When In Manila, and that moment when the things you’d love to see, flew up in the sky—cars, elephants, tulips, and all sorts of colorful and funny stuff! It only happens in one annual event that many people has always been waiting for, the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta! And now, on its 18th year, people’s expectations are also as high as the balloons could reach in the sky.
Being An Early Bird – A Requirement
It’s actually my first time to witness the flights of those inflated propane-powered hot air balloons, so for first timers out there who plan to attend the event next year, you’re definitely in the right page! And I’m telling you, being an early bird is a requirement if you really want to maximize the worth of your entrance ticket. (BTW, the ticket costs 250 Php )
Weeks earlier before the event, I managed to ask my office mates and other friends about what to expect on such event. Most of them reiterated about the heavy traffic you will encounter if you traveled and arrived late. You might be wondering what they meant with the phrase “arrived late”.
Just to give you the idea, the event starts at exactly 5:30 in the morning, and arriving 5 AM in Clark Field, Pampanga is already late because that’s when you will experience extremely heavy traffic. And possible, it could result into missing the flights of colorful hot air balloons. I’ve heard that last year, approximately 92,000 attendees showed up in the event. Just imagine how seriously jampacked this year’s event has been.
Earlier Than The Birds
1 AM at the bus! Thelma on my side and Badeth at the backseat
Thelma (officemate), Badeth(my photo buddy) and I, met in Cubao at 12:30 AM of a Saturday. Seriously, we’re not that excited. Haha! Well, our motto that time was “Better early, than SORRY”. Aside from that, we can’t afford to miss a thing in our first time. First times should always be the most memorable ones. 😀
How To Get There– The Most Frequently Answered Question
I guess going to Clark Field, Pampanga is the most googled question when this event approaches.
Here’s how we get there:
We rode a bus bound to Dau, Pampanga at around 1 AM. Actually, there are lots of bus stations in Cubao to choose from. Just look for a bus that’s heading to Dau, Pampanga, or ask if the North bound route available will have a stop in Dau. The fare cost us 138 Php for an air-conditioned bus. At that early, there are already passengers like us heading to the event.
It was just a very short travel that did not take us more than 2 hours, considering our very early departure. In Dau bus stop, normally, it will just take you two 8-peso jeepney rides to get to the venue. The first one is from Dau bus station to Main Gate, and secondly, from the Main Gate to Clark Freeport (choose route 2 jeepney). But if you arrived as early as we did (around 3 AM), it’ll be a three 8-peso jeepney rides, which includes 2 rides to the Main Gate. And please don’t dare walk to go to your next destination at that very early because folks said that the place is not safe. Better spend 8 Php for a safer jeepney ride!
If you brought your own ride, being early is also a must because the limited parking spaces at the Hot Air Balloon Festival site fill up very fast. Aside from that, the parking lot is not that near to the event so expect a 15 to 20-minute walk.
Waiting In Vain
As soon as we arrived at the entrance, I knew what our next task would be, and that is to wait until the gate opens.
At that early, around 20 people are already present. Guards said that they will let us come in at 4:30 AM. It was around 3:30 when we arrived. For cases like that, you should’ve prepared something that will not bore you from waiting, and if you like to take a short nap first, you should’ve at least brought a mat where you can sit and take a rest.
While waiting, people arrive in exponential increase ( I mean literally), so make sure that you fall in line and keep yourself in line.
the sea of people waiting for the gate to be opened
On the other hand, the sponsors,VIP’s, and media(like us) need not have to do such, because there is a separate entrance. But that time, we still chose to use the main entrance.
Media Pass! having this one reminds us that this conquest is more
of a responsibility encrypted in FUN, rather than FUN alone
TADAAAAHH!! Long Wait is Over!
The event starts usually by balloonists preparing to light their Hot Air Balloons. This year, there are over 32 balloons represented by 15 countries participated.
The giants will be erected after few moments. Every team now are busy bees, moving slowly but surely.
The Philippine Flag Jump immediately followed, signalling the start of the 18th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.
This year, the event was held in 4 consecutive days (21st to 24th of February) and there are just slight differences in the activities so it doesn’t really matter what date you preferred to come. We chose the Saturday schedule.
There are lots of good stuff to enjoy inside the event. Food stores, photo booths, exhibits, etc..
But seeing the hot air balloons being erected, lighted, and released in the sky are things that you shouldn’t miss.
Are you ready to take off and fly?
See next page!