MY penchant for aerial photography has brought me flying in the skies from a 6-seater plane, a 4-seater helicopter, parasailing, and even in a hot air balloon. Recently, I added another vehicle to my bucket list.

A newly-opened flight training facility called the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) opened its doors to flying enthusiasts to provide fun flight experiences in sports aviation at an affordable and safe level.

Based in Mati City, Davao Oriental, MSFC offers flight training programs and syllabus supported by practical ground school, a simulator for flight practice and highly skilled flight instructors for safe flying lessons.

Five ultralight planes are available for providing general aviation and training. The Quicksilver GT-500, for example, is easy to fly with its dual three-axis controls and load capacity of two people and extra gear. More will be added soon as an expansion is being planned for a bigger training academy to produce pilots in Mindanao at an affordable cost.

A fun trial introductory flight costs P1,600 for a 15-minute flight, P2,500 for 30 minutes, and P3,500 for 45 minutes. The Sport 2S costs P1,800 for 15 minutes with a GoPro video to record your memorable experience. Ultralight plane rentals (for certified MSFC pilots only) costs P2,000 for 30 minutes while an annual membership fee costs P9,000 which includes your logbook, patch, ID, towel and bag. Ground schooling costs P3,000 for the whole course (6 hours classroom and 5 hours simulator time, with handout book).

An instructional flight costs P2,500 for 30 minutes.

The facilities in the club include a secured airstrip on the property where Mati airport was once built during the Marcos time; rooms for 2 persons (P2,500) with meals and a refreshment lounge which offers package meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner (P750). Extra bed costs P500 while the "hangarage" costs P5,000 per month.

My personal thanks to Mr. Tjader Regis who arranged for my fun flight as soon as we arrived in Mati. With me were Provincial Tourism Officer Miguel Trocio and foreign photojournalists and videographers Lucas Veuve and Bernardo Salce, who documented their experience with their GoPro and gears. As a precaution with an open vehicle, you are only allowed to bring cameras with straps on and must get rid of stuff from your pockets for safety.

I was lucky to be flying with MSFC President I¤aki Sievert, who gave me a wonderful treat of a longer flight over my birthplace whose stunning coastline is now causing ripples around the country.

My former schoolmates Atty. Martin Heje and Jimmy Gomez have alerted me to this new hobby for enthusiasts and encouraged me to try it. Martin and his son are taking flying lessons regularly over weekend when it is busiest, while Jimmy has gone from being a big biker to flyer. Flights are best done between 5 to 9 in the morning before the winds pick up. Clear skies afford a spectacular view of Mati's panoramic grandeur, dotted with coconut and fruit plantations.

We had a group shoot and bonding with members, trainees, and retired Col. Sammy Afdal who founded the Mindanao Saga Flying Club a few years back.

Those eager to take flying lessons can drive to Mati from Davao for 3 hours, or take the bus and vans in the mall terminals. Booking arrangements can be done through the City Mayor's Office or MSFC at 0915-4901977. More information can be gathered through Facebook (MindanaoSagaFlyingClub) and official website