A few days from now the 19th Hot-Air Balloon Festival in Pampanga will happen. Are you ready? Good for you if you have a car going to the place; the only thing you’d have to think of is the toll fee. It would be a completely different take for those who will go there by commute. Fear not though because here are the 10 things to help you.
1) Commuting to Pampanga
Ride a bus bound to Dagupan. Much better if you will ride a Victory Liner bus that has terminals in Cubao, Pasay, and Caloocan. The bus fare for each person is between ₱200 and ₱250, depending on which terminal you are. The bus will stop over at Dau where you can get off. Along the highway, you may wait for Jeepneys or tricycles that can take you to Clark’s main gate. There are other modes of transports at the main gate to the grounds although it will only take 15 minutes of walking.
2) Presenting your ticket
A long line starts to build up around 4:30am. In fact, some attendees are there as early as 3:00 am. About 3 years ago, there are no separate ticket booth and entrance gate, so some people (those who were not able to buy their tickets on Ticket World or other channels) bought their tickets at the gate. This explained the buildup but, of course, the festival is a much-anticipated event that everyone wants to see. While no one knows for sure how the admission will be organized this year, it would be advisable to buy the tickets online. Anyhow, the same price applies (₱300 each for a general admission ticket valid for 1 fiesta day). IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to bring your printed e-ticket!
3) Finding your vantage point
Lucky for you if you have a photographer or media pass. If you haven’t, you really need to be there as early as possible so you can secure the most vantage points around the fence and nearest to the field especially if you are going to take photos. The fenced area is about 30 meters away from the flying fields although, at this distance, you may see the crew (and the lucky photographers and media men) assembling and inflating the balloons. For this year, the scheduled lift-off of balloons is from 6:30am, which means that the crew will start inflating the balloon as early as 5am. Judging by the previous festivals, the activities are always right on schedule.
4) Battling the weather
If it is chilly here in Manila, what more in Pampanga? Definitely, you will need a jacket, poncho or anything that you wrap yourself with since it will be so cold while on the bus trip. Already mentioned is the fact that the venue is an open field. Dress in layers, if you must, because it will start to get real hot and sweaty at noon. Make sure that you are wearing comfortable footwear such as rubber shoes or sandals. The open areas, which are supposed to be aisles, can get crowded, too.
5) Commuting back to Manila
If you are not going to stay for the Night Glow (during weekends, February 14 and 15) or the Valentine’s concert (Saturday night, February 14), make sure to leave the venue around 3 to 4pm. You will certainly have a hard time finding Jeepneys or tricycles going back to Dau terminal due to the excessive traffic congestion (this is not even an exaggeration). The same goes with finding Manila-bound buses once you are at the terminal. Traffic will be everywhere. That is, if you are going to leave the venue at 7pm.
These are just some of the things worth knowing if you are planning to go to Clark on commute. But, of course, this should not stop you from enjoying what this year’s festival has to offer. The thing is you should plan early, so you can maximize your time while there. Most importantly, enjoy!