THERE are 1,000 more reasons for Pampanga and its leaders, led by Gov. Lilia Pineda, to celebrate nowadays due to the success of the Second Lubao International Balloon Festival (LIBF).
It happened from March 26 to 29 in Pradera Verde, Barangay Prado Siongco, Lubao, Pampanga.
Central Luzon Tourism Regional Director Ronnie Tiotuico said some 150,000 local and international tourists attended the four-day event at the 250-hectare venue in Prado Siongco, which is about 7 kilometers away from Dinalupihan town, Bataan.
“With 150,000 people, with each one spending P1,500 [for entrance ticket, souvenirs, food, transport, hotel accommodation, and other incidental expenses] on the average, the economic benefit to Lubao is about P225 million!” Tiotuico said.
He said that nearby areas, such as Subic and Olongapo City in Zambales and Bataan, also benefited from the festival.
Some of the tourists did not only occupy hotels in Pampanga but in Bataan and Zambales, as well, Tiotuico said. He added that other tourists also went to beaches in the two provinces near Pampanga.
“Moreso, the event is a huge marketing exposure for the country, with the presence of more 100 foreign balloon pilots from all over the world. They now have become our ambassadors of goodwill for the Philippines,” Tiotuico said.
Pineda, who is a native of Lubao, said: “I am happy because the province of Pampanga is becoming more popular, because it hosts the only hot-air balloon festival in the country.”
“Last year there were 36 hot-air balloons. This time, we have 43 balloons,” she said.
Organizers of the LIBF, led by Mayor Mylyn Pineda-Cayabyab, said “the festival made Lubao more known in the international scene.”
They added that people from different countries who attended the recent hot-air balloon festival in Japan had mentioned the town of Lubao several times during their talks.
The first hot-air balloon festival was held in Clark, Pampanga, in 1994 to pump up the local economy following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. One of the original proponents was Tiotuico.
Tiotuico said that, a few years later, they transferred the hosting of the event to a private group.
Organizers in Lubao, led by LIBF Chairman Noel Castro and Steve Kim, had been given the opportunity to host the festival in 2014, when Clark Development Corp. and the private group, which hosted the event since the late 1990s postponed the holding of the event on that year.
“We are not here to compete but to complement,” said Castro, when asked if his group is open to having one hot-air balloon festival annually in the near future. The event in Clark is usually held in February.
Delays of flights at the Clark International Airport (CIA) were reported during the holding of the 19th annual Philippine Hot Air Balloon International Festival in Clark from February 12 to 15.
Groups, such as the Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement (PGKM), are asking the permanent end of the festival in Clark due to the increasing flights at the airport. There were at least 877,000 passengers at the CIA in 2014.
Reports said the ideal distance between an airport and the venue for hot-air balloon festival is at least 25 kilometers. Prado Siongco is about 33 kilometers away from Clark.
The hot-air balloon pilots came from 18 countries. They said the area in Lubao “is ideal for balloon festivals due to its fine weather during summer.”
Pineda said she sees “a bigger hot-air balloon festival in years to come.”
“Who knows, someday there will be 150 hot-air balloons in our festival similar to Mexico’s? It will be more fun for the people, especially those who live at the countryside,” Pineda said.