Thursday, 10 November 2016 00:00

You, too, can fly in Sarangani

MAASIM, Sarangani (November 10, 2016) - I spent so much of my childhood fancying of being a pixie or being able to try a magic carpet ride.

I have rocketed through a zip line and hopped in a helicopter but they were not even close to flying.

It was until a few days ago, overlooking the breathtaking Sarangani Bay and suspended in straps attached to an inflatable canopy, I was able to fly.

Thirty minutes away from General Santos City lies Safi Ranch Paragliding Fly Site, the largest paragliding arena in the Philippines. It is located in Sitio Seguil, Barangay Tinoto, Maasim, where it offers about five kilometers of ridge for paragliding soaring and flying.

It was five years ago when paragliding was first introduced in this site by a group of paraglide enthusiasts –- the Sarangani Paragliding Club (SPC).

"Sarangani has the longest paragliding window in the country with 300 days a year, from 7am to 1pm for flying makes it the paragliding capital of the country," said Michelle Solon, provincial and regional tourism council president.

Last October 29-31, 23 international and local pilots and a thousand spectators gathered in the 1st SOX Paragliding Costume Fun Flying and Air Sports Festival in celebration of the National Fun Fly.

Paragliding is the art of free flight and dependent on weather and wind conditions.

More than a thousand feet above sea level, I and my tandem pilot Darvin Villanueva who has long been an SPC member, had a gentle takeoff because of the beautiful weather.

Tandem flight costs P3,500 which includes a video footage. But a promotional discount of P1,000 was given from October 29 to the 6th of November.

Proper attire is needed for flying; comfortable trainers or rubber shoes, pullover and jeans.

After 10 minutes of soaring, we landed safely. The landing area is 300 ft. away which is perfect training ground for beginners.

Nine-year old Rain Oncada, a learner, is being taught of ground handling and kiting skills. Enrollment is open to all ages for P35,000.

On the first day, the skies looked like hosting an air parade with the mass takeoff rehearsal/synchronized flying of pilots.

Rounds of air parade and a costume flying contest was participated in by 17 pilots. Winner Randel Raymundo represented a creative giant Christmas star in which he brought home the top prize of P15,000. Others resembled an eagle, a grim reaper, a dinosaur and there were some who wore a scuba gear, ski and a giant Deuter bag.

In accuracy competition, winner Carlaa Montero brought home the first prize by doing a perfect takeoff, airborne and landing stints.

"Paragliding is now one of the rising extreme sports in the country where it brings ecotourism and livelihood to the community," said tourism regional director Nellie Dillera.

Other paragliding sites are found in Cavite and in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Way back 2012, Sarangani has been identified as a good flying site for paragliding. Armand Dard, a French national and a visiting paragliding professional instructor, told Sarangani Information Office then that “this is my second time in the Philippines and my first time in Sarangani. Last year I did some paragliding in Carmona, Cavite and also in Boracay but this place which I discovered one month ago is a better flight site.”

“It has comfortable take off and landing sites,” Dard noted. “It also has a big landing site comfortable for beginners and you can fly almost every day."

Dard conducted paragliding international standard trainings to members of the Sarangani Paragliding Club.

“You ask what is the next big thing in Region 12, we are crossing our fingers -- but I believe in a heartbeat, it’s going to be paragliding in Sarangani. It is definitely a #1forfun!” said Solon four years ago.

Sarangani hosted the International Paragliding Accuracy Competition (IPAC) in 2014 and a leg in the Paragliding Accuracy World Cup (PGAWC) in 2015. (Cherry Marie Irish D. Cruz / SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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