Paragliding is an adventure and accuracy sport using a free-flying canopy that looks like a chute that allows you to “glide” in the air as the pilot controls your every turn.
Tandem paragliding has been introduced in the Philippines not too long ago. In fact, the members of Paragliding Philippines (PGP) who flew with us last Monday (October 12, 2015) told us they have been flying in the Carmona site for only about four years.
It is a weather sport, and so, one has to be patient in waiting for a day to fly (usually starting in October for the Carmona site) with clear skies – no low-hanging clouds and good wind. And even when you’re already on-site, you have to wait for minutes to hours to get the perfect wind that can take you to higher altitudes, and allow you to glide longer. The flight length highly depends on the wind, so some (my first flight lasted a couple of minutes only) had to do a re-fly, or get a discount when you don’t get to the 10-15 minutes mark.
If you’ve tried parasailing in Boracay or Puerto Galera, it’s kind of similar, with a few differences: Paragliding is free-flowing and you’re not tied to a rope (as in the case of parasailing, which is primarily controlled by the speedboat), the control of where you go and how long you fly, or how high you go depends mainly on the wind, and some pilot skills.
Paragliding is a foot-launched sport (although some variations include the towed launch – a 4×4 truck pulls you until you gather enough wind to propel you), unlike parasailing which hoists you up like a kite from the speedboat. So in paragliding, you have to stand while waiting for the wind, and run to launch yourself in the air. You usually take a hill or a mountain as your launching pad. Couples and siblings and friends can sit together in parasailing with no problem but with paragliding, one passenger, and one pilot will do the mix, otherwise both new comers / first-timers will…uhm, fall?
Buko Pie (real name: Randell Raymundo), a paragliding pilot among others (he also scuba dives, sky dives, and a lot others), according to Titoy, our paragliding pilot from Sarangani, is the first to scale Mt. Apo and then launch to paraglide from the peak. Let me say that again. Trek Mt. Apo – the highest mountain in the Philippines, and once he got to the top, he paraglided himself back down to the base. How cool is that? He’s also been to different countries, promoting the sport and even organized the first paragliding competition here in the Philippines.
Titoy on the other hand, has been flying for four years and gave up his corporate job because he found nirvana in flying. He embraced the disciple (in the many flights he piloted that day, his in-between break only consisted of fresh buko), and has no plans of switching careers anytime soon. He made me close my eyes during the flight, free my hands and feel the wind, breathe in the oxygen emitted by the trees below, and just, live the moment. Since I experienced a short flight and asked for a re-fly (which is the one with Titoy), I savored every moment we were up there, about 700-900 feet, mumbled a prayer, thanked the wind for letting me get a second chance, and knew that, hey, my 55-year-old mother would love to do this, too!
During the first few minutes of my re-fly, I was so keen on getting good gopro angles, and then, since this is the last flight for Titoy that day, the SD card became full. So I had to retract the mono pod and concentrated on the scenery instead. Guess what, that was THE best thing that happened in that flight. With no distractions, and no heavy pole, I got to truly experience the flight. Experience versus memorabilia at its finest, though I got to have both.
Mary’s flight with Uwe, our German pilot (my first fly was with him), is as follows, and I quote:
“I was scared at first but up there, I felt like I had a piece of heaven.”
Uwe Klein (his website here) is a German pilot who has para glided in other countries but stayed and married here, and has been flying for more than 2 decades and had logged thousands of flights under his belt. He did top-landing (landing where he launched from – which needs a lot of skill and cooperating wind to be achieved) twice, including Mary’s. We landed on the plain field though because of the lack of wind and elevation. He mentioned that the pilots do not mainly do this for profit, but for promoting the sport which is not as widely-known here in the Philippines. Paragliding is so easy, and universal because you can do it in any country that has a hill at the very least.
Currently, there are 3 sites in the country, Sarangani and San Mateo being the two others. They acquire permits and licenses from authorities including CAAP. Needless to say, we fell in love with the sport, and it brings us closer to skydiving. Maybe next year, huh?
By the way, here are some fast facts about paragliding that I hope will tickle your mind and entice you to grab your phone and contact the tandem pilots for your own flight (tell them you heard about them from Migz **wink** )
- The record for longest distance was set by Nevill Hulett in South Africa when he completed a 312-mile flight in 2008. Didn’t wow you enough? That’s like flying from Manila to Sorsogon (Bicol) without the aid of anything but wind and willpower.
- The oldest female para glider, Peggy McAlpine, was already 104 years old when she flew from 2,400 feet (somewhere in the background I can hear somebody asking: “What’s your excuse?”)
- The highest a paragliding pilot went is 14,849 meters (even Mt. Apo is less than 10,000 feet – imagine that) – achieved by British pilot Robbie Whitall in 1993.
So, you got a day to spare? Spread your wings and prepare to fly. And I mean, literally.
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