19th Hot-Air Balloon Festival: Why Februaries are More Fun in the Philippines
In the Philippines, Februaries are extra exciting not just because of the Valentine’s Day, but also because of the hot-air balloon festival in Pampanga. The festival is now in its 19th year, and every year it is being held, there is always something to watch out for and anticipate. It seems like the current festival is often bigger than the year before. How the hot-air balloons will look like is one thing, and what each fiesta day will feature is another.
What makes the hot-air festival truly unique?
One of a kind festival
Based on the Department of Tourism’s record, there are 61 festivals, observances and celebrations in the Philippines in February alone. Nonetheless, there is no celebration like the hot-air balloon festival in Clark, Pampanga. That’s how unique this festival is! No wonder why hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and foreigners flock to the venue to witness the grand parade of vividly colored giant balloons. In fact, this year’s targeted number of attendees is around 100,000 people.
Officially called the Philippine International Hot-Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF), the festival is dubbed as ‘A Weekend of Everything that Flies.’ From the slogan itself, you would know that the festival is not all about hot-air balloons although the main highlight of the festival is hot-air ballooning. Come to think of it, balloons are not the only things that fly, right? As such, there will be aircraft aerobatic exhibitions, gliding and paragliding, skydiving, balloon bursting, formation flying, kite flying and even search and rescue flight demonstrations.
Unique balloon designs
Going back to hot-air ballooning, what is really exciting about witnessing the hot-air balloons inflated is finally seeing it in its full form. Not just the play of colors, but the unique shapes of the balloons themselves. We usually see the inverted teardrop balloon most of the time. Who can ever forget the glory of Darth Vader or the winking sunflower from Plants vs. Zombies? What about the Angry Bird, Pink Elephant, and Humpty Dumpty? Perhaps, you may remember the giant flower bouquet, giant cake, and giant ice cream. There is always the element of surprise; you won’t have any idea what you will see next.
Further, the organizers made it a point that each fiesta day is jam-packed with activities that the spectators and the pilots themselves will truly enjoy. After all, the event is not just a spectators’ event; it is also the biggest gathering of aviators in the Philippines. Of course, there will be foreign participants particularly the hot-air balloon pilots, too. These pilots hail from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hungary and Thailand.
Night Glow and live performances
Like any other balloon fiestas around the world, another highlight of the festival is the Night Glow. Nonetheless, the 19th Hot-Air Balloon Festival will have two Night Glows. The first is on the night of February 14th right after the Valentine’s concert headlined by Aiza Seguera and presented by Jeepney TV. The second is on the following night and it will be followed by a grand firework display to cap the festivities. If you have no idea what a Night Glow is, it is the activity wherein all hot-air balloon participants are tethered on the ground while lit. Truly, a feast for the eyes!
If you will not be able to attend this year’s festival, you can always do so next or the year after. Here are the possible dates for the upcoming hot-air balloon festivals. The festival often falls on Thursdays to Sundays and coincides with the Valentine’s Day to commemorate the birthday of Captain Joy Roa. Roa is considered as the first Filipino hot-air balloon pilot.
20th – February 12-15, 2016
21st – February 10-13, 2017
22nd – February 15-17, 2018
23rd – February 14-17, 2019
24th – February 13-16, 2020
25th – February 13-16, 2021
Image credit: PhilBalloonFest.net | ePhilippinesGirls.com | SecurityMatters.com.ph