Wednesday, December 2, 2020
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Skydiving season is around the corner

With skydiving season just around the corner, enthusiasts of this extreme sport in the country are preparing for it.

And from the scuttlebutt I’ve heard within the local skydiving community, a boogie (which is a gathering of skydivers for a series of jumps) is being planned this February in Binalonan, Pangasinan.

A definite date has yet to be set for the event. But one thing is sure, it will be held over a weekend, which means two whole days of skydiving fun.

For me, that would certainly be a great way to welcome the skydiving season for 2019.

Ever since I took my first solo parachute jump at the Barradas airstrip in Tanauan, Batangas in the mid 90’s, I’ve been caught by the skydiving bug.

It’s one of the few sports in the world where one is required to do things the right way at the right time every time. There’s very little margin for error. And that’s what makes the sport exciting. And everything that happens is in the hands of the skydiver.

I’ve jumped several times at the Omni airstrip in Clark, twice at the UP Sunken Garden in Diliman, and once for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. And this gave me the opportunity to meet folks who I can literally say I’ve trusted with my life. Among them are Nigel Chen, retired Philippine Air Force general Ed Calvo, Martin Imatong, Snooky Cruz and Police Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos.

Nigel was my first jump master and Gen. Calvo was my instructor for my first jump class. Martin taught me the rest of what I needed to know about the sport. Martin gave me the skills to overcome the technical difficulties of successfully landing on the Sunken Garden.

And then I stopped for several years. During that period, I thought of myself as a former skydiver. I’ve jumped twice in the UP Sunken Garden, which was witnessed by thousands of people during a UP Vanguard event. I thought that was enough.

But Snooky and Sir Dionard brought me back to the sport. Under Dionard’s tutelage, I took my refresher jump at the old sprawling grounds of the Centennial Expo in Clark. Then I took another jump. And a few more. And with Dionard’s help, I became hungry for more. And Dionard gave me the chance to join a demo jump at the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark.

What else is there in skydiving? I’ve been with guys who did several base jumps from a tall building at Bonifacio Global City. I didn’t join them, though. To do base jumps, one has to have a D license, which I don’t. That’s a skydiving license which is earned by only the best skydivers in the world.

I know I won’t reach a thousand jumps because I have to admit that skydiving can be an expensive sport.

One has to pay for his share of the aviation fuel, which is a lot pricier than the fuel used by cars or trucks. And there’s the rental for the aircraft and, of course, the fee for the pilot who has to fly the plane. And then there’s the permit from the aviation authorities. Plus the payment for airstrip.

And that brings me to the planned boogie, which will be known as the 1st Binalonan Skydiving Invitational.

During boogies, costs go down because there are lot of skydivers who will share the costs of the jumps. And this would be a great opportunity for non-skydivers to watch how the veteran skydivers do it, from the time they exit the aircraft, make the free fall, open the chute, fly the canopy and land on the drop zone.

One thing to note, though. Even if Dionard and Snooky reminded me that I am still a skydiver, I don’t consider myself a veteran. I reserve that title to skydivers who have hundreds of jumps.

Now back to the planned boogie. I do hope it pushes through. I feel my adrenaline pumping just by thinking about it.

Personally, I think this planned event has the potential to be special after the unfortunate cancellation of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta was once the venue for an annual gathering of skydivers in the country. With it gone, the planned Binalonan boogie can be the “it” event for skydivers.

For those who are interested in taking up the sport for the first time, there are two options you can take. One is to do a tandem jump, which is offered in some drop zones in the country. Another is to take the first jump class, which offers the novice the chance to do a solo skydive.

It’s up to you. If you like a different sort of challenge, skydiving season is just around the corner. And the drop zone in Binalonan, Pangasinan will be ready for you.

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