My dreams of the sleeping kind are often about flying, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’m considering aviation. However, as someone who nearly fell out of a building at 8-years-old, I am afraid of heights. But childhood trauma be damned! As a tiny yet tangible step to being an actual explorer, I went on an ultralight for a ride overlooking the Philippine city of Angeles (about 1.5 hours from Manila) two Sundays ago.
Rorsketch: The Flying Edition
The desire to fly, or be up in the sky without the stressful ordeal of commercial flights, to which I am no stranger, also has something to do with my cloud project. For years now, I’ve looked up at the clouds. It would be awesome if I can actually be at the same height as them!
Arayat is a mountain with its own share of myths that feature gods who battle other gods and/or giants in nearby mountains or disguise themselves as humans. It’s pretty. I want to climb it. But that will be another story for another day.
On the way, the clouds were already teasing me:
Arayat. With clouds that look like the food chain. Thanks, Stephanie, for stopping the car.
It’s difficult not to imagine the Wright brothers, who worked on planes and gliders of a similar size. The smallness of it! It’s like a bike with wings. But here goes nothing:
So this is an ultralight. From afar, it’s like a dragonfly.
Fist in the air! I’m afraid of heights, but it was not the time to think about that. Photo by Steph Tan.
Up, up, and awaayyy!
A bicycle in the sky
Flying via small planes has often been compared to being on a roller coaster with invisible tracks. Unlike commercial flights, which can give you the similar, and sometimes even better views, there is no barrier between you and the atmosphere. You control the vessel (well, Captain Max who was sitting on my right did, but he let me work the controls for a bit) and it is like riding a bike in the air. It’s quite exhilarating. And the skies told their stories:
The clouds are like the net that’s catching the moon! Do you see it?
What I like about flying in relation to this project is that it makes me a part of the canvas now.
Yes, I’m in there! Photo by Steph Tan.
The change of height and vessel also brought about one crucial, if not obvious, thing: I can see the ground below. And so grass and fields and roads turned into playgrounds of visual perception as well. Living in big polluted cities all my life, it is always startling to see huge patches of green. While we were rocked by scary gusts of wind, it was air that tasted of rain and sunlight and coconuts.
I see a tangram. Sort of. You?
That day, my friends and I witnessed another plane doing aerobatic sequences in the sky using a bright yellow biplane. My jaw dropped, and I stared for several minutes. Then I started squealing. I can’t wait to do that eventually.
It’s a bright yellow biplane and it’s absolutely gorgeous. And I think it was doing the sky equivalent of cartwheels.
A hangout in the hangar (Yes, puns are not funny)
When the plane landed, I marched up and interrogated the pilot, Captain Mike, who humored us and described how the plane was made. Back in the hangar, he pointed out a pair of wings being made. Each part has its own paperwork so that it can be traced should anything go wrong.
The skeleton of a wing.
Even the hat and glasses are very steampunk. Look!
I want that hat.
Planes in the hangar. Valet parking provided.
On the way back, we had fresh coconut juice from the roadside. The sunset painted the clouds a pale orange, and I caught two that looked like dolphins. The day was almost too cinematic.
I see kissing dolphins!
I grew up loving Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and was thrilled to learn that the author himself was actually a pilot. I’ve devoured his other writings, especially Wind, Sand, and Stars, Night Flight and Flight to Arras. I think traveling in general allows for creativity, but traveling alone allows you to get lost in yourself and discover these pure grains of truth that shape you without you consciously knowing it. I think this has been the reason why I keep moving and seeking new and strange experiences, and once you start, it’s difficult to stop.
Steph and Kristel Tan, and me. Thank you, ladies!
Thanks to Stephanie (@StephLTan) and Kristel Tan, The Angeles Flying Club, Captain Max, and Captain Mike!
Rorsketches to be posted soon. But check out previous ones here.