Seeing the balloons gave us a natural high, but by 8AM, it all dwindled down. We've looked up several activities to go with watching the balloons fly. We even thought of visiting Corregidor but the boat rental at Bataan is too pricey for a group of 5, plus given our sleepy and sluggish condition, all we could do was eat.


Several blog posts recommended dining at AC Rumpa, a restaurant located just outside Clark. It seemed to be the perfect spot to get an energy-boosting breakfast. We thought we were going to eat in a restaurant in the midst of the red district in broad daylight,  but thank goodness for GPS, we found our way to AC Rumpa.

How to get there: From the Omni Aviation Complex inside Clark Freeport Zone, take the Manuel Roxas Highway (main road) to exit the gates. Turn right once you reach the Manila North Road/McArthur Highway. Turn right at Surla St.  AC Rumpa is just near the corner, on the right side of the street.

AC Rumpa stands for Angeles City Retired US Military Personnel Association

Several items were on the menu, and I've read that their tacos and BBQ Spareribs are really good, but it was breakfast time so we all ordered the classic Pinoy breakfast of tapsilog, tocilog, and an omelette and French toast. Only Joahna had the appetite for some tasty baby back ribs. The tapsilog was good but I regretted ordering it the moment I saw the ribs!

The servings are huge and all are reasonably priced.
You'd think that a restaurant with a small, unassuming sign wouldn't attract that much customers, but AC Rumpa was packed for breakfast. That's the power of the word of mouth.
We were energized, yes, but the food made us a lot sleepier. 🙂  We stayed for almost 2 hours, eating and dozing off on the table. Thanks to AC Rumpa for not throwing us out!  

We were thinking of the next stop for the day and Shiela found the star of our elementary field trips, Nayong Pilipino. Off to the next stop!

Nayong Pilipino

We took out our GPS and looked up the park's location, and after almost 20mins of driving, we found no park. Some prankster marked someone else's house as Nayong Pilipino in Google Maps. Clever! When using GPS, look for the Nayong Pilipino inside Clark Expo. Entrance fee is P30 for adults.

I've seen the old Nayong Pilipino at Pasay probably 15 years ago and I remember being awed by the miniature Banaue Rice Terraces, Mt.Mayon and the Cagsawa Ruins, and Chocolate Hills.  Sadly, these are not in the new park.  The park's theme is centered on pre-Colonial (the Ifugao, Kalinga, and Aetas villages) and Colonial era (plaza, Barasoain Church, Rizal's house).  
We saw a group celebrating a birthday at some part of the park and I suddenly felt like I was in a resort. I wouldn't have been surprised if I saw a pool. I thought the idea of Nayong Pilipino was to experience the country's culture and see the country's best spots in one afternoon, but it just felt like walking in a random assortment of themes. We saw several ongoing constructions in the park so the management might still be  in the process of developing it. I really do hope they improve the park and include more interesting miniature displays.
An announcement for the 11AM cultural dance presentation saved the day. We trooped to the plaza and let the Nayong Pilipino Dance Troupe entertain us for almost an hour of engaging folk dances (singkil, kapamalong-malong, pandanggo sa ilaw,etc). The dancers are all commendable for their performances. 
After the much enjoyable dance presentation, we decided it was time for the next meal of the day.
Since Pampanga is known for it's Sisig, we flocked to Aling Lucing's in Angeles. And now I'm never going back.
No restaurant should ever make their customers wait for an hour for the food to be served, even if the food's the most wonderful experience to ever happen to taste buds. In the case of Aling Lucing's, it was not the best sisig I've ever tasted and to wait an hour at a poorly ventilated carinderia for something like that was just too much. If they just served our food a little earlier, I'm sure the food would have tasted better. The longer the customers wait, the more anxious they become, and the higher the expectation gets.
We wolfed down our meal and thought of something more fun to forget the unfortunate lunch and end the day with a happy note.
Good thing there was Kabigting's at the nearby Robinson's Mall.
The great thing about halo halos from Pampanga is that they don't have many ingredients. Think of Razon's Halo Halo without the usual mumbo jumbo of ingredients, just saba, macapuno, and leche flan.  Kabigting's use sweet beans, pastillas, and corn.  I'm not a fan of corn but I enjoyed Kabigting's delightful dessert.
We did not want to get stuck in heavy traffic so at 3PM, we finally called it a day and headed back to Manila, with full tummies and satisfied cravings. 
This is a continuation of  the hot air balloon post.

I have never seen a real, gigantic balloon take off from the ground. The Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Omni Aviation Complex inside Clark Freeport Zone was my first. This festival is held annually, during the month of February, and 2012 marks its 17th year.  It was started in 1994 with the intention of reviving Central Luzon's tourism industry and economy that was stumped by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.  The participants also hope to awaken the youth's interest for aviation.

With merely 2hours of sleep, we dragged ourselves at 2AM and drove to Clark. We lined up at the entrance at 4:30AM along with several other guests who were also up early, the organizers weren't even there yet. It was a good thing we did our own research prior to the event and brought blankets to sit on. We snatched some nap time before the pick-up trucks started arriving in the field.

The crowd behind us

The preparation started just as the sun was shining up in the horizon. At around 6:30AM, the host called everyone's attention for the Philippine National Anthem and the Philippine Army Flag Jump.

The reward for the lack-of-sleep/early-camp-out at Clark? Good front seats/standing areas! Well, except for the fact that we were in front of SM's balloon, we had a pretty good view of everything.

The balloons started inflating right in front of us. 
My favorite photo
This year's crowd favorites

Perfect for those celebrating their birthday!
The gliders joined the fun.
The hangar reminded me of Armageddon
I wanted to see something as fantastic as last year's Darth Vader balloon, maybe Joker this time or even a witch, but there weren't any. The balloons were all child-friendly. 🙂  The winking sunflower is good but it would have been better with a zombie, right? Yes, I'm ruining it for the kids!
The day is packed with aerial activities like paragliding, sky diving, plane, and even kite flying up until the balloons return at 6PM. The balloons can only fly during early morning or late afternoon because these are the times when the wind is most calm and stable. 

The 4-day event is well-attended by thousands of spectators, so if you want to get the most out of your 200-peso ticket, here are some tips:

1.  Buy your tickets before the event or else you'll line up first to get the tickets and next, to the entrance.

2.  Be there early if you want to get a good view and if you want less dust on your car. The parking area is a dirt road. Remember, the farther you park, the dustier your car will get.

3.  Bring a blanket/mat to sit on.

4.  Bring umbrellas/sunblock if you plan to stay the whole day.

5.  Check out the free trips provided by nearby establishments. We saw Marquee Mall had a van to take people to and fro.

6.  The flying area is off-limits to those without passes. See if you can find an opening on the fence though. A friend found one and was able to get in. Just don't look back at the Army guy guarding the entrance. 

7.  If you really wish to see the balloons fly back at dusk, be prepared to battle with a heavy Manila-bound traffic. 

 In our case, we only wanted to see the first part of the program.  So, after watching the balloons soar, we decided that it was time for breakfast. The second half of the day, the 'Anything That's Edible' part of the story.