Hot Air Balloons in Clark

Truth be told, my interest in attending the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark has waned after my hot air balloon ride in Melbourne. That doesn’t explain why on the morning of February 11, I was standing in a field inside the Clark Freeport Zone with some of the Lakbay Norte friends.

Clark Hot Air Balloon Fiesta  02
Fire in the hole! Wait, what?

Maybe it’s because of stress, boredom or just wanting to see the group again (we’re actually meeting AGAIN later) or a mix of all three. Besides, who can resist impromptu plans to drive two hours out of Manila in the middle of the night?

For those who are planning to go there this weekend, my advise is to leave as earlier than 4am. Our plan was to leave Quezon City at 3:30am, but it was already 4am when we pulled out of McDonald’s Muñoz. There wasn’t much traffic yet, but there were a number of trucks lumbering along EDSA and the North Luzon Expressway. We slowed down somewhere in Bulacan (or was it Pampanga already? I can’t tell, it was dark), when one lane in the northbound lane was designated for vehicles going south. Other possible traffic spots would be the Angeles exit and the entrance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) grounds.

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AFP Flag Jump

Tickets cost Php 150 per person and it’s good for one day. This lets you into the huge event ground. There are several booths selling all sorts of trinkets (most note even remotely connected to flight), exihibit of various light aircrafts, photo exhibit of the AFP, and of course, the huge open field where the balloons will inflate and take off, which will also be the site for other aerosport activities that will be held throughout the day (sky diving exhibition, ultralight flying, paragliding, kite flying, etc).

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We entered the AFP grounds around 5:30am, and there were still no balloons in sight. Hot air ballooning is very dependent on the weather, so there is never any guarantee if the balloons will take flight on any given date. It was just past 6am when the first 4×4 entered the field, pulling balloon equipment. Soon, the field was abuzz with pilots and their crew, laying their balloons on the ground and setting up the baskets with the equipment.

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Balloons against the sun

A ripple of excitement passed through the crowd as one by one, the balloons started taking shape and slowly rose to the air. The event was formally opened with the Philippine Army Flag jump — a skydiver parachutes to the ground carrying a Philippine Flag as the Rondalla on Wheels play the national anthem.

One by one, the balloons take flight. Aside from the usual shapes, there are a couple of interestingly shaped balloons — a beer bottle, a sun, a barn and a turtle. By 7:30am, all the balloons are up in the air. After taking some more pictures, we started heading to the exit to get some breakfast before heading back to Manila. Everybody had the same idea, and there was a long line of cars waiting for their turn to exit the parking lot.

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I can’t help but think inappropriate thoughts when I see this.

All in all, the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta was a pretty good experience. Of course, it’s the company that made the trip much more fun. If you’re going, make the most out of your trip by viewing the exhibits or seeing other sites within Pampanga. Otherwise, it can be quite frustrating as you stare wistfully at the balloon, wishing you’re taking in the views from inside the basket.

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 17 Comments
  1. Fritz says:

    Can’t wait for tomorrow!!! As promised, I’ll check the lost and found section for you.

  2. How I wish hot air balloon rides were more affordable. I paid $105 recently on a gorgeous ride above Luxor. It’s even more expensive in the US. How much was it to ride a balloon in Clark?

  3. estan says:

    hahaha.. never been to this one and if not for an important deadline, i’ve joined the group sana.

    @nomadic pinoy, i think its $150

  4. kat says:

    fantastic shots :) i want to go there, too.. maybe next year.

  5. freeze says:

    just flew in clark today and was greeted by a few hotair balloons on the runway, i can’t wait til sunday when we go out on the field. :)

  6. angie says:

    those pictures you posted were lovely which makes me all the more excited to see it this weekend.

  7. thechiccommuter says:

    Niiice! Love the photos. Believe it or not, I’d like to go up in a hot air balloon. Wish I was there, sigh. There was paragliding? Would have wanted to see that:-)

  8. kate says:

    i love your photos :) i got to ride the tethered balloon but next time i’ll make sure that i’ll get on the real flying one :D

  9. Marie says:

    Balloons against the sun, wow I love this shot, Awesome!

  10. kat says:

    hi nina, do u have an entry for the budget breakdown for this trip to clark? i’m planning to go, need help with budgeting.

    • nina says:

      Hi Kat! Sorry, I don’t have a budget breakdown for the Hot Air balloon fiesta :( But to give you an idea, the bus from Caloocan to Dau costs about Php 125 per person on Victory Liner. From Dau, you can ride a jeep or tricycle to the Clark gate. Not sure how much it’d cost, but my trike from Angeles (across Marquee mall) cost me Php 100. From the Clark gate, you ride another jeep to the venue. The jeep from the gate to DMIA cost me Php 200, and it’s for the entire jeep na. I hope this helps!

  11. kat says:

    thanks for the info, nina. it will help a lot. =)

  12. Nice says:

    Hello Kat! Thank you for this blog entry! My friend and I are planning to go and see the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta this year. I love your picture of the AFP Flag Jump! I just have one question: Do you happen to know if the ticket would still be valid even though we would go out of the Hot Air Balloon premises for some time (for example, around 7am) and then come back in the afternoon? Or do we have to pay for another one?

  13. Precious says:

    How much is a hot air balloon ride?

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