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20 February 2009

14th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival – Clark, Philippines

By Ryan

Gigantic floating balloons of different shapes (Coke bottle, Cup, Elephant, etc.) dots the sky the sky on this year’s Hot Air Balloon Fiesta which also aims to promote aviation as a career.

Twenty-five hot air balloons of different shapes and sizes took off this morning here for the opening of this four-day event. These balloons were flown into the country by cargo firm UPS from participant countries including Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Netherlands and Malaysia.

Touted as the country’s biggest aviation event, the event also includes skydiving, paragliding and kite-flying exhibitions by military and privately-run flying clubs.
Held yearly here at the former American air base, this year’s event is expected to better last year in terms of the number of visitors. According to event organizers, last year’s event drew in some 55,000 visitors.

The organizers expects that between 75,000 to 100,000 visitors. The opening day also saw a lot of students who came in at sunrise to witness balloons take off amidst the clear weather condition here.

Tourists can ride a hot air balloon for $150 or about P 7,000. Free rides are also accommodated but on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Roa. The event will run from 12th to 15th February (sunday),charges an entrance fee of P100 per person.

The 1994 event originally organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Hot Air Balloon Club, and British Airways initially began with 21 balloon pilots from 10 countries and one entry from the Philippines. The success of the festival in 1994 brought about an increase in the number of participants in 1995 to 27 balloons including a basketless one-man balloon and two entries from the Philippines. The 1995 festival also saw the introduction of ultra light planes to the events.

By 1996 responsibility of the event was transferred from the Department of Tourism to Air Ads, Inc. under the watchful eyes of Captain Joy Roa who is also an avid licensed balloon pilot. Between 1996 and 1998, the growing popularity of the festival was expanded to include other aero-sports activities such as sky diving,paragliding, motorized hang gliding, remote controlled model aircraft (aero modelers), and kite flying. Aerobatic stunts and precision maneuvers courtesy of the Blue Diamonds and later the Red Aces of the Philippine Air Force became a regular attraction of the festival.

Financial difficulties in 1999 led to the cancellation of the festival, but saw a resurgence in 2000 with 12 balloons and 18 light planes from Thailand, Japan and Singapore, all participating in an air rally which has become a regular component of the festivities. 2003 saw a change in the traditional ballooning format. Specially designed balloons in the shape of a flying newspaper from Korea and a large dog from Japan made their debut over the Pampanga skyline. Balloon participation from Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands drew crowds from around the world.

Currently, the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival continues to be a popular international sports aviation event. The 2006 festival featured 30 multicolored hot air balloons and more than a hundred balloon pilots from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. It also drew an approximated 60,000 visitors to the event.

AirAsia flies to Clark.

Our Balloon is Portland Rose.
Music- Flying Away by Moony

  • Gerd

    Go on Air Asia! I hope there are direct flights from Clark to Thailand soon. Philippines is underrepresented in Air Asias network. More destinations in Europe would be nice too!