The festival takes place each year between the 9th and 12th of February at a former US Air base in Angeles City, Pampanga province. The longest-running sports aviation event in Asia, it involves four days of aerial displays, including skydiving, kite flying and remote controlled aircraft, culminating with the flight of hot air balloons.
Founded in 1994, the festival was created to jumpstart the local economy and uplift the morale of Luzon’s ailing community, which was devastated by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo three years earlier. The eruption, the second largest of the 20th century, claimed an estimated 847 lives. Were it not for widespread evacuations in the days before, the death toll would have been significantly higher. Even so the area lost approximately two-to-three percent of its population.
In 1996, Captain Joy Roa, the island’s only licensed balloon pilot, was asked to oversee the event. A fixed and rotary wing pilot and an avid aviation enthusiast, Roa encouraged other flying disciplines to participate, transforming the fiesta into a weekend of everything that flies.
What began as a passion project has since evolved into the longest-running sports aviation event in Southeast Asia. The organisers say they want to instill discipline in young pilots and create a spirit of volunteerism and cooperation within the community.
This year’s event features 30 hot air balloons and over a hundred pilots from Europe, North America and Asia. It’s expected to attract an estimated 60,000 visitors from around the world. For more information and to book tickets, visit the event’s official website or follow it on Facebook.