The 15th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta kicked-off last Thursday. It's one of those festivals which get people up really early since the hot air balloons are all gone by 7 a.m. Well, it got me up before the rooster did!
I was in the Clark Freeport shortly before 6 a.m. and the parking lot was already full. And to think it was Thursday. I could just imagine the crowd tomorrow when I go back for Day 3.
The reason they do it really early in the morning is because the weather conditions are usually best at that time for the hot air balloons to fly. While there are so many other activities and exhibitions during the day, the highlight of the festival are the balloons no doubt.
After the flag ceremony where paratroopers from the Philippine Military bring down the Philippine flag from the sky, the hot air balloons are inflated. It takes quite a while. They have to fill it up first with cool air using a fan. And one it takes shape, they pump in warm air using flares.
It's fun seeing the balloons in various shapes. For the 2010 Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, there was one shaped like a beer bottle. Another was Old MacDonald's Farm. There was a yellow sun with a smiling face. And yet another was shaped like a turtle.
If you missed yesterday and today, you still have the weekend to catch the colorful hot air balloons. You have to be in the Clark Freeport in Pampanga by 5:30 a.m. if you want a good spot to watch these hot air balloons take off. So it's best to leave Manila by 3:30 a.m.
I noticed in this year's schedule that they have hot air balloon flights in the afternoon of Saturday. A spectacle you should also check out is the weekend night glow activity during sunset when the balloons are lit up like giant light bulbs with the flares.
Many people ask if you can ride the hot air balloons. Well, don't count on it. It's difficult to get a slot. Make that close to impossible. You can opt for the stationary hot air balloon which takes you up in the air up to about 50 feet. But that's just about it. Entrance fee to the festival for this year is Php150 per head. Here's the 2010 schedule.
Anyway, time to troop to Ayala's Marquee Mall!