It was in 2013 when Violet Lucasi first tried paragliding. She enjoyed the experience so much that she developed a strong interest in the recreational adventure sport.
When she left her job in 2016, a time when she was experiencing mental health issues at its worst, Lucasi turned to paragliding to cope.
“I thought these loud thoughts in my head were normal. I thought it was normal to have a thousand things on my mind altogether,” she shares. “When I tried paragliding, it was the first time that my mind went blank and it became quiet in my head.”
This experience and the turn of events in her life would lead her to pursuing a paragliding pilot license and co-founding the International Flying Education Center.
In 2019, that same center established the first paragliding company in Nueva Vizcaya and the whole of Cagayan Valley.
Aptly called Nueva Vizcaya Paragliding, the organized flying site based in the town of Ambaguio is the only Department of Tourism-accredited, and Philippine Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association (PPHGA)/International Aeronautical Federation (FAI)-licensed flying school in the region.
With no job, paying for the pricey paragliding lessons was impossible for Lucasi. Her instructor named Kwang Kyun Park, a Korean pilot and licensed instructor who goes to different places looking for and developing fly sites, urged her to travel with him as his translator.
“The job allowed me to try paragliding in places like South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia,” says Lucasi, a Nueva Vizcaya local. “But among the fly sites my instructor has been to, the best air space was my hometown. That’s how everything started.”
According to Lucasi, when nobody wanted to try, her instructor gave free flights to those who were willing to experience paragliding. At least 100 safe flights were carried out before the company officially started inviting more paragliding pilots to come. To date, there have been over 800 successful flights at the site.
The flying officially opened in January 2019 and tourists from Tuguegarao, Baguio, Pangasinan, and even locals flocked to the site.
The experience begins with a briefing on how the flight will go, and reminders of dos and don’ts.
“We properly show them the process and we show them the license,” Lucasi says. “We do it slowly so they understand.”
Flying rates per person vary during the weekdays (Php2,700 for groups of three; Php2,900 for groups of two) and weekends (Php3,200 for groups of three; Php3,500 for groups of two).
For beginners, tandem flights with a licensed pilot are available.
No matter the rate, inclusions are as follows: expertise of an FAI/PPHGA-licensed experienced pilot, full paragliding equipment and safety gears, transport from meetup to takeoff or landing zones, and a gentle 10 to 15-minute glide over scenic views of Nueva Vizcaya.
The use of GoPro equipment (Php500) for a full flight coverage is also available as an add-on.
To reserve a priority slot, a down payment (Php 500 on regular days; Php1,000 on holidays) is required for each person. This is non-refundable but transferable within the booking month only.
Flights typically take off from 10 AM to 4 PM. However, due to unpredictable weather, as well as changes in wind direction and condition, Lucasi’s advice is for guests to free up a whole day—and a second, alternative flying date—for paragliding.
Constant updates will be provided via a Facebook group chat to be created a day before the flight.
On flight day, guests must wear the proper attire: comfortable t-shirt, dri-fit top or long sleeves, pants or leggings, snug close shoes (no sandals or slippers), and a jacket for when it gets cold on the fly site.
Must-haves for safety, including face masks and sanitizers, should also be worn and used, respectively.
“If you’re the type to feel dizzy easily, make sure to get enough sleep before flight day,” Lucasi suggests. “You may also take any dizzy tab an hour before the flight.”
For the video documentation add-on, visitors are required to free up at least 5 GB storage on their phone or bring a USB.
“I do my best to make them feel no regrets coming here,” Lucasi says.
For her, this involves developing the fly site’s other features. A campsite, for instance, has just been opened. Here, visitors can pre-book an experience camping at the fly site (Php200) or at Log cabin (Php300), the grounds of the company’s office.
Though visitors can bring their own equipment, there are tents (Php300), yoga mats (Php50), and sleeping cushions (Php100) available for rent.
There are locals who are opening their own campsites, too.
“Vizcayanos who have vacant lots have been cleaning it for campers,” she shares. “We manage the bookings for them and give them a share of the fee.”
The campsites can accommodate a maximum of 20 people, all of whom must follow the 9 PM to 6 AM quiet time. Otherwise, they will be fined or asked to vacate the area.
“This is still a tribal neighborhood,” Lucasi says. “We don’t want to create noise and disrupt the community.”
But the bigger plan is to turn Nueva Vizcaya into a paragliding haven.
“We have already identified 15 other fly sites,” she says. “The goal is for each municipality to have one run by locals.
A continuing journey
Lucasi has come a long way from the first time she tried paragliding. She is now a PPHGA-licensed beginner pilot.
Though she still experiences bad episodes, she has been able to forgo medication for mental health issues and escape its negative side effects.
“This time, when I fly, the natural high and adrenaline help me manage my condition,” she shares. “Whenever I feel down, I would go paragliding by myself or with another pilot.”
Ready to fly
Nueva Vizcaya Paragliding is already open to visitors who wish to try paragliding.
“Ambaguio is the only municipality open to tourists at the moment,” Lucasi says. “This is because the fly site and the activity itself is outdoors. All pilots are vaccinated, too.”
Tourists just need to pre-book their paragliding experience via Nueva Vizcaya Paragliding’s website.
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Nueva Vizcaya:
- Travelesque Tours
+639 (078) 430 0147 / +63917 673 1031 / +63926 776 6869
All tourist destinations in Nueva Vizcaya have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.