UNLIKE skydivers who jump off planes and have the ground rushing up to them, paragliders launch themselves off mountains or cliffs and gently glide down to the ground. So if you’ve ever stood on the edge of a cliff and wondered what it would be like to jump into the vastness below, paragliding would satisfy your curiosity.
The sport was introduced in the Philippines by a handful of pioneers in the 1990s. It flourished for a time, then entered a lengthy hiatus before reemerging a few short years ago, when a second generation of multi-sport outdoors peoplerealized the untapped potential flying in the Philippines offers. Soon, enthusiasts in Asia started digging the paragliding scene in their respective countries, to the point that it became an exclusive event at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.
Your dream of flying is realized in paragliding. It has been eight years since I first took up the sport in Bali, after I met a Singapore-based overseas worker who invited me to try it for 10 days. At first, I was really keen on getting into skydiving. If only it weren’t too expensive. Paragliding instantly became a logical alternative to pursue.
In paragliding, always focus on the horizon. Just stay calm, relax, and enjoy the view from the top. Never put yourself at maximum risk. Having fun should never outweigh the risks. There is always another day to fly.
Don’t worry about not having any previous experience. Paragliding actually feels like you’re a passenger in an aerial roller-coaster ride. Just prepare yourself mentally for the three-dimensional experience that can happen because of altitude sensation.
Paragliding in tandem is the first step to discovering the sport. Tandem-flying with a certified instructor usually runs for about 5 to 15 minutes. It’s best to sign up for an intro course like Paragliding 101 or a Ground Handling Session to get your “wings” wet.
You should try the sport if you find the freedom of flight exhilarating. It engages the senses and sharpens your physical and mental gifts. As with surfing, nature provides the elements that power the sport, affording you the liberating feeling of what it’s like to have wings and touch the clouds.
MUST-VISIT PARAGLIDING HOTSPOTS
Carmona, Rizal. About a 40-minute drive from Manila, Carmona is where you can enjoy the open space and fly from 150 feet high hillside facing the northeast winds during
Amihan season. Take a 10-minute turnaround from the landing zone to the launch point, making a good acceleration with flying progression. The best time to visit is from November until May.
Sarangani Province. Journey down to the southern tip of the Philippines where paragliding is enjoyed 300 days a year. Hardly bothered by monsoon rains, Sarangani is a 20-minute drive from General Santos City airport. Drive along the biggest bay in Mindanao in Barangay Siguel, or head to SAFI Ranch in the municipality of Maasim for breathtaking views of one of the prime paragliding destinations in the land. Paragliding in Sarangani promises almost 1,000 feet of altitude surrounding dry lands that offer thermal flying along the coastline.
Bontoc, Mountain Province. Dubbed the “Nepal of the Philippines,” Bontoc was just recently discovered as a paragliding site and is now lauded by fanatics for its “magical valley winds.” Your takeoff point, situated at 2,500 feet above sea level, overlooks Bontoc City. The cool climate and natural landscape make flying extra-special— when conditions are almost perfect, intermediate pilots attest they can take off and land on the same spot in one round.
Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro. Brace yourself for the most rugged and wildest fly site just outside of Luzon. To get there, take a half-day road trip to the southern part of Mindoro via RORO. The place to be is Kasay Beach Resort and Glider Park, a Swiss-inspired chateau along the coastline just 15 minutes away from the pier. The takeoff spot, which is on a mountainside 2,100 feet high, is about a 40-minute uphill trek from launch point.