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The Melodrama of Kite Flying

by Chester P. Ogsimer / April 2, 2005

A sport kite flyer's day in the flying field is not a simple as it may seem...

One summer afternoon, the sun barely heading towards the western horizon, a kite flyer drives his white car on a dusty field of dry grass. He's not just any kite flyer... he is a sport kite flyer. He finds a spot at the edge of the field, windward. He switches off the car and begins to survey the entire field. "Empty!" He checks the time from his cronowatch... 3:00pm. He again begins to look around, this time, at the trees, flags, banners, and just about anything that can tell him the speed of the wind.

A sport kite flyer knows his wind. It is as if he has a special relationship with the wind. They speak with each other in a language most people may not understand. When the wind beckons, he responds. When the wind blows, he befriends it.

As soon as the kite flyer steps out of his car, he immediately begins to feel the heat coming from the sun, "Argghhh!" "HOT!" However, no amount of heat can stop this kite flyer. It has been weeks since he last flew his kites. Either he has been busy at work, injured because he was lofted 5ft in the air or dragged 20ft, face flat on the ground, by a power kite, or that his wife has been nagging him because he has been spending more time flying kites than being with his family. "Today, sun or no sun, I WILL FLY MY KITE!" he proclaims. He starts walking towards the trunk of his car, opens it.

For a sport kite flyer, his trunk is like his armory. He chooses whether to bring out his longbow, spear, or short sword. Like a general in a battlefield, he determines whether to bring out his cavalry, or archers, or the infantry. Every sport kite flyer has more than one kite inside his trunk. He goes to the field ready to dance with whatever music the wind plays.

"Shall I bring out my QP? Illusion? E2? Ozone? REV? Blade?" "Will it be freestyle? Ballet? Power?" These are the questions inside the kite flyer's mind. He chooses his kite and begins to set it up. He unwinds his lines, straps up,  and stands up facing windward. He feels the wind breeze through over his shoulders. He listens to the sound of the wind like listening to the notes and melody of Beethoven's Fur Elise. It starts slow, mellow and soft, goes to a crescendo, fast, loud and strong, and again descends to mellow and soft like ending in a tragedy. Just as the music starts, the dance begins. He pulls hard on his strings like a rider whips his horsein the beginning of the race. His arm muscles contract as he attempts to put wind beneath the wings of his kite. As soon as the tip of his kite leaves the ground, he begins his journey into another world. It is a momentary flight into a world where only he, his kite, and the wind exist... free from the problems and stresses of this world.

For an ordinary spectator, kite flying is just a show in the air. However, everything is different for a sport kite flyer depending on his personality...

... for an artist, it is a work of art in motion

... for a chatterbox, it is an intimate cnversation

... for a romantic, it isl lovemaking

... and for a spiritual kite flyer, it is meditation

... a prayer to his God.

Just as all good things must come to an end, so must a kite flyer's dance. The sun sets, filling the sky with orange and purple hue. The wind begins to leave the field... and our sport kite flyer. The kite flyer wakes up from his trance and sees his kite at the end of the field as if it never left the ground. Sadness begins to fill his face. "Why must it end?" he asks. As soon as he utters the question, the wind begins to blow a slight breeze, this time towards him. The sport kite flyer smiles as if he understands what the wind is saying...

"We shall meet again, my friend"

The kite flyer packs up, drives his car out of the field and towards the setting sun... to begin his journey home.

A sport kite flyer knows his wind...

...They speak with each other in a language most people may not understand. When the wind beckons, he responds. When the wind blows, he befriends it.

Of Hot Air Balloons

by Omar Benitez

I am a kite flyer. I am stating up front where I am coming from because this informal and by no means complete review of the just-concluded 9th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark Field, Pampanga comes from the eyes of a kite flyer -- expectations, leanings and prejudices included.

There were two kinds of people at the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The young kite flyers and the old kite flyers. Of course there were non-kite flyers in the area, too, but they were just a handful so I call them the minority -- the hot air balloonists, sky divers, pilots of all sorts, military vehicle enthusiasts, organizers, sponsors, etc. Their number is even reduced if you consider the closet kite flyers in their ranks.

Really, there are so few of these guys in the minority because it's hard to make sense of what they are doing. Of hot air balloons, a visiting pilot once said, I think during the crew party of one of the previous fests, "They are too big and too slow and you can't even steer them! Where's the fun in that?" Not content, he turned to the sky divers saying, "No person in his right mind would jump off a perfectly good airplane that has enough fuel, working radios and is so close to the Omni airport. Even the very long Clark runways are so near. What's so urgent with these guys?"

Seriously, it was really great to have these guys, the balloonists, jumpers, pilots and other enthusiasts around, thanks to the vision and efforts of Capt. Joy Roa of Hot Air Balloon Club of the Philippines. Thanks, too, to the co-organizers and sponsors. 

To me, the stars of the show were the hot air balloons, kites notwithstanding. 

There was never a dull moment in the hot air balloon part of the show, which by the way starts in the cool 5:30 a.m. breeze of the open field.  Here's a blow by blow (no pun) account: The chase crew came through the taxiway with the big baskets in tow. The balloonists unloaded and spread the envelopes. They then began firing up, lighting the field and inflating their colorful envelopes. Let me freeze-frame you here because this to me was picture-perfect scene number one. At this point, the balloons were already semi-inflated, but not upright just yet. Up close, the stitch-works at the tops of the balloons resembled huge spider webs. With so many of them side by side, one cannot see all of them in just an eyeful. 

I did not bother to get the balloons' actual dimensions, but they sure were huge from where I stood. With "from where I stood" I meant "all over the place" because I kept running around to get the best view. Actually, one hot air balloon is already a treat by itself, but having so many of them in so many colors is really mind blowing. And with so huge of them, the far horizon of mountains was engulfed and replaced by that created by these colorful envelopes, mountains in their own right. 

Picture perfect scene number two would be when, after the singing of the Philippine national anthem, hot air balloon number one lifted up, soon followed by the others. At this point, the balloons started to paint the sky, filling it with all colors. And no shot was ever the same because the hot air balloons were in constant motion, some eclipsing the others. It was simply romantic. 

Picture perfect number three, the fly-in, was action packed. The balloonists, in their fly-in, were actually in the contest of dropping something closest to a spot in the staging area. Since the winds in the afternoon were stronger, the balloons this time flew in much faster. Needless to say, their landings were less gentle than their lift-off in the morning. I actually heard someone say hot air balloons don't really land. They crash. So some action photography settings were proper.

There must have been a million picture-perfect scenes during the fest but since I am a worse photographer than am a kite-flyer, my lens missed 999,997 of them (and am worst a mathematician because I actually had to launch Excel to arrive at the above figure). I think this spectacular display of color, size, number and novelty explains why the guys at Epson have been using pictures of hot air balloons to advertise their color inks. 

If they smarten up a little more, they'll use our kites next! 

Even with so many other activities during the show, kite flying included, there can be no dispute that that the hot air balloons deserve top billing.  Such is the fanaticism of true-blue kite flyers that they are not often heard speak good of another sport, let alone praise it. So with the above comments from a kite flyer, hot air balloons must really be something. 

To the hot air balloonists, go home and reload your tanks because we sure are looking forward to sharing our flying skies with you again. Gentle and steady winds. 




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