Balloons for Our Mothers

Angeles City, Pampanga, the Philippines

February 10, 2012

17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta at Clark Field, Pampanga

Ki surprised Mom with party balloons on her 79th birthday in January. A month later, he had a bigger surprise in mind. He invited Mom and me to the annual Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta on its 17th year. Held in the plains of Pampanga, a couple of hours north of Manila, the festival was also an excuse for a road trip. The party eventually ballooned from three to five when my brother and Nichel, my niece, tagged along.

Tickets to “A Weekend of Everything that Flies!” @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Air Force Mom @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

It was still dark when we arrived at Clark Air Base, but a bottleneck had already formed at the parking entrance of OMNI Aviation Complex. After lining up for tickets (which cost P200 a pop), we still had two hours to spare before the hot air balloon flights began. We spent the time exploring the place, an erstwhile US Air Force base. Military jeeps, abandoned by the Americans when they withdrew in the early 90s, had been dusted off to provide fodder for photo ops. Nichel could barely contain her inner camwhore. She accessorized her femme fatale poses with artillery propped up on the jeeps. Still not feeling camera shy, she later draped herself on several race cars parked in tents. The landing runway of the aviation school based here also doubled as a racing strip. Ki and I found an appropriate photo backdrop for our Formula One tees.

Racy on a Race Car @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
TTT and Ki: Who are we wearing? Button and Hamilton @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

The break of dawn signaled the start of the rather ponderous process of inflating the balloons. With repeated gusts of fiery gas, balloons started sprouting like giant mushrooms on the open field, set to Up, Up and Away by The 5th Dimension blaring from loudspeakers on repeat mode.

Boy Waiting for the Balloons @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Balloon and Mt Arayat on the Plains of Pampanga @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Mom Waiting for the Ascent of Birthday Cake Balloon @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

A balloon in the form of a multi-tiered birthday cake led the skyward exodus. In no time, balloons of all shapes and sizes and sponsors eclipsed the rising sun. The crowd was in a tizzy, digitally documenting the mass flight from all directions. We heard that a man proposed to his girl aboard one of the balloons. We didn’t even bother getting on one as it cost an arm and a leg, or P2,500 in numerical figure; and if some mishap happened, it would literally cost us that arm and leg – or worse, more.

Up Up and Away…. @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Nichel My Belle @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

We settled for the spectacle of this spectator sport. Towards the end of the show, the balloons became quirkier. We saw an ice cream cone and a sunflower take to the sky. Angry Bird also made an appearance, threatening to topple over before it righted itself and flew away.

Ice Cream Balloon and a Pair of Paragliders @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Angry Bird Rising @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Mother and Son: Of Balloons and Bonding @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Paragliders coasted down as the last of the hot air balloons was ascending. One unfurled the Philippine flag mid-air. There would still be more action lined up that morning – the aerobatic air show and the skydiving exhibition among others – but we had already seen what we came for. We decided to leave before the morning got warmer and the crowd bigger.

Sunrise Skydive @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Top Guns: Ki and TTT @ 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Mom, who had not seen a hot air balloon before, was beaming until the show drew to a close. She may not have been the only one. Exactly seven years before, Ki’s mother joined her Creator. She must have been smiling down on us as the birthday cake balloon soared to the sky on her heavenly birthday, bearing Ki’s wish of a “Happy 7th year in Heaven!”

Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti!

Francesco Maria Piave


This post is dedicated to my mother, Agnes Julita C. Poliquit, and Ki’s mother, Elnora A. Butalid.

My Mom (L) and Ki’s Mom (R)
Addio del passato bei sogni ridenti by Maria Callas

44 thoughts on “Balloons for Our Mothers

Add yours

    1. Go for it, Jolo! It’s just next door from Bulacan. I’d also like to see the other air shows later in the day.

  1. Truly pro shots…dramatic and meaningful angles..anyway a very nice surprise for your mom from a sure a very thoughtful and loving friend..

    Nice post…

    1. What pro shots? πŸ˜€ Thanks, but sunrise easily lends itself to drama with the silhouettes it creates. Also, you can shoot the sun directly at this time.

  2. when i first saw some posts about the hot air balloon fiesta, i could not help but envy a bit. the balloons look really awesome and the angry bird balloon looks really imposing. πŸ™‚

  3. I am soooo inspired by you for bringing your mom to so many different places now! Although I’ve both lost my parents, I still have my mother and father figures to treat out in these kinds of travels. πŸ™‚

    1. I figured I should share the experience of doing what I love with the people I love most. It’s double the fun! πŸ™‚

  4. Now I have an idea where to bring my mom too in case πŸ™‚ For sure she will love this!

    Ang ganda ng Birthday Cake balloon, nag-i-stand out talaga!

    1. Be warned that there are no chairs. Just bring your own collapsible chair or something your mom can sit on.

  5. Love the photos! πŸ˜€ I really hope I can attend the hot air balloon festival next year. Would love to take a nice view of the balloons and capture some shots too.. ^^

  6. Its been in my radar for the past 4-5 years and everytime I’m near, I feel that its still far from my reach.

    I know your mom loved the experience a lot with a smile on her face. ^_^

  7. What an amazing experience this must have been for you guys. I’ve never attended the Air Balloon Show. I have been wanting to do it for the longest time but can’t find a group who I can join. This post reminds me I should start preparing for next year’s show. πŸ™‚

  8. I was there AJ but on a different dimension. I miss your mom and I still haven’t solved the mystery on why she is so amiable while you’re so “anianoble.” Peace. As always I love your post and as always I must reply so you can view my blog. Hi hi hi hi…

    1. There’s no mystery, Rob. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m as sweet and amiable as Mom!!! Isn’t it obvious? πŸ˜€

  9. The JOY in your mother’s face is just over-the-top!
    Like those balloons that fly so high in the sky. You just brought
    her to cloud 9.

    1. Right Marri, she didn’t have to ride the balloons to get to Cloud 9! Her radiant smile made the early road trip worth it. πŸ™‚

  10. Surely, your mother was so happy with you AJ and of the rest of the family members who were with her. A treat that she will treasure it. Bagay pala sayong maging airforce ah. :-).

  11. Thank for visiting my site and for taking time to read my post. You should try to travel alone once in a while it’s really challenging but fun! if u need sum1 to travel with you can surely count me in! ^_^

    1. Thanks Cisco! πŸ™‚

      Jan, I can travel alone (in fact I did in China, no less), but now only if it’s absolutely necessary. I’d rather take you up on your offer. πŸ™‚

    1. Awwwww Cris. Mothers are so precious; we really should make the most out of the time we have with them.

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