WHEN I was in fourth grade, my class took a field trip to the nearby Enchanted Kingdom (EK), which my teacher said would teach us a lesson about flying. I didn’t know about that; I used to think that the only things that could teach you how to fly are birds and airplanes. When I told my friends this, they wondered if I had ever been to a carnival, explaining that EK is a theme park, “a place where everything flies.”
There, we witnessed how people squealed and cried as they were thrown up, up and away in the air, but still they were at it anyway. Practically every ride at the amusement park was a torture chamber, except that, apparently, it’s a kind of torture that people enjoy. I, on the other hand, found utter joy and peace in gently pedaling a swan-shaped vessel in the Swan Lake.
When finally I was hit on, a classmate coaxed me to break my neck like a man and ride the Condor (now the EKstreme), a towering vertical metal bar with seats around it. The ride was simple: What goes up must come down. To wit, it’s like being on a crashing elevator.
If you really come to think about it, it is not flying; it’s falling, but years of going to EK since then taught me how to be graceful in mid-air and do it in a spirit of life-enhancing joy, choosing to let go of the handle bars when what I was more inclined to do was hold on to it tighter, and pretending sometimes that when I fall, I fly.
Recently, my girlfriend and I went to EK just a kiss shy before its celebration of its 22nd anniversary, when the air was tinged with festivity and was somehow conducive to falling in love. While it’s true that nothing beats an end-of-day carousel ride as fireworks illuminate an already starry sky, we were there to experience something equally majestic, which was EK’s newest (and, at that, largest) attraction, Agila: The EKsperience.
The SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment-designed first and only flying theater in the Philippines is housed in a 10-storey-high circular building, which, from atop, resembles the sun in the Philippine flag. Utilizing a new patented system called SkyRide in its design, it synchronizes with a short film that features 20 beautiful locations in the Philippines in full 6K resolution, projected in what is thus far touted to be the largest screen in Southeast Asia.
The aerial videography was a brainchild of an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer, whose portfolio includes that of the Survivor series and Titanic. The 4D motion-theater technology makes for a much immersive experience as it devises wind, water, mist and scent effects to stimulate the senses, not to mention a combination of overhead stereo speakers and seat bass shakers.
As a prelude to our “flight”, we were met by the real Eldar, who materialized in style, a far cry from the ubiquitous walking mockup of the wizard we see at the park in any time of day. With a sleight of hand, he could teleport at the beck of his wand and even conjure the elements from his sleeves, transporting us through the vacuum of time and space so that the next thing we knew, we were actually on the wings of the Philippine Eagle, and flying as if, like the dancer and the dance, were innately entwined.
I think more than “edutainment,” which is what Agila is all about, what I learned in flight for the briefest of hours is the real meaning of freedom. It is like surrendering to the joy of jumping off a cliff, something incomparable to when you ride a chopper or an airplane, where everything is either reduced to a momentary standstill or spoilt by the cacophony of a hydraulic whirr.
Because it takes having actual wings to witness something truly majestic, the true grandeur of freedom and beauty is meant to be savored only by those who fly. Whereas, we are forever locked up on our feet, or reveling with beauty of the stars when the lights are out, or buying a balloon, naming it, loving it and then letting go of it so that at least a part of us could ever fly.
On the Agila, we hovered atop the hostile vicinity of the Mayon Volcano, cruised over the irate river of Cagayan, sailed above the sand dunes of Paoay—it’s a gust of snow—and, before I knew it, I was crying halfway through the course of the trip.
I didn’t mean to steal anybody’s thunder, but you fly on the Agila, appreciate the beauty of all these wonderful places in a new way, and you’re overwhelmed by a feeling you miserably fail to put into words. Some say it is something akin to watching a place recede into the distance, while, for some, it’s like seeing the smile a loved one gives as she drives away. As for me, maybe that’s how it feels when you are able to see for the first time.