Up, Up and Away! The 15th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
It was my first time I went to this festival…or fiesta. It is not the usual street dancing competition or handaan sa bahay-bahay festivities but it was a perfect way of celebrating Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year out of the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. Nah, not the “Age of Aquarius” song again, but it’s “up, up and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon” in Clark Field in Pampanga as the people celebrate the 15th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The feast of hot air balloons and anything aviation has been running since February 11 (Thursday) and I was just in time for the final day of the said event (Feb 14)! Hurray for Flight Sim!
Together with Ohmski and Flow, we went to Pampanga in the wee-hours of the morning. It has been said that it is a tradition that hot air balloons are launched by the time the sun rises in the east and its rays kiss the cool land of Pampanga morning…naks! As early as 4AM, the road leading to Air Force City in Clark Field was already jammed with spectators, tourists and uzis. The sky was then dark.
By the time that the clock struck six, I saw an aircraft flying over our vicinity…and three men jumped…err, skydived. What’s dramatic about it was one of them was carrying and unfurled the Philippine republic, 3,000 feet above ground, escorted by two army personnel…and the crowd stopped and sang “Bayang Magiliw”…oops, its “Lupang Hinirang.” What a way to do a flag ceremony!
Now that the sky diver was on the ground, giant hot air balloons started to unfurl from the ground. Aided by those big stoves flanked above the basket, it fills up the balloon with hot air (remember that hot air rises and cool air sinks lesson in High School Science?) so that it could rise up from the ground and fly away.
The atmosphere was festive. While the balloons gently inflate themselves, the Ebun-Ebun Festival of Candaba contingent entertained the crowd with their dance and revelry (although the choreography seems very familiar). Somehow, the flight of the birds relate to the flight of the balloons which started to float in the air.
As the sunlight passes through the shadow of Mount Arayat, the balloons launched up in the air. From afar, they do look like jellyfishes floating in the air. How I wish I ride in one of them but the price is…umm…$250 per ride…that’s almost P10 kiaw! Oh well, I’m happy watching them fly away…someday, I’ll have an opportunity riding with ‘em.
From the usual hot-air balloons, I saw “designer” balloons such as “Mister Sunshine,” “Floating Beer Bottle,” “Gong Pagong” and “Farmville.” (Disclaimer: I was the only one who named those balloons, I think they have their official names…pero yun lang ang tawag ko sa kanila, hehe!)
The event was full of people until mid-morning. It was like a perfect picnic grove, with kites flying and those small propellers spread all over the area. It was indeed a Sunday for the family, barkada and lovers too…
It was noontime. We already felt tired. Most of us haven’t slept the night before, and we decided to go back to Manila. As we left the gates of Air Force City, indigenous Ati as I call them (Ita in Central Luzon) sold their products for a bit “touristy” price. Indyan pana, mouth dart and my favourite, bird twitter were some of the souvenir goodies that were sold by these creative people. I bought one “bird twitter” and went home with good memories.
An aviator’s festival turned into a major festival. A lot of people came, saw and conquered Clark. A lot were entertained. Like balloons floating in the air, the people saw a new year coming in, defying the gravity of obstacles in life and love. As I say, belated Happy Valenties and Chinese New Year to all! I had a great time!
More photos here:
Vicinity map (Courtesy of Google Maps)
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