Flying High in Lubao International Hot Air Balloon Festival 2016


I signed something off on my bucket list! Yes, I've already gone skydiving in Guam, and I thought I wont be able to go that high anymore until Lubao IBF happened and I was able to go for a hot air balloon ride. Around 40 blew hot air into their balloons on the 4 day festival held in Pampanga. Now on its third year, Lubao International Hot Air Balloon Festival is bigger. This is in terms of celebrations and larger launching area.

I was there on an early Thursday morning for the kick off. We arrived Lubao around 430AM. It was nice to be that early as you can watch the pilot fire-up the burners and watch his team setup and put air in balloon.

From what I saw, it wasn't that easy. It requires around a team of 9 - 14. Depending how big your balloon is, if your balloon is a single burner or a double burner. It takes around 30 minutes to around 45 minutes to inflate a balloon with air and it doesn't look easy. It requires a lot of pulling and adjusting and releasing air and tying.

There were some eye-catching balloons there like the photos below but the pilot that I talked to said that these balloons are harder and a bit more difficult to maneuver.

There were no stopping the guests in seeing the balloons take off, even with the temperature rising as early as 9AM. A lot of countries also participated in the event. Foreign and local aviators were present and was obliging photo opportunities with guests and VIP ticket holders. They say that it was considered as the largest balloon festival in Southeast Asia. Now isn't that something to be proud of.

Balloons were starting to take off as I looked for my hot air balloon for my ride. Took a couple more shots and was anxious and excited because I didn't know what to expect.

Spotted Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Guidicelli.

When I found my balloon, that Ice cream with single burner. It was small and can only fit two people inside. Others can fit 3 person inside, those with two burners. I was briefed on what to do, how to get in, where to hold, where to stand. Below are photos from my flight. The pilot that I was with was Captain Benoit Simeons from Belgium. He was really nice and was telling me about the wind, direction and what we needed to do.

Ben as I call him, told me about the basic rules of the game. One balloon flies first, the rest must follow. The pilot who drops their flag closest to the X mark wins. No prize here really, just trophy and the plain fun of the competition. These pilots gets invites from different cities, and has been travelling from country to country to participate in festivals like this. 

It's not easy being a Hot Air Balloon pilot. You have to know where the wind is coming from, anticipating it and knowing where the balloon will be. It's not easy because the wind and temperature in each country is different and unpredictable. Ben is used to long distance competition which lasts for 4-5 days. I asked how he sleeps when he goes on trips like that and he says that opens the basket and have his legs hanging out on one end. "It's really about passion" He shares. "My father was also Hot Air Balloon pilot, so since I was young, I've always loved flying. It calms me and it makes me happy."

After around 30-45 minutes, we started to descend as the wind directed us a bit off from our target. We were hovering for quite a while the Ben's team drive near to where we are about to land.

A few minutes in, we hit our landing and our team started to pack up the balloon. It was as difficult to fill it with air as packing because of the heat!

This is the Zebra balloon trying to land and not get dragged by the wind.
Sending my thanks to Ben for the smooth ride. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me. Big thanks to the Lubao organizers and also to Forthinkers for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Aside from seeing uniquely shaped balloons, festival attendees can also enjoy other activities such as live concerts, night glow parties, fireworks displays, and food stalls.

#LubaoIBF2016 is organized by LubaoInternational Balloon Festival, Inc. (LIBF) & Forthinker, Inc in cooperation with the Arts, Culture and Tourism Office of Pampanga (ACTO) and with the support from Provincial Government of Pampanga. For more information and local accommodation suggestions,

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