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British Pilot Experiences Filipino BAYANIHAN in Lubao Balloon Fest

By Albert B. Lacanlale

LUBAO, Pampanga–Not even his vast experience in ballooning in 27 countries had prepared a British pilot to an exciting landing in the Lubao International Balloon and Music Festival here.

For Jonathan Dyer of the United Kingdom his landing in Barangay San Benito, in Dinalupihan, Bataan, makes it to his list of most favorite experiences in his 15-year career in ballooning.

Dyer’s balloon landed on a rice field after being airborne for close to two hours since his hot-air-filled dirigible took off from Pradera Verde in Barangay Prado Siongo here at around 6 a.m. on Friday.

The landing site, according to interactive map application Waze, was about 12 kilometers by land from the launch site. It was a spanning rice plantation due Southwest of Lubao and across the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

What made the experience more outstanding for Dyer was when the farm owner offered to help him carry the balloon out of the ricefield using a carabao-drawn carriage which locals call “gareta.”

Dyer has been to the Philippines for the ninth time and is always looking forward to come back.

“I love the Filipinos’ attitude of ‘always can do’. They would improvise to solve problems and are always willing to help,” he said.

A former skydiver who has done over 2,500 jumps and having worked with the famous skydiving group Red Devils, Dyer still got excited with the unique wind behavior in the Lubao balloon festival.

In other ballooning events that he had been to, Dyer explained, the pilots can almost always determine their landing site, but in the LIBMF, there are varying wind movements that make the final destination unpredictable.

Last year, Dyers balloon landed in an area which is far from the nearest road.

His chase crew, led by Jamsey Lingad had to carry the depleted balloon and its gondola over a makeshift steel footbridge that is barely two feet wide to reach their vehicle.

Lingad is backstopped by Raul Pablo, Virgilio Fajardo, Francis Jeff Ocampo, Chester Lingad, Mike Lester Jimenez, Jess Nazer Sibug, Diodel Tumaca, Dennis Alvarez, Robinson Amarilla and Erwin Beltran.

“These guys, albeit young, are great,” Dyer said.

On Friday, Dyer had been flying for two hours when his initial direction led him towards the Bataan stretch of Manila Bay. Thinking he will be led to the water, the pilot was surprised by an unexpected lift that steered the balloon to the Southwest and finally sending it to the rice field in Dinalupihan.

Dyer, whose balloon is supporting advocacy for cause-oriented group “Hope for Heroes”, plans to train women pilots for the Philippines where all balloon pilots are male.

He said there are very few female balloon pilots in the world and not a single one in the Philippines.