DOT Will Save the Day

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

I WAS a regular spectator of the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival at Clark Freeport Zone a couple of years ago, and saw how it amazed people, young and old alike. A lot of the audience and flight enthusiasts are actually Kapampangans, but based on their lingo, they come from other provinces, including Metro Manila.

The event is a crowd drawer and is truly a major tourism event not only in Clark but in the whole city of Angeles and Pampanga, as it is identified as an affair that is happening only in the Kapampangan kingdom.

Hot air balloon enthusiasts enjoying the festival are people from all walks of life, from the opulent families, to the middle class, to the marginalized. This means that many really want to enjoy the sight of hot air balloons and many “other things that fly”.


The showcase of balloons likewise features remote-controlled planes, kites, airplane exhibits, fly-bys, military displays and other stuff that many enjoy. There are shops and boutiques in makeshift stalls that provide stuff that you can buy such as food, airplanes and hot air balloon models, shirts, souvenir items among many others.

Participants to the hot air balloon do not only come from the Philippines but from other parts of the world as well. Foreign air forces also bring in their planes for exhibits like those in air shows in other countries.

There came sad news in November, however, that the organizer of the festival has cancelled this year’s Clark event that is supposedly held by next month. Captain Joy Roa blames the lack of preparation as the reason for the cancellation. He nevertheless gave a promise that next year’s balloon festival will be more prepared as a consolation prize.

The information that the festival would be called off came as a surprising and saddening news to many considering that a lot of people are anticipating it, including businessmen and companies offering sponsorships for the event.

The tourism industry has likewise been “hurt” by the news, foreseeing the loss of tourism opportunities such as hotel accommodations, restaurants, bars and shops sales.

On the other side, the supposed Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival should be on its 18th year this February. This means that the event has been running for quite a long time. It has been made into a tradition in fact for many enthusiasts to witness the showcase the festival offers.

Capt. Roa blames time constraints for the preparation. It is as if it will be held for the first time that a longer period for the invitations, organizing, marketing and venue preparations is needed.

There must be something behind his announcement that the festival would not push through.

Then came the Department of Tourism (DoT) that instructed its Region 3 office to lead the organization of the festival. It has partnered with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC), Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) and Philippine Air Force (600th Air Base Wing) for the preparation and everything. The festival meanwhile was moved from the supposed February slate to the second week of April.

With the announcement, we can say that the DoT has saved the day for taking steps to continue on with the festival that has been in fact, institutionalized as a major event in Pampanga.

I surmise that a lot of individuals, businesses, investors and the tourism community would want to profusely thank the DoT for bravely spearheading the coming balloon festival that Capt. Roa thinks has insufficient time to prepare.


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Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 10, 2014.


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