Last year, my friends and I have planned a pre-valentines trip in 2017 with the whole squad and their boyfriends. Yes, their. Because I don’t have any. But I’m fine with that.
The said trip was to the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) in Angeles City, Pampanga.
We all have heard that PIHABF is the longest-running sports aviation event in Asia where spectators and aviators from around the world gather to participate in four days of non-stop flying exhibitions.
To see what the hype was all about, we packed our bags one Saturday night and went to Pampanga to witness the fiesta on its last day, February 12, 2017. It was also the last hot air balloon fiesta in Clark.
The first thing I liked about this trip was the convenience we experienced while traveling to the venue. Of course, I was one of the lucky passengers who can sit still, look pretty. But that is not the case. It was because of the time we chose where cars were not yet jammed in the EDSA traffic. We left Cubao at around 3AM and arrived in Pampanga at around 4AM.
The gates open at 5AM so we really had to leave early.
Here’s the detailed directions:
- From Cubao take EDSA going to Balintawak
- Enter NLEX via Balintawak
- Exit NLEX at San Fernando EXT
- Turn right to McArthur Highway going to Bataan/Zambales
- Then turn right upon seeing the flyover near McDo
- Keep straight on McArthur Highway going to Angeles City, Pampanga
- Turn left to “Panings” and drive straight until the Friendship Highway stop light
- Upon reaching the Korean town, turn left to Clark, Pampanga (Landmark: Jollibee)
Things to Bring
So here’s a list of all the things you should bring (some of which I have forgotten, but next time, I’ll probably not. If there’s next time):
- Extra Batteries
- Mobile Phone
- Bag with secret pockets
- Picnic Mat
- Insect Repellent (This is a must if you want to wear shorts)
- Face Towel/Handkerchief
If there was one thing I regret about the preparation phase, it is the fact that I chose to wear white sneakers. I actually thought the event would be held in the grassy area of the airport so I told myself, why not risk it and wear my Keds Champion in canvas? It was one of the worst life decisions I ever made.
And, I also forgot to bring a handkerchief. The path to the venue was so dusty so I suggest you bring one.
Since the pay parking areas were all closed the moment we arrived, we were forced to park in the grassy field near the airport hangar.
As you can see from the picture, everyone was walking just to get to the ticketing booth. I don’t even know if we what we ventured was only a kilometer or more. All I know is that this was the longest walkathon of my life–so far.
And here’s a photo of my two friends Ara and Carla as we were walking back to the parking area after the event. Basically, I became their photographer. 😉
This photo, on the other hand, shows the long queue to the ticketing booth. These people haven’t had any chance of entering the venue yet while I and my friends have already called it quits and returned to the parking area. Too bad we had to walk another kilometer from this part–seriously, I’m not kidding.
I have to admit, the moment we arrived at the venue, I literally asked myself, “so this is what the hype was all about?”
We have practically run ’till we lose our breaths just to reach the venue before the sun rise. But then as we get near to the entrance, there were no balloons flying in the air. We were welcomed by a long queue in the ticketing booth and lots of dust.
General Admission Ticket – 350php
But my excitement kick up a notch when I saw the first exhibition involving the Philippine Flag. It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
What I Loved About the Event
I’ve waited for this event to come since October last year. We have continuously planned during that span of time until we have everything set. We were all excited and talking about this event every day, until this moment. So here are the things I loved about this year’s Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fest.
The Hot Air Balloons
My passion for the arts was evident in my expressions the moment I saw the hot air balloons up close. It was pure joy and excitement. I marveled at each passing balloon up in the sky because their colors are like exploding nebula in the galaxy. They became my eye candy for a brief moment.
Too bad there were only a few of them that were launched because of the weather condition.
Unfortunately, the Yoda balloon was not launched.
For artsy people like me, this Sharpie balloon could be the winning piece in the event.
The Coca Cola balloon was initially prepared at around 7AM but then the cool breeze hit the area so they had to deflate it briefly. Then they relaunched it again.
Quality Time With Friends
Unfortunately, not everyone in our squad was able to join us in this event due to unforeseen events. But then we know that we would’ve enjoyed the event just the same.
Here’s a photo of me and Carla doing that little Korean hearts.
And this is Ara, just sporting a charming smile.
Lastly, a photo of us–three single ladies.
What I Didn’t Like
I’d like to take this as an opportunity to give a shout-out to my friends, Ara and Carla, as well as Michelle and her boyfriend.
First, I hate the fact that we got separated from the couple because of the crowd. The signal was also interrupted so we couldn’t call or text them. It was our fault anyway. So we just met at the parking lot after the event.
Second, there were some people who took advantage of the instruction that we could bring mats and tents. But some people brought those things to have a sleepover like the field was their home. I mean, is that really appropriate for this event? We expected that there will be a crowd but we did not expect that there will be people sound asleep on the ground and they don’t even care if some people are already stepping on their toes.
That was really infuriating. I wished the organizers could find a way to resolve this. Or maybe they should’ve assigned a specific area where people could camp out. I mean, the event’s purpose is to showcase the beauty of the air balloons and to help in the economy of Pampanga. Well, that didn’t help at all.
Lastly, they did not do a great job in the crowd control department. It was really hilarious that they had to break a fence just to let us out of the venue because we couldn’t pass by the gates due to the surge of people coming in. I understand that it was Sunday and the last day of the event that’s why the crowd was thick. But it looked like zombie apocalypse to me.
If I were to rate the event, I would give it a 6. It’s not that bad. I still enjoyed sightseeing balloons scattered above and I was amused by how skilled the para-gliders were.
I was able to watch their exhibition up close.
I also appreciate the crew as they prepare the balloons. I know that it’s not easy to inflate and deflate the balloons because of the weather but they did it passionately.
All in all, the balloons are the perfect centerpiece of the event. They were amazing. Everything was worth it because of how lucky I felt to have witnessed such a one-of-a-kind festival in the Philippines. I hope that there will be more hot air balloon fests in the future, but to be held in better venues.