16th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta: A Weekend of Everything that Flies and Eye Candies
Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga-- Finally, after missing it last year, I was able to go to my first, ever, hot air balloon event on Feb 13, 2011. The Philippine International Hot Air Ballon Fiesta, an annual event, held its 16th fiesta last week from Feb 10 to 13 at the Clark Economic Freeport Zone.
Lakwatsera and I left Cainta, Rizal last Saturday at 2:30 am, and, in less than two hours, found ourselves a sweet parking spot inside Clark, not far from the entrance to the event.
We left Cainta as early as we can anticipating a possible early traffic build up inside the Clark Freeport Zone. It was a Sunday and still very early, so, prior to entering Pampanga, traffic was not really a problem. We cruised through NLEX at a steady speed of 100kph. By 4:00 am we were already at the Dau exit. We could have gone directly to Clark via SCTEX from NLEX but Lakwtasera chose not to. Nevertheless, it was still a hassle free drive from Dau to Angeles City.
It was still an hour early but hundreds of people were already at the gates lining up for tickets. when we arrived. Thanks to Caltex and Digital Photographer Philippines , Lakwatsera and I didn't have to line up at the main gate to get tickets.
There are so many eye-catching and colorful festivals all over the Philippines but this one is unique because it takes place not only on the ground but IN THE AYER! These eye candies made the monotonous blue sky and white clouds come to life.
Aside from the Hot Air Ballon Flights, the entire day was filled with all sorts of flying and sky related activities like Paragliding Exhibition, Ultralight Aircraft Flyby, Helicopter Flying Exhibition, Skydiving Exhibition,Choreographed Kite Flying Exhibition, Ultralight Flying Display, RC Airplane Flying Demonstration, Aerobatic Exhibition, et al.
Lakwatsera and I witnessed the event up close and right where the action was because we both had a photographer's pass. NEITHER of us are photographers. The photographer's pass from CALTEX was raffled out by DPP (Digital Photographer Philippines) among its members and out of hundreds of hopefuls, we both won, fair and square.
Regular access to the event through regular tickets (150pesos) means watching it behind a fence, which isn't bad, at all. But there are several ways people can get inside the perimeter where the balloons are: media pass, participant pass, photographer pass, sponsor pass, to name a few, but, there is one pass that supersedes all other passes, the ' I-have-a-relative-from-the-Air-Force pass'. I have nothing against people who get in for free because they have a relative from the Air Force. But, please, organizers, tell your marshals not to give them special treatment or priority over those who actually spent time, effort and money to obtain a legit pass. These kamag-anaks (relatives of Air Force personnel assigned in Clark) were ushered in inside the perimeter ahead of everybody, whether or not they came in late or last, at the expense of those who had media and photographer passes and had been patiently waiting in line.While waiting for our turn to be ushered in, an already irate photographer behind me shouted to the marshals, ' HOY! Papasukin nyo na kami! Nagliliparan na yung balloons, wala na kaming maukukunan!
For those who haven't been to the event yet and are planning on going next year, you need to come early. Because, although, the event is from morning to late afternoon(early evening), the hot air balloons only make one flight, i.e., in the morning. Now, if you miss the balloons' early morning flights, you can still catch them early evening during the Night Glow event, but, they'll be on the ground the whole time showing off kaleidoscope colors, as they light up the early evening darkness. No Flying. It is still an amazing sight, though.
One of my favorite travel songs which I keep playing over and over whenever I'm on the road is Goo Goo Dolls 'Black Balloon', but I never thought I'd see one. This mono colored Dart Vader actually got a lot of attention during the event.
The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is a huge annual event, so if you missed it last week, there's always next year to look forward to. Just remember, expect traffic, heat, and lots of people. Bring mats, tents, or umbrellas if you plan to watch all the events all day. I don't think food and drinks will be a problem because during this year's event, we saw enough food stalls selling all sorts of food and drinks.
Although Lakwatsera and I decided to wait for the Hot Air Balloon Night Glow, we skipped all the other air shows and exhibitions scheduled for that day. After running and walking towards all the different balloons to take pictures, and all that morning heat, we simply did not have the strength to cover the other events. We went back to the parking lot after all the hot air balloons have flown. We took out the folding chairs we brought from the car and just sat in the parking area. All morning. After we had our lunch, same spot, we sat a little more. From the parking area, we saw paragliders, skydivers, aircraft and light planes doing aerobatics in the the sky. No one budged. Later after lunch, we both took a nap inside the car. Correction, I took a nap, she slept.
Around 4:30 that afternoon, we went back to the event area, had a quick snack, strolled around the area where different souvenir shops line up, and just waited 'til Night Glow-- 16th Philippine International Hot Air balloon Fiesta's final event.