MANILA, Philippines—Want a respite from all that hot air blowing from the campaign trail?
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is inviting Filipino and foreign travelers to head to the Clark Freeport this weekend for the 18th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) and experience how “flying can be more fun in the Philippines.”
At the launch of the festival in Makati City on Tuesday night, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told guests, mainly balloonists and aviators from 15 countries, how President Aquino initially thought he was talking about an event that had something to do with the elections.
“When I informed the President that I was going to be here tonight, he kind of missed the title and all he heard was ‘hot air,’ and he said to me, ‘Mon, I do not recall inviting you to any of our campaign rallies,’” Jimenez said, drawing laughter from the audience.
“So I had to explain to him, and I said, ‘Sir, this is an occasion that, in a sense, has a much stronger perspective on the Philippines… than most ‘hot air’ occasions,” he said.
This year’s hot air balloon festival comes as the campaigning for the midterm elections on May 13 enters a second week.
Jimenez also told the foreigners in the audience that they had come to the right place because they were going to witness a “view of the country that not very many people have seen.”
“Through your eyes, through your experience, you are able to testify to the fact that the Philippines is worth a visit,” he said.
Balloonists and aviators from as far as Russia and as near as Thailand are expected to wow guests with bright and gigantic balloons of various shapes and sizes during the four-day event, which opens Thursday and runs until Sunday.
Among the highlights of this year’s festival are the participation, for the first time, of Europe’s largest civilian aerobatic display team, the Brietling Jet Team, and several Filipino rock bands and top OPM singers.
Rock concerts and solo performances have been added as a new component to the hot air balloon festival, Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab announced at the launch.
Ogie Alcasid, Gary Valenciano, Cookie Chua, Dingdong Avanzado, Jessa Zaragoza, Joey Ayala, Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel, Pepe Smith, Wolfgang, The Dawn, Imago, Kjwan, Spongecola, Urbandub, Gloc9 are among the featured performers.
“We are proud to mark a milestone in the history of Philippine aviation with the participation of the world-renowned Breitling Jet Team. And this is just icing on the cake because this year’s hot air fiesta will offer more than aerial entertainment,” PIHABF event director Joy Roa said in a statement.
Roa said one of the main goals of the festival was to let the world know that “flying is definitely more fun in the Philippines” and put the country on the map as one of the world’s top destinations for aerial activities.
In an interview with reporters, Jimenez said the 18-year-old festival was a reflection of a “modern” Philippines, which was more popularly known for age-old fiestas and festivals reflecting the country’s culture and tradition.
“It is a very good reflection of the way the Philippines has kind of been spotted by the world… [I]t has a tremendous impact [on tourism] because it sends a very powerful message to the people around the world that the Philippines has a very, very wide offering, [including] a very modern event such as this,” Jimenez said.
He added that aside from promoting domestic tourism, the festival would be a vital booster for the economy, especially in Angeles City, which derives at least 25 percent of its annual income from the annual event alone. “So it is very valuable,” he said.
The organizers expect the festival to draw at least 100,000 visitors to the event this year. Last year, the festival drew more than 92,000 tourists to the country.
Originally posted at 06:16 pm | Wednesday, February 20, 2013