Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ultralight Flying in the Philippines.

As I’ve mentioned before, Sheila has a certain powerful, indescribable presence about her. She radiates with such positive energy, that it’s simply pleasant to be around her. This strong force or magnetism which she inherently possesses seems to attract people into her life at the right time, or at the very basic level, it changes people’s moods and behaviors, lifts people’s spirits, and creates an atmosphere in which friendliness and kindness is reciprocated.

As a case in point, here’s an example. Instead of spending Valentine’s Day in February 2009 by herself, Sheila decided to drive to Clark Field, home of the former U.S. Air Base, to attend the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and enjoy a hot air balloon ride – which she did. If I’ve learned anything about Sheila from the past two months it’s this: Once Sheila decides she wants to see or do something, she makes it happen, gosh darn it. For instance, there was another festivity that she wanted to participate in at the balloon fiesta; however, due to the number of volunteers that were chosen before her, Sheila wasn’t able to do so. She expressed her disappointment to a random man standing beside her, who, coincidentally, was the driver of the head organizer of the hot air balloon fiesta and vice president of Mead Johnson for Asia and Europe, Tonet Rivera.

Rest assured Sheila was able to participate.

Later, Mr. Rivera inquired if Sheila enjoys flying because he owned a small private airplane. Sheila had never flown inside a small, private airplane before, but, not being one to pass up an opportunity for adventure, she ecstatically told him that she was interested. The next thing she knew, she was flying in Mr. Rivera’s private airplane with his son, Carlo, who’s also a pilot. Afterwards, Mr. Rivera and Carlo introduced Sheila to the Angeles City Flying Club, an ultralight flying club located in Woodland Airpark about 16 km from Clark. They told Sheila if she was ever interested in obtaining a pilot’s license, or if she ever wanted to ride inside an ultralight plane for fun, then they would recommend for her to attend the Angeles City Flying Club.

When Sheila told me this story, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. It actually reminds me of an article I recently read which quoted Indian yogi and guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, who said, "Spiritual magnetism [...] is the power of the soul to attract or create whatever it needs for all-round happiness and well-being."

Fast forward 1.5 years.

The weekend after Sheila’s birthday, we drove to Woodland Airpark to ride in an ultralight plane at the Angeles City Flying Club. We decided to make a weekend trip out of it, and reserved a room at the club’s motel located across the street. The club’s membership appeared to be made up of predominately expats (Caucasians) from around the globe. They anxiously greeted us once we arrived, and with good reason as this gives them the opportunity to fly their planes. Sheila and I would be flying in two separate planes, as each ultralight aircraft were just large enough for two seats. Bummer. Unless, as one of the pilots suggested, one of us wanted to hang from the wing. After we got acquainted with our pilots, chose which planes we were going to fly, and signed our lives away, we were ready for some ultimate ultralight flying action – sort of.

I’m not going to lie. I was a bit nervous, especially because of the plane I was about to fly. The floor of the plane beneath me was . . . well, non-existent. Sheila on the other hand didn’t show any signs of nervousness. If she was, she sure did an excellent job hiding it behind all of her laughing, giggling and clapping of the hands.

I don’t know what it is, but prior to my travels I was never scared of heights or flying; however now, roughly 20 flights later, I have developed somewhat of a phobia for both. Weird.

“Okay, Adam,” my pilot said into the aviation headphones. “Are you ready?”


Ultralight Flying in the Philippines from Hittin The Trail on Vimeo.

After an exhilarating flight albeit a nerve-wracking one, Sheila and I walked around the airfield and hangar (a shelter or storage for planes) to take pictures.

As we were taking pictures of the planes, one of the pilots approached us and directed us to one plane that he thought might be of particular interest to us. It was a gyrocopter.

What’s incredible about this gyrocopter is that it’s being flown by Norman Surplus, a cancer survivor and autogyro pilot from Northern Ireland. Norman is attempting to be the first person ever to circumnavigate the globe in an autogyro. He was making some serious headway before being grounded in the Philippines, due to a few clearance issues with Japan and Russia. At the time, he’d been storing his gyrocopter at Woodland Airpark until he receives permission to continue. If you’re interested, take a look at his website:

Here’s also a short documentary about his attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Watch below.

After a nap and shower, Sheila and I went to the mall to see the movie Eat Pray Love. Do yourself a favor and give this movie a miss. It was lame. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the book which, ultimately, prompted me to see the movie. Again, a terrible idea if I may say so. Thank God the movie only cost $2.30 USD.

After the movie we drove through the area in Angeles City known for its prostitution and sex tourism. I’ve heard that it was even worse during the time when the U.S. military bases were here, as one can imagine. However, down the street and away from all the "illegal activity" Sheila and I had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant paid for by my mother as a birthday present to Sheila. It was delicious.

"The Freaks Come Out At Night."

After an amazing day, it was time to call it night . . . so we thought. We got back to our motel at around midnight only to find out after I'd flicked on the lights that our room had turned into a nest of creepy crawlers. It was something out of your worst nightmare. Not joking. Besides the number of tiny spiders I found on the walls and ceiling, there were a countless number of gigantic cockroaches with antennas 2 to 3 times as long as the already, abnormally huge insect. They just kept popping up everywhere I looked: on the floor, walls, curtains, etc. Now I've had my share of experiences with roaches during my travels, but this was ridiculous. I began thinking out loud, trying to talk myself into thinking that it wasn't so bad - a habit, I guess, from the many times during my travels when I had to sleep somewhere out of my comfort zone.

But then . . .

"Baby, what's that?!" Sheila yelled.

"What's what?" I responded.

"That! On the side of the shelf, next to our bed?" she said, pointing.

My eyes widened as I stood motionless looking at the largest spider I've ever encountered outside of a zoo.

"Oh. My. God." I said slowly and quietly, not wanting to startle the hairy monster.

Again, I'm not one to get easily freaked out by a spider, either. Back in the day, when my brother was a kid, he would run out of the shower if a spider was present and wouldn't return until I removed it. So yeah, I've never had a problem with them. But come on, this sucker was massive. Like the size of my hand, huge. It was hairy, had large eyes, and it looked like it was pregnant or something as it had a large white sack attached to its belly. Gross. Just thinking about it makes me want to vomit.

I had to take a picture. Sheila pleaded for me not to, as she didn't want me to get near it. But I couldn't resist.

I took the first picture.

"Good God," I said, while viewing the picture that I'd just taken.

I went in for the second one. This time I stepped slightly closer. But as I was about to take the second picture, the spider slowly moved around and behind the corner of the shelf, obstructing our view and disappearing into the abyss of darkness.

Sheila screamed.

And that was the final straw.

"Okay, that's it." I adamantly said. "We're out of here!"

We made a quick phone call and gave the owner the low down. She didn't argue, and said that we didn't have to pay. Nice. So instead of getting a room for the night somewhere, we decided to drive back to the apartment. During the drive back, Sheila and I were roaring with laughter. We couldn't help but to think what our neighbors must have been thinking. Can you imagine what it must have sounded like to be in the adjacent room?

"Baby, what's that?"

"It's enormous!"



This day was definitely one for the books.


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