Balloons have always been one of those things that never cease to fascinate children. Maybe it’s because of the assortment of colors or because of the mystery as to how they fly and stay afloat.
Balloons have also become a symbol of sorts for freedom and of dreams that have no boundaries.
It is one of the reasons why Caltex decided to sponsor students from the Educational Research and Development Assistance Technical (ERDA Tech) Foundation and bring them to the 16th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) Clark Freeport, Pampanga.
“We wanted to give these children a unique and extraordinary experience that could help inspire them not only in their studies but in life as well,” explained Caltex Brand Manager Veronica Pangilinan.
Held from February 10 to 14, the PIHABF is the biggest aviation sports event in the country. This year, it showcased 28 giant hot air balloons from all over the world, some with odd shapes that flew early in the morning and late afternoons to delight the crowds. The festival also featured several other events that included skydiving, flag jumps, small plane fly-bys and fly-ins, remote-control airplane and helicopter flying exhibitions, freestyle aerobatics, kite-making and choreographed kite-flying, etc.
Unlike ordinary field trips, the students from ERDA Tech not only witnessed the grandest celebration in Philippine aviation, they also got to meet several celebrities who
spent the day playing and sharing their stories with them.
Among them were Amazing Race Asia’s first Philippine winner Richard Herrera, and co-racers Lani Pilinger, and Jacinta “Jess” James of the Philippine Girls Team.
The students likewise met two of the men behind the hit comic and animation football series Supa Strikas. Richard Morgan-Grenville, CEO of Strika Entertainment and client service director Sean Flanagan came all the way from South Africa to meet with the students and launch the local adaptation of the Supa Strikas comic series.
The students were then treated to a day of fun, food, and prizes as they participated in several Supa Strikas-challenges at the Caltex booth. PIHABF organizer, Captain Joy Roa, then took some time out to be with the children.
ERDA Tech is the host community to Caltex terminals. The foundation trains indigent students in vocational courses for free to help them escape poverty.
Jose Claro, one of the faculty members of ERDA Tech recounts their long history of partnership with Caltex which started 12 years ago. “In 1999, Chevron Philippines Inc. (CPI) launched the Caltex In-Plant Training Program (CIPT) in partnership with ERDA Tech. CPI agreed to get a number of graduating students from ERDA Tech’s non-formal technical and vocational training program to do hands-on work in select Caltex Xpress Lube stations in Metro Manila.
“The partnership between CPI and ERDA Tech is also highlighted in the annual Buling Buling Festival of Pandacan, where CPI employees together with ERDA teachers and students dance as one, to become Caltex brand ambassadors in promoting the culture of its host community,” he added. “Last year, instead of hosting a Christmas party, the company donated P300,000 to help further the training of ERDA teachers.”
Pangilinan said, “Partnering with PIHABF is Caltex’ way of supporting tourism in the country. As a company, we learn from and respect the cultures in which we work and place the highest priority on the protection of our environment.
This year, we decided to bring in students from ERDA so they could participate in this unique event and learn some lessons from it as well.”
The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival has become a popular international sports aviation event. The festival draws more than a hundred balloon pilots from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines with over 80,000 visitors flocking to the event.
Aside from the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Caltex regularly supports other popular festivals in the country like Buling-Buling in Pandacan, Sinulog in Cebu, Panagbenga in Bagiuo, Kadayawan in Davao and Dinagyang in Iloilo.
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