17th Hot Air Balloon Festival
Clark Airfield, Pampanga
12 February 2012
The annual Hot Air Balloon Festival was again held at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark Airfield, Pampanga. It is a 2-3 days event showcasing aviation sports contest and exhibitions, the biggest so far in the country. We arrived at the area after an hour of traveling from Manila. It was still dark, yet the place is bursting with energies from all those huge number of people queuing to get in. Luckily we bought the ticket beforehand. We parked our car and had a lengthy walk from the area to the event’s entrance. As we flocked to the field people already flooded the scene and are already positioned on their spots, some are still sleeping; others are eating, while some are just chilling out. We found our spot, just up front of the fence where expectators are allowed. We waited for almost an hour and a half for the crew to assemble the hot air balloons. We sat on the damp grass, and just wander for a while. The weather was cold, as the cold wind brushed against my face. We drank hot coffee and ate some food to somehow heat up our cold senses. As the clock ticked for almost an hour and a half, and the horizon lighten to azure, I can sense that it would be a gloomy downcast morning. Good thing the first group of crew just went out and parked just in front of us! People then started to transfer in our place, hoping for a better place for a better view. As other event’s crew started to assemble the hot air, people got noisier, as their anticipation and excitement heightens the same time the balloons where pumped for air.
The event formally started when a helicopter flew and dropped 5 skydivers unto the sky just above us. The Philippine Anthem flooded the atmosphere and people started singing, the spirits where enhanced when people saw that a huge Philippine Flag was attached to one of the skydivers flowing with the wind as they descend down. This particular sky diver was the one who arrived first as the song come to a halt. People cheered and clapped for a nice entrance.
Slowly, air surge the balloons and fire burst to them, as they get ready to fly. The balloon just in front of us was the first to shape and suddenly flew. People cheered as this balloon first flew away. The preparation was extensive, especially the pumping of air, yet when it was all pumped out, standing and anchored on the ground, it would only take a few seconds before it flew away. It was fast, yet that moment was dreamlike, as the wind blew the balloon away, and up and up it goes till it become part of the horizon. Some skydivers continue to fly above us for added attraction, since the balloons didn’t fly at the same time. Others due to its massiveness and others due to its complicated shape took a lot of time to prepare so from time to time balloons took off.
As the balloons left us in awe and still wanting for more, on the other 180 view of the sky showcased another attraction- numerous kites where floating and ultra light aircraft flew around as they showcased their air exhibitions. As the field in front of us became barren again, we filled our stomach with something to eat. Various concessionaires where lined up to feed hungry guests. As soon as we finished, we toured around the area where different kiosk can be found. Some sell local items and souvenirs.
History recalls that it this annual event was created to further promote local tourism after the devastating effect of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. It was three years later that the pilot festival was held. Now it continues to draw people, showcase various exhibitions and hot air balloons still continue to soar high.
It was my 1st time to see a hot air balloon. It was so fluffy, huge, colorful and quite magical and romantic for me. Sure it does entertain the inner child in me, to see how slowly they lift off the ground and as the cold pulls them up away from the land and beyond the horizon. Something so colorful, huge, and playful can be something ancient and very free! As these smart inventions flew in the sky, I can’t help but to think that for me these hot air balloons signifies freedom and individuality. To ride on them would perhaps be another great experience. But for now to be able to do that, I need to save 200 dollars, yes sometimes experience come with a price!