High Weekend at Clark

High Weekend at Clark
by Danny Tariman

It was another weekend in February. The Clark Air Base in Pampanga hosts its annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. This is a different kind of experience you wouldn’t see in Metro Manila.

Hot air balloons of various size and forms flying above our heads.
Hot air balloons of various size and forms flying above our heads.

Thousands of people, mostly from Manila, flock to this former Air Force base every February to watch all sorts of air exhibits – hot air balloons flying above your head, the sky-rocketing jet plane shows, parachuters dropping from mid-air, yes, even kites of all forms are flying during this 3-day festival.

Tipped by an advice to go early in the morning, we left our home in Manila at about 4:30am to make sure to get a good parking slot for our car. We arrived almost 6 but wow, plenty of cars are lining the exit toll gate going to the airbase.

We parked about a kilometer away from the airfield because of so many vehicles.
We parked about a kilometer away from the airfield because of so many vehicles.

To our surprise, even side streets are already full of cars parked on both sides! I have a drive a little more further before we were able to get a parking slot. We had to walk about a kilometer to reach the watching grounds!

But it is okay! We enjoyed the show.

We saw hot air balloons of various shapes and colors. Some are shaped like a bus, a bunch of flowers, a bright-colored sun, and many more You can see passengers of the balloons waving their hands to the crowd. They seem to enjoy the ride! How I hope I was there too.

The early morning crowd along the road.
The early morning crowd along the road.

The most stunning show of the day was the acrobatic air show where 6 identical planes fly in various formations, at times very much close to each other like the wing tips almost touching each other. I feel it was nerve-wracking for pilots but I know they do it in precision controls.

The jet acrobatic show in a formation.
The jet acrobatic show in a formation.

There was also a remote controlled toy airplanes show. This was very attractive for me and my son who also owns a remote-controlled plane, although a smaller scale. The planes in the show were a quite big and I think fueled by real aviation fuel. But I am particularly amazed at how the man is able to control it very precisely as if it was a real plane flying above our heads!

Kites flying high inside the airfield.
Kites flying high inside the airfield.

We left the exhibition grounds before lunch. We were a bit hungry by then. We thought of driving towards the city to have lunch but all of the restaurants were full of people. We patiently queued to get our food, and finally was able to eat and had our fill.

Since the crowd is really huge, I would recommend that you bring packed food with you, and bottled water too, as all restaurants and eateries are full of people lining up to take their food.

An air-glider hoisted by parachute flying above the crowd.
An air-glider hoisted by parachute flying above the crowd.

And since we are already in Pampanga, we decided to take a side trip to Nayong Pilipino. I have a separate blog for this beautiful miniature of the Philippines.

Really nice family time, watching together all those flying exhibits above our heads!

Another formation of the jet acrobatic team.
Another formation of the jet acrobatic team.
The crowd at the airfield
The crowd at the airfield
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