Gaga over Pampanga

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By Noel G. Tulabut

My Palm Notes

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

AM NOT borrowing the term from the name of a lady singer. That word has always been there. Merriam-Webster says it is an adjective that means "extremely enthusiastic about or interested in something or someone."

Just in case, someone needs a refresher his or her vocabulary. Myself included.

Few days from now, Pampanga will be in the tourism spotlight once again.


First, for the staging of Pilipinas International Hot Air Festival in Lubao, Pampanga from April 10 to 13. The venue is at Barangay Prado Siongco at the western end of Lubao, just near Pampanga-Bataan boundary.

The organizers headed by Noel Castro Jr., who used to figure prominently in the hot air balloon inside Clark as head of the Angeles City Four Wheelers Club which served as chase crew, said that there will be 35 dirigibles that will dot Pampanga’s skies just before the start of Holy Week.

The balloons will include especially-shaped ones like Angry Bird, Superbike, Simba and the Lion.


This spectacular event where thousands troop on a yearly basis is courtesy of Pampanga Governor Lilia Baby Pineda who saved the province’s face after the organizers for the Clark balloon fest decided to shelve the event “due to lack of preparations.”

Governor Pampanga actually saved not just Pampanga’s tourism face but also the reported “longest running hot air balloon event in Asia.”

It was also through the effort of DOT Central Luzon Director Ronnie Tiotuico that Pampanga (and the Philippines in general) is having this annual event back. It was actually Tiotuico and former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor who had started this grand spectacle in Clark about 19 years ago.

Thank goodness that Governor Pineda has taken the cudgels this time, making sure that this event won’t be missed in Pampanga. Of course, Lubao Mayor Mylyn Pineda-Cayabyab is all out in this affair that guarantees tourist arrivals not only in Pampanga but also the neighbor areas like Bataan (where hotels are now fully booked, one newspaper reported) and Zambales.

Tourists, spectators, media and Pampanga’s stakeholders do not mind actually why it is being taken to Lubao. In fact, it is a welcome event too as it is still being held inside Pampanga.

Lubao’s hosting of an event that makes use of air space is also an answer to a possible headache for aircraft that fly in and out of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport inside Clark. Sooner or later, the airport will really become busy with more airlines mounting increasing number of flights.


SANDBOX. The Ayalas are already in Porac. No wonder the town officials have already coined for their place as “the next Makati of the North”.

The lahar-ravaged town is host to a new place for outdoor fun in Pampanga.

The SandBox at Alviera, a mixed-use land development project by Ayala Land Premier at Hacienda Dolores in Porac, Pampanga.

Starting this April 12, Sandbox will open its doors to the public with its features like the first ever Roller Coaster Zipline, Aerial Walk, Adventure Tower (for wall climbing, rappel and free fall), Giant Swing and ATV/UTV rides. On the same day, Bamboo will also rock the place with his concert.

The place is easy to find. You won’t miss it as it is located right at the Porac exit of the SCTEX. It is part of the 1,125-hectare Alviera, that is being developed by Ayala Land in partnership with Leonio Land, Inc.

Sandbox already has the following: The Giant Swing, the country’s tallest swing. Each swing can accommodate three guests at a time and creates the back and forth movement at 10-meter above the ground

The Aerial Walk Challenge is a high rope adventure course of nets and rope walkways. The Aerial walk is a series of activities that will test each users’ agility, balance and flexibility. An active guest can make his way through this course in about 30 minutes.

There’s also Avatar One, the Philippines’ first roller coaster zipline. One doesn’t just zip down the 180-meter (length) course but zigzags along starting from 12 meters high.

The Adventure Tower is a 5-storey structure that consists of various activities such as rappelling, wall climbing, jump off for the free fall, jump off for the roller coaster zip line and the view deck.

The SandBox also offers ATV and mini-ATV rides, a themed kiddie playground with picnic areas, mini-golf, camping sites, a courtyard and an open field for field sports and other outdoor activities.

Bikers will also be in for a treat as they enjoy Alviera’s 5,000 sqm pump track.

The Sandbox is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For booking guidelines, visit the Alviera website at and on

SAFE AND CONVENIENT TRAVEL. I can’t wait for the implementation of an integrated electronic payment system at both the NLEX and SCTEX.

It is really convenient and fast taking the NLEX. There is no doubt about it. But that almost perfect driving condition is hampered when motorist connect to the SCTEX where the toll fee payment is still on manual basis. Thus, the long lines of vehicles even on ordinary days. I should know that as I am from the area.

Just the same, the debonair Mon Fernandez, president of Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation which oversees all the tollways (SCTEX, NLEX and Cavitex) said that the MVP-led group of companies will be implementing soon an integrated payment system.

That will be a welcome development as the provision of electronic gadgets for payment (like EZ Pass) will make entry and exit points smoother and faster. For what good does fast and prompt driving and exit at NLEX have when a motorist, all of a sudden finds himself, in a long line of vehicles when interconnecting to the SCTEX?

Just the same, I believe that the improvements at these toll roads are continually being done by Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC). Its president Rod Franco has always been on his toes, coming up with more and more innovations not just to make motorists happy and convenient. His primary concern has always been safety of travelers and motorists at both SCTEX and NLEX which are under MNTC. And that is really commendable.

For this coming Holy Week, MNTC will again active role in “Safe Trip Mo, Sagot KO” an annual pro-active measure and program that is geared at having safe travel vis-à-vis the surge of motoring public.

This year, the Cavitex, which is also under the MPTC banner, will already be a part of it.

NLEX will deploy additional personnel to major toll plazas specifically Balintawak, Bocaue, Mindanao Avenue, Dau, and Mabalacat. On the other hand, SCTEX will also have manual lanes at Tarlac and Tipo exits to help ease traffic and CAVITEX will beef up its manpower by deploying additional traffic patrol officers. It will also provide hydration, portalets, and drums of water to serve overheated vehicles.

Franco said additional lanes will be open to speed up the passage of vehicles through the toll gates. The MNTC will also deploy traffic personnel and would also be required to work extra hours to ensure efficient traffic management. Additional patrol cars and traffic enforcers would be dispatched on April 16 to 21.

This is to “help guarantee immediate response to emergency situations and assist distressed travelers,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 09, 2014.


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