Pinoy Peter Pan
Renzelle Ann Palma | May 03, 2013
I always had a fascination for flying. We are all familiar with the "boy who never grows up", thought of happy things, and had fairy dust at his disposal. As a child, I wanted to meet Peter Pan and his little friend Tinkerbell, just because I wanted to fly and because I believed in fairy tales. As we grow old, the magic of these fairy tales wears off, reality sets in and we are left to believe that only birds fly and we are only left to dream. But there is a man who turned his dream into reality.
Captain Joy Mari Roa, an accomplished pilot and the host of the travel show “Asian Air Safari” which airs on the ABS-CBN News Channel or ANC, is a well-loved aviator who has made an impact on the aviation industry not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world. With his numerous accomplishments, he serves as an inspiration to young aspiring aviators and to the youth who one day dreams of flying.
With his passion for flying and a goal of putting the Philippines on the map for aviation and tourism, Capt. Joy is at the forefront of the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, a yearly event of hot air balloons and anything that flies conquering the skies of Clark Freeport Zone, in the central island of Luzon which would attract tourists and flying enthusiasts from all over the globe.
In its 17th year, the popularity of the festival has become a highly-awaited tourism event.
At the press launch of the 17th hot air balloon fiesta, I had the pleasure to have a quick chat with the Capt. Roa, the guy who has passionately worked and made this event possible for years. Sleepless nights and the stress that comes with the opening of an event is evident in his face, but the Captain’s eyes lit up when I asked him about the beneficiaries of the event.
“We already have 16 graduates and another 8 sponsored youth as beneficiaries. We also have a school, Sta Teresita Elementary School (in Angeles CIty), where the pilots contribute their experiences and education to these children. Another is Boystown but all orphanages are free to come. We give free tickets and the buses used to come here are paid by my classmates”. More than tourism, the event hopes to inspire young children to aspire to be part of the aviation industry. It also hopes to encourage volunteerism in people to promote our beautiful country.
I asked him what he thought of the state of the tourism in our country and how he can compare it to the countries he has been to. He said that tourism in our country is not enough. “I think we’re lacking in this aspect. You know the show (Asian Air Safari) is very sarcastic. I show all the nice things (in other countries) and we have to open our eyes and see why we can’t do this. Our country is much nicer than any other countries I’ve been to but we have a lot of problems”.
He cited problems like the transportation, corruption and the wrong notions of foreigners have for the country. “We hear people say ‘I’m scared to go to the Philippines’. There is also the matter of transportation. After every fiesta, I bring the pilots to a spot, this year I’m planning to go to Caramoan (in Camarines Sur). I’m cracking my head where to land, because it takes hours by bus and then a boat to get there. An ordinary tourist cannot do that. We want a stress free activity to promote these beautiful places in the country”. And with the issue of corruption, he said we are all discouraged to do anything when we hear about it. It is a vicious cycle and he thinks that if we can break that cycle, tourism will flourish.
But with all these problems, Capt. Roa said people should go to the Philippines because of its beauty- “The beauty of the place, its something that people don’t understand. I’m going to take a 4x4 in a place I personally feel is our Petra (in Jordan) here in the Philippines, right here in Angeles City but very few people know about it. We’re going to feature it and show these foreigners to come over!".
On sustainable tourism: “You know, its ridiculous. We get something like 5 million (tourists) a year compared to a small city abroad whose beach is the ugliest for me and they get 10 million. Its one city and they get 10 million. We should have to open our eyes to this, it’s very simple. Thats what Air Safari and the Balloon Fiesta is all about, opening the eyes of everybody. We used to have a very good aviation industry and we don’t have anything now. You know all this kids watching, I want them to have more passion in what they are doing. I’d like this guys to think of this as a career. Thats why we put the money on these scholarships. I want to mold this guys not to think I just want to make money, its not about making money but doing something for your country”.
With his eyes mixed with inspiration and stress, I asked him if we can expect for more. He said, “But I’d like for everybody to be selfless. to think of the community and we should all contribute like its a community activity. and i think it will be perfect. I’m trying to convince everybody and volunteer. When you do something like that, the heart of everybody is into it, i think it becomes more successful and changes the mindset of the people and we become a better country”.
With such a passion for flying, Capt. Roa is a worthy inspiration to aviators and a beating heart for Philippine tourism. He serves as an ambassador and a true inspiration for making a difference and doing what he can to help and elevate the Philippines, in aviation and a tourist destination, to the whole world. Visit our country, see the beauty and feel the passion that every Filipino should share.