Snapshot Pampanga: Watching balloons fly

This is what I miss: making a spur of the moment decision to go somewhere. Two of the raffle winners for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta weren’t able to claim their prize. When my friend Hazel saw it, she said we should go.

watching balloons fly
Lying down on the grass and watching balloons soar into the air. Can’t do that when you’re working.

I quickly sent a text to Rey and Heinji and got positive responses: we’re going to Clark, and we’re leaving at 3am. It was already 8pm.

That’s what I love about impromptu plans: it leaves you no time to make up excuses to flake. With barely 2 hours pf sleep (some none at all), we drove out of Manila and arrived in Pampanga while it’s still dark out.

Being at the event as one of the invited media is very different from being there as a regular attendee. Though I certainly missed breezing through the gates and having a pass to get to wander around with the balloon crews, it was also quite enjoyable to just lie down on the grass and listen to the announcer explain how hot air balloons fly — something you don’t get to do when your mind is preoccuppied with taking pictures and noting every detail.

It was also great to be out with friends again. Hazel, Rey and Heinji are three of my oldest friends and it’s been a while since we’ve all hanged out, much less go on a road trip together. We actually made the same trip 8 years ago, when I was on assignment for the travel magazine I used to work for. It was the year the balloons didn’t come and we were way behind our scheduled departure time. It was good to know that while things change, whether for the better or worse, you can still count on your friends for a great weekend.

The 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Thursday, very early in the morning, found me stumbling around in an unfamiliar room, getting ready for the day while trying to shake away the last traces of sleep. It was the first day of the 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and it’s one event you wouldn’t want to be late for.

The 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Balloons!

I was lucky that I still managed to get some sleep, as Caltex, our host for this trip, billeted us at the Hotel Vida in Clark, so we can be at the venue before the crack of dawn. It was still dark when we pulled up to the field, but the traffic was starting to build and the parking lot was quickly filling up. Though there are activities almost every hour for the next four days, the highlight was the flight of the hot air balloons.
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Blue Dolphin Resort

It’s my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary next year, and me and the siblings are already planning how to celebrate it. My eldest sister suggested that we rent a house with a pool again, like we did years ago and stay for a night or two with the entire family. Sort of goes without saying that I’ll be the one searching for this house.

Blue Dolphin Resort
Pool!

Luckily enough, Gail invited me for a resort opening a couple of weekends ago. Turns out it was for the re-opening of the Blue Dolphin Resort in Balayan, Batangas.
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Traveling with the Visa debit card

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Last September, I wrote about how I deal with money when traveling. Last January, while in Boracay, I was finally able to try using a Visa debit card.

Visa Debit Card
Works as well as a credit card, but without the absurdly high interest rate

It indeed, worked flawlessly like a credit card. After a sumptuous meal at Lemon Cafe in D’mall, I realized that I didn’t have enough cash with me to pay for my meal, so I paid using the card, knowing that this is one of the establishments in Boracay that accepts credit card payments. I was worried that their machines wouldn’t support debit cards, but turns out I didn’t have anything to fret about. The transaction went through without a hitch — I didn’t have to wash the dishes to pay for what I ate, and didn’t have to worry about credit card bills and interest rates.
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Review: Delsey Fiber Lite

My backpacks have taken a backseat last year. In my major trips last year (Guam, Morocco and Kuala Lumpur), it was my bright red luggage that accompanied me. It’s not that I’ve stopped backpacking; more like traveling to places where walking around in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops is not the most practical thing to do. I love the mobility I get with my backpacks, but there’s something to be said about the simple joy of throwing your clothes into an empty suitcase.

Delsey Fiber Lite
My new travel buddy

That’s what I did a couple of weeks ago. The wonderful people at Delsey gave me a lovely token: a 65cm 4-wheel expandable trolley from their Fiber Lite line, just in time for my week-long trip to Kalibo. Yeah yeah, I know it’s absurd traveling with a suitcase that can carry up to 20 kilos just for a 7-day trip, but it gave me the freedom to pack stuff I wouldn’t have been able to if it was just me and my backpack. See, I was traveling with my dollie friends and also working the rest of the week. Three big-headed dolls each approximately 12″ tall, a 15-inch laptop, a week’s worth of clothes (mine and the dolls’) — they can’t all fit inside Viktor.
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