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Balloon spreads ashes of founder of international hot air balloon fest.

The ashes of John Emery, one of the founders of the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF), were scattered on Saturday from a balloon to honor his wish to leave 'a part of (him)self behind.'

Emery, a former British Airways general manager, and Sung Kee Paik, a South Korean balloon pilot, were commissioned in 1994 by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor to organize the hot air balloon festival at the parade grounds here.

No details were given as to when, where and how Emery passed away. The tribute was done on the third day of the 21st edition of the crowd-drawing event. Thirteen uniquely designed and brightly colored hot air balloons painted the clear sky over this free port at the break of dawn, to the delight of some 15,000 local and foreign spectators at the Omni Aviation Center here.

Among the balloons that drew attention were the La Ristra (owned by a New Mexico company in the United States) which was shaped like a cluster of red chili peppers, and a dominantly yellow balloon with gray squares.

The sky was also dotted with balloons from Switzerland called the Swiss Chalet, the Oro Grande and the Beagle from the US, the Kodach from Germany, the Master Yoda from Belgium, a balloon race car, the clown balloon Mauriske and the Pink Elephant.

Joy Roa, event director and head of PIHABF organizing committee, said 31 hot air balloons from 14 countries in Asia, Europe and North America were part of the four-day event that started on Thursday.

Cristina Musa, 80, traveled from Las Pinas City with her daughter and two grandchildren to watch the event for the first time. 'I enjoyed watching the giant and colorful balloons. We were here as soon as the gate opened at 5 a.m.,' Musa said.

Some tourists pitched tents at the Omni center as early as 4 a.m. while waiting for the activities to start.

Skydivers jumped from two Islander planes of the Philippine Coast Guard and displayed their aerobatics skills to kick off the weekend's event.

Carrying the Philippine flag, a paraglider led the ceremonial flag jump while the crowd sang the national anthem.

Organizers said the festival was held before summer because hot air balloons usually fly better in fair weather.

The first hot air balloon festival was launched in 1994 by Gabor at the height of Mount Pinatubo's lahar onslaught to help boost the local economy, particularly in Central Luzon.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 12, 2017
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