Last year I had my mind set to finally tick off riding a hot air balloon from my bucket list. After attending an event in Cebu, I took the last flight out to Manila. Sadly, my flight was delayed for 5 dreadful hours. At around 1 in the morning, we finally got to board the plane to Manila. Once we’ve arrived, we drove straight to Pampanga in the hopes of making it to the hot air balloon festival before sunrise. We arrived in the nick of time. To make things worst, we found out that it rained so hard the night before—making it impossible for the hot air balloons to fly. Heartbroken but hopeful, I made sure to try my luck next year.
This year I was more determined to make my childhood dream come true. After attending two events, I went home, packed my things, picked up my friends then drove to Lubao Pampanga. We got there around 1 in the morning, checked-in at Prado Farms (a beautiful farm-type resort just across the venue of the hot air balloon festival). I was excited, anxious and hopeful. I woke up at 4am feeling sluggish—my colorful tie-dye shirt started giving me a headache.
I met up with my assigned pilot who was Taiwanese and has been flying hot air balloons for over 20 years. Sigh, I was in good hands. After he and his team finished inflating the balloon (with a fan), he told me to quickly jump into the basket so that we could be the first hot air balloon to take off. I hurried and jumped into the tiny basket as he requested. The next thing I knew, we were 5,000 feet up in the air. Everything happened so fast.
I was on cloud nine—figuratively and literally. Come to think of it, a hot air balloon is basically just a huge basket with a huge balloon with strings, and gas tanks. I was surprised that I didn’t get scared of the height. The ascent is at a gentle and slow pace, so there’s no sensation of vertigo or whatsoever. Everything was calm and peaceful—except for the fact that there’s fire blowing above your head. It’s also pretty cool to know that during a flight, the pilot’s only ability to steer the balloon is to climb or descend into winds going different directions. Riding a hot air balloon offers an incredible vantage point to appreciate just how beautiful the land below is. Here’s my takeaway—riding a hot air balloon is one of life’s magical experiences. It is hard to explain the wonder of flying with the wind and having no sensation of movement. You really have to experience it yourself.
Photos taken using my Fujifilm X-T10 | Special thanks to Pradera Verde and Lubao International Balloon and Music Festival