By José Abeto Zaide
I almost missed the opening day’s early morning flag ceremony last Thursday, 8 February, because the Quest Hotel staff forgot my wake-up call. Front Office manager Joven Bulos was extremely apologetic. But I assured that the earlier duty manager Glen Abigania had saved the day by whisking a limo to rush me in time for the flag jump.
Differently, this year a team of four sky divers from England, the Jump D4GS, was first to make take the plunge at the appointed hour.
Five minutes later, when the announcers Vanessa Lora and Percy Tolentno had everyone’s attention, the Philippine paratroop skydivers bailed out… this time with the flag bearer.
With clockwork precision, the Philippine Army band struck “Bayang Magiliw” as the Philippine flag was unfurled and nearing the ground. We stood at attention, right hand over left breast, and joined in singing the hymn.
Vanessa and Percy announced that after the flag’s descent, that was the signal to inflate the hot air balloons – the Matryoshka, The Beefeater, Strawberry, Hans Dieter Lauten’s Garant, all kinds and shapes went up before sunrise. Altogether 18 balloons inflated and glided direction south as the wind blows.
Three more inflated balloons remained tethered to terra firma – to oblige the acrophobiacs who only needed to climb into the hot air balloon basket for photo shoot.
With all balloons airborne, the action continued.
On the ground, Kasse Walker, last seasons Miss New Zealand and now pop diva (she even sings Maori) and the British Willow Thorn alternated with with hit tunes. Then jets zoomed, more sky divers, para gliders, kite flyers, etc., filled the sky.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK. Two Stearman double-winged planes (with 450 horsepower, twice the power of the ordinary Stearman models) taxied into position passing the crowd. The first had Emily Guilding safety-fastened above the top wing; the other had Katie Hobbs.
Wing Walkers Emily and Katie are just as cool where they are seated above the wing. They take it on matter of faith that their pilots know their jobs, and on that mattr of faith, they could do their handstand, tip-toe, and several other in-flight postures (one of the most memorable of which was posing nonchalant as Cleopatra on a couch).
On several passes, their two planes fly almost wing-tip to wing-tip in tandem at 120 mph. Then we are told to have our cameras ready. Midway in their act, the two planes separate… then turn around…and speed towards each other…crossing each another just a hairbreath away. They do this four times. The only thing the girls didn’t do was to shake hands.
These Wing Walkers are worth the admission and the trip all the way to Clark in Pampanga. Our flight safety instructors Capt Andrew Florentino and Capt Jun Solaiman verdict: These girls are the only air acrobats who had the balls to do that death defying act!
(I mentioned it to Emily and Katie at the Hotel Oasis dinner for the pilots; and they said, yes, their own pilots would do the airplane rolls…but wouldn’t stand on the wings of a plane. Wing walking from Thursday to Sunday, twice a day, morning and afternoon. Anytime,any day, is worth the price of admission and the drive to Clark in Pampanga..
Ting Roa says she would want to try wing walking. After all, didn’t the acrobat. Ho sit sit through it? (But Ting must first get her husband Capt.Joy Roa’s consent.)
Gary Lising suggested to offer wing walking as the ultimate thrill free for all guests – provided that they do at least three of the 20 numbers that Katie and Emily do.
At 11:00 hours we drove to Angeles City National Trade School (ACNTS) where the principal Edna Tongol welcomed our pilots from France, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Slovakia, USA, Belgium, and the Philippines.
The students also welcomed us con gusto because the air was festive – like no lessons and no homework. The students were holding up a phalanx – 20 rows of 3 layers each which spelled,”WELCOME” and turned around to read “HOT AIR BALLOON FIESTA”
They prepared several dance numbers, beginning with a panorama of Ifugao, Marnao, Barong and Saya, etc.
Unforgettable was their “Tinikling,” which moved as fluidly as the orchestration. They invited the visiting pilots, who gamely took to the stage before realizing that Eins, zwei, drei… was not as easy as it looked. Fortunately, none of the pilots had feet caught by the bamboo poles.
If that was tight, the Sayaw sa Bangko was a class act. You think you’ve seen it all, until they moved the finale to four levels of bangko…and somersaulting the lady partner to criss-cross the bangko. This time, the dancers did not challenge the courage of the foreign visitors to try.
More flights, paragliders, skydivers, etc. The weekend program will have talents from ABS-CBN.
The weather is fine for the next two days. But we will ask the intervention of Santa Clara, especially for this Saturday and Sunday when we draw Cecile B. De Mille proportion crowds.
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