I Believe I Can Fly, 18th PHABF Experience

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For the 18th time, the annual Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival was again flocked by people from different parts of the world as the most popular sports aviation event. The 4-day event featured hot air balloon flights, aerobatic shows, skydiving events, radio-controlled planes, helicopter flight, and paragliding events among others. I read that you needed to arrive earlier in the venue to catch a better spot since a big number of people will be attending the fiesta.

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Hot Air Balloon Fiesta featuring the Sun Balloon sponsored by Dept. of Tourism.
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Sunrise at the OMNI Aviation Complex.
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Philippine Flag jump off.

As early as 3 AM, I was already on a Victory Liner bus going to Olongapo via Dau in Pasay Terminal. A beautiful sunrise welcomed me in OMNI Aviation Complex, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga as the location of the fiesta. I bought my ticket at the entrance and proceeded to the field where 20+ hot air balloons were being inflated. To officially start the day, a skydiver assisted by two other divers, jumped off a plane carrying the Philippine Flag while paragliders from Malaysia, Spain, Australia, and the Philippines roamed above the field.

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There’s a tulip, firetruck, upside down and shuttle balloons.
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Hot Air Balloons being inflated.
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Space shuttle balloon sponsored by AXE.
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Firetruck balloon.
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Paragliders.

The balloons were inflated one by one and started to voyage. They had the “Hare and Hound” game. The balloon of Philippine Airlines served as the “hare” and started off the balloon flight. After a couple of minutes, the other balloons, as “hounds”, chased the trail of the hare and whoever lands nearest to the hare will be declared as the winner.

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The Hare. Philippine Airlines balloon.
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Hare and hound game starts now!

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Next event was the aerobatic show of Capt Meynard Halili with his Decathlon who did magnificent loops, 45-degree up, and vertical up stunts. Capt Meynard, at the age of 67, didn’t know how to fly a plane until he became 40. But he’s currently the only licensed Filipino to perform aerobatic aircraft exhibitions in the country. He performed twice during the day.

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Aerobatic exhibition of Capt Meynard Halili.

Afterwards, we heard a couple of jet planes took off at the nearby Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. And then, everyone was cheering for the ensemble of jet planes approaching the field. The Breitling Jet Team, the world-renowned civilian aerobatic display team based in Dijon, France flying seven Aero L-39 Albatros jets. You can’t help but scream and be amazed every time they do formation flying, opposition passes, solo routines, and synchronized maneuvers.  The exhibition was the highlight of the event for me considering that it was the first time of the team gracing the festival.

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The ensemble of the Breitling Jet Team.

Following the breathtaking stunts of the Breitling Jet Team were solo and tandem skydiving exhibitions, the flight of helicopter and Ultralight/Microlight aircrafts, Turbine RC, and radio-controlled jet flying displays. A group of local car drifters also showed their drifting expertise while the Philippine Coast Guard demonstrated their rescue operations.

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Skydiving events.

In the afternoon, a paragliding tow exhibition was held. An Ultralight aircraft towed a glider, an aircraft whose flight does not depend on an engine, and was released at a certain altitude. The main objective of the pilot is to increase the duration of the flight by searching for a spot in the atmosphere where naturally occurring currents of rising air are present.

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A glider being towed.

A banner-towing demonstration was also held showing how a banner is lifted from the ground. I thought the banner was already attached to the tail of the plane when it takes off but I was wrong when I found out from the demo that the plane will take off first and then go around the field again picking up the banner suspended between two poles using a hook at the plane’s tail.

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Banner towing demonstration.

Aircraft precision competitions were also held such as balloon bursting and flour bombing events. For the balloon bursting, 5 light aircrafts went circling around the OMNI aviation complex and given 5 attempts to burst small, helium-filled balloons released from the ground. It is one of the anticipated events of the festival since it demonstrates pilot skill and precision flying. The winners of this game were no other than the pilots of the RP-C2279 and RP-C2280. The other was the flour bombing competition where the pilot will try to drop “bombs” to the target located at the midfield on the ground.

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The Philippine Coast Guard misses the balloon.

Ryan Agoncillo was also present in the festival by showcasing his car drifting skills sponsored by Yellow Cab. Everyone was also given the chance to try kite flying by simply purchasing a kite being sold at the different booths. The third fiesta day was ended by the second performance of Capt Halili. It was twilight when they started setting up the balloons for the Night Glow. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that they only inflated 3-4 balloons.

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Kite flying activities.

Another event added this year was the OPM Means concert which started at 6 PM hosted by comedienne Tuesday Vargas and Youtube sensation Bogart The Explorer.  It was a 2-day All-OPM music festival featuring some of our OPM artists. With the tagline “We Are One”, the concert aimed to encourage people especially the Filipinos to support original Filipino music whole-heartedly. A VTR was also presented before the concert, where Pepe Smith answered the question “Is OPM dead?” with “I don’t think so, andito pa ko eh.” Every performer was given the chance to sing 3 of their singles. The concert was started by Joey Ayala with his band followed by Spongecola, AJ Rafael, Quest, Mike Kosa together with Ebe Dancel, Gloc-9, Wolfgang, Urbandub, Salamin, The Dawn and Color It Red. It was sponsored by RadioRepublic.ph.

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Spongecola rocking the house.
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Mike Kosa.
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The Hosts. Tuesday Vargas and Bogart The Explorer.

The festival also served as a place to meet the awesome bloggers Mai of Budget Biyahera and Roj of The Adventures of Adventuroj.  For next year’s hot air balloon festival, I want to experience the hot air balloon ride or try the tandem skydiving while singing “I Believe I Can Fly.” I’ll be starting to save some of my earnings to have that $250! Who knows someone will sponsor me for this or the organizers will invite me to try the events. Who knows! Click that “Contact Me” link now.

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