnessed their athleticism, out-of-this- world ball handling, dribbling, shooting and the mind- boggling wrap around, between-the- legs, no-look passes, goofing around with the opponents and keeping the crowd at the edge of their seats.
The 400 meter track oval was a great place for plain folks, businessmen, athletes, young and elderly who once strolled, jogged or sprinted either for exercise or engaged in the more serious workout for the forthcoming competitions. For some, the top- most level grandstand on the stadium was the sweet spot where some sneaky action took place. But that’s another story.
Two tennis courts beside the oval provided our tennis players a much-needed venue to fine tune their game. Daily matches and regular tournaments enhanced their skills, discipline and sportsmanship. It was also a happy place for socials, fellowship and camaraderie among the club members.
In fact, for us who were fortunate to have lived during the lifetime of this arena, let it be said that the PTA grounds has truly served us well. We ought to remember it as our lost treasure. And keep its colorful storied past illumined in our collective memory. To be continued.
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