Bright reds, warm yellows, cool greens; imagine all the hues of the rainbows on different shapes and sizes all slowly flying upwards on colossal balloon canvasses. Backdropped against the orange light of the morning sun as it peeps on the sides of Mount Arayat, this is how we were welcomed to the 15th Hot Air Balloon Festival!
We left Manila at 2am, hoping to not get caught at the traffic as we’ve been hearing horror stories regarding the jams during this event. We arrived at Clark at around 4am and lines were already forming at the gate.
Expecting a very hot day, we were all geared with hats and sunbreaking doodads; what we did not expect though was how chilly the early morning was in the field! Brrrr!!
Once inside, we immediately went to the photographer’s area. We were disappointed however when we learned that we would not be allowed to get inside until all the balloons were setup. My disappointment deepened as I watched the sun slowly extend its rays out into the horizon. We were still stranded at the gate and there goes the golden light.
After a few minutes, we were finally let in. And what a sight to behold, I was confounded as to where I would point my camera. Colors and massive shapes everywhere! Activities were all over the field. The balloons were being inflated and overhead, proud paragliders kept buzzing by. Through all these, a parade was also being performed in front of the audience. The balloon show lasted for I think a good hour and a half but it seemed like it just took minutes for me!
When the balloons were long gone, we did a few jump shots against the morning sun before we were led out of the field for the plane exhibition. We headed back to the van for breakfast and much need sleep.
We popped in once in a while to check what was happening inside; airplane water bombings, chopper exhibitions, etc. We were glad that the weather cooperated with us; cloudless cobalt blue sky in the mornings and slightly overcast at noon. No need for sunblocks!
We went back at around 4pm to check out all the colorful kites flying all around the crowd area. There were a lot! And these were no everyday kites too; bats, wheels, seahorses and giant manta-rays all flaunting their gaudy colors against the deep blue sky. The kite-stand had no respite whatsoever, there was a long line of buyers all through the day.
The much anticipated Balloon Night Glow started as the sun started to give way to dusk. The mountains opposite Arayat was firing off god-rays left and right as we marched the fields to the balloons.
I cannot believe that the morning shoot can be topped, but topped it was. The afternoon balloon show was just amazing.
As the waning light slowly disappeared, the hot flames powering the balloons replaced it with their own warm glow.
And one at a time the balloons started rising from the ground; hearts, sun-kings, giant turtles, humongous beer bottles and color wheels. Their bright colors complimented by their glowing fires. They let the fire that brings them life exude from within as the crowd stood, awashed by their magic.
After an hour, the balloons finally bade its farewell. Like candles flickering off one by one, they at last turned their fires down until only the heart balloon was left. A cheer from the crowd requesting for one last hot blast of fire was granted and it was done. Applause was heard as the darkness of the moonless night finally enveloped the fields of Clark and the crowd started their way back home.
A truly magical event this was and come next year, we’ll surely be there once again to witness the colors of Pampanga’s Hot Air Balloon Festival.