Weekend of everything that flies

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

It’s Valentine’s Day today, and we should be spending our Valentine’s Day with our wife. However I had to come to Clark Air Base for the 19th International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, the “The Weekend of Everything that Flies.” The first time I was here was during the 15th International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and it’s good to be back, after all when I was a little boy, my first love was the airplane of my uncle, the late architect Gregorio Segura who had an L-4 or Piper Cub, which he would fly from Lahug Airfield. On this trip I also brought along my son, Capt. JV Avila who now flies for Southern Air Flight Services, Inc. where in the past two weeks, he’s been assigned to Bantayan Island to fly American skydivers from 8,000 ft. into the island where my wife grew up. Yes, my son has literally fulfilled my dream of flying. Actually I signed up for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in the early 70s but my father sent our driver to yank me away from taking the exams to be a pilot. But while my father prevented me from fulfilling my dream… that didn’t stop me from letting my son fulfill my dreams of flying.

While I was prevented from joining PAF, I did fly on a Cessna 150 with my old friend Jose Mari Picornell who was then taking flying lessons, and I’d pay him half the cost for the flight so I could take rudimentary flying lessons with him. With many video simulators available in the market… it allowed me to continue flying in the digital air. Five years ago, I invited Capt. Joy Roa to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my talkshow Straight from the Sky and we ended up having a joint TV show also for his very popular Air Safari on ANC and having fun at the same time, with the late Capt. Jessup Bahinting, the pilot who crashed with the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo.

So we’re back in Clark Air Base with Capt. Joy Roa for the balloon ride of our life. The multitude of people who trooped to Clark Air Base to be at the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is testament to the fact that Capt. Joy Roa’s continued promotion for Philippine aviation has made its indelible mark. Yesterday we saw 34 hot air balloons of all kinds, shapes and sizes from a Beagle Dog, an Octopus, the Old Lady in a Shoe, A Vincent Van Gogh. You can find airplanes of all types, from small Cessna 152 that flew aerobatic stunts to ultralights and parasails and parachutes with engines.

Thursday evening was dinner in Oasis Hotel in Angeles City, where I met the general manager Roy Del Rosario who hosted the evening’s event, which was international in character. I also met Mr. Kadasch, who took me for my first balloon flight four years ago, but I almost didn’t recognize him as he was now so thin… he had lost 38 kilos. I was also in the same table with Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno, Capt. Joy and his wife Bettina for a very interesting conversation… on why Filipinos have more fun in the Philippines. There’s a big delegation of Indonesians, including the lovely wife of the Mayor of the City of Bandung.

No doubt the 19th International Hot Air Balloon Festival is another stunning success for tourism in this part of the country and a huge boost to the aviation industry. In Clark, they have the Omni Aviation Flying School that produces Filipino pilots for a world that is woefully lacking in airline pilots. The Philippines is one of the best places for Koreans who come to become pilots because it is so strict in Korea and too expensive. 

We do have flying schools in Cebu like Cheyn Air and Airworks, which the great Maynard Halili sold to my good friend Vince Ong. I also introduced my son to Capt. Amado Soliman of the Safety Organization of the Philippines, Inc. (SOPI) and we had a great time talking about things that fly from planes to drones and even kites. Kudos to Capt. Joy Roa and his international team of hot air balloonists who’ve made the Balloon Fiesta a great annual success story. More power!

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There is no doubt that Tourism in the Philippines is growing faster than you can imagine. Aside from the 19th International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark Air Base, my good friend, Robert “Bobby” Joseph is now in Baguio City for the 6th Annual National Tourism and Hospitality Convention at the CAP Convention Center in Camp John Hay.

This event is hosted by the Tourism Educators and Movers (TEAM) Philippines, the League of Tourism Students of the Philippines (LTSP), University of Baguio and the Department of Tourism, Philippine Tourism Promotions Board and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

The objective of TEAM Philippines is to provide assistance in training and service to higher education institutions offering Tourism and Hospitality Management Programs for the growth and career development of the faculty and students. This is the advocacy of Mr. Bobby Joseph who is creating new Tourism leaders.

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Email: [email protected] or [email protected]


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