PIHABF gears up for 19th balloon fest

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


MANILA -- The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF), also known as “A Weekend of Everything that Flies,” is gearing up for its 19th staging of the established aviation event on February 12 to 15, 2015 at the Philippine Air Force (PAF) ADAC Hangar in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

The memorandum of agreement was signed on Tuesday by Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Arnel Casanova, Clark Development Corporation (CDC) president Arthur Tugade, Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president and chief executive officer Victor Jose Luciano, and Philippine PIHABF president Capt. Joy Roa at the Asian Air Safari hangar in Pasay City.

Earlier this year, the PIHABF Foundation issued an official statement to clarify its dissociation from another organization which staged a balloon event in Lubao, Pampanga, and to explain its decision not to hold a balloon fiesta this year.

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“The decision not to hold a Fiesta this year was not undertaken lightly. From the perspective of the PIHABF organizers, our 2013 event (featuring more balloons than ever, the highly impressive Breilting Jet Acrobatic Team, and the myriad of other flying, ground and static events) would be a hard act to follow without allowing sufficient time to plan, prepare and book new and interesting activities,” the statement said.

“We believe that by suspending the 2014 Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, allowing our organizing committee more time to secure a suitable venue for the fiesta and investing more time in planning, securing sponsorships and implementing enhancements, we can offer our spectators a truly safe and world-class event in 2015,” it added.

Breathtaking performances

More than just a spectator event, PIHABF is a gathering of aviation’s finest from the Philippines and the world. Attendees next year can look forward to non-stop flying activities from kite flying to radio control fliers from electric to turbine jets coming from regions like Dumaguete, Bacolod and Davao.

There will be paramotors from different parts of the world doing exhibition and formation flying. The public can also look forward to sky diving demonstrations and a chance to do tandem jumping. Ultralight and microlight aircraft will be performing formation flying and hold fun flying competitions.

Just like cars, private airplanes and helicopters will also be doing a rally in the air to hone their flying and navigational skills. An aerobatic formation team will once again be invited to demonstrate a heart-stopping aerobatic show.

There will also be a bigger display of local aviation schools for increased public awareness on aviation opportunities in the Philippines.

The Aviator of the Year Award will once again be awarded to pilots who have made outstanding contributions in upgrading the standards of safety and aviation interests in their regions.

“We want to fuel the passion for aviation in the Philippines, and to showcase the endless possibilities in this field,” Roa said.

Proceeds of the PIHABF is funneled to a scholarship program which helps underprivileged but deserving youth to pursue a career in aviation. Since 2008, 15 young men and women have been recipients of the scholarship grant, enrolled in different aviation schools.

For the love of aviation

The Asian Air Safari hangar where the MOA signing was held is an aviation enthusiast’s dream. Parked in the hangar are different types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Displayed alongside the aircraft are radio-controlled aircraft models, balloon baskets, paramotors, as well as kites brought in by members of the organizing committee.

The PIHABF, according to the organizers, was borne out of love for aviation. What began as a “passion project” has now evolved into the longest running balloon event in Asia flocked by aviation enthusiasts and professionals from all over the country and around the world.

Captain Joy Roa introduced the members of the PIHABF organizing committee, many of whom have been volunteering since the first balloon fiestas held in Clark. Made up of highly experienced aviators in each of their fields, the committee has worked together to maintain a carefully planned and safety-oriented activity.

The organizers expressed that their longtime objective for the fiesta is to instill discipline in participating young pilots so they can develop into safe aviators, as well as to impart a spirit volunteerism and cooperation to the community.

PIHABF’s new poster for its 19th year was designed by no less than renowned Filipino artist Manuel Baldemor. The poster features colorful renditions of Filipino life and culture within a community setting. An internationally recognized artist known for being frequently featured in UNICEF cards, Baldemor specializes in simplified geometric forms with elements of folk art.

Ambassador Jose Zaide, a fiesta volunteer in charge of external affairs, says “The fiesta is an opportunity to share and exchange cultures and traditions with visiting pilots from all over the world. They are given a taste of Filipino hospitality and the fiesta spirit, and the visiting pilots become contributors to chosen beneficiaries of the foundation.”

“By creating aviation awareness, educating the young about flying machines, teaching discipline to current and aspiring aviators, and encouraging people to work from the heart and do things with passion, we will strive to bring back the Philippine aviation industry’s good standing in the international community, ” Roa said.

The 19th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta will surely continue with these traditions. For more information and updates on the 19th PIHABF, visit www.philballoonfest.net. (Chris Navarro)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 17, 2014.

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