It is the time of the year again, when the skies at Clark in Pampanga will be colored with hot air balloons of different colors and shapes. This event is called the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival, which recently concluded its 17th successful run yesterday. The four-day affair was attended by thousands who wanted to witness the hot air balloons slowly lift up into the air, a spectacular event that they do not get to see anywhere else in the Philippines.
The giant balloons could only take off under specific wind conditions. The best times to catch their flight is during early morning and in the evening when the wind is not as relentless. Even so, visitors still travel to Clark during the wee hours in the morning just to take a glimpse of the gentle giants. And for a brief suspended moment every dawn, the sleep-deprived travelers eagerly await for their magical flight, oblivious to the emcee’s scientific explanation for the latter.
The Clark air field is littered with just a few trees for shade, but the visitors did not seem to mind the heat at all. There are hundreds of food concessionaires, various exhibits and souvenir shops to occupy their while. The guys also seemed to enjoy the exhibits by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) the most, queuing mindlessly for what could to be their only chance to hop on an S211 aircraft or to pose with high power riffles. While the rest of the crowd just set-up mats at the grassy field while waiting for the Hot Air Balloon Night Glow event.
This festival started merely as a diversion for a province that was severely hit by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption. Since then, hot air balloon participants have increased in number every year. For 2012, there were 27 different balloons that were seen. These are managed by different teams, a handful of which hail outside the Philippines.
It is indeed rightfully dubbed as the ‘weekend for everything that flies’ with the addition of aircrafts, skydivers and paragliders. But it is not only these that soared high in every yearly installment of the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival. It continues to lift up the spirits of both the Pampanga residents and the visitors alike, with the sight of the brightly colored hot air balloons in the sky.