The setting: Carmona, Cavite, atop a hill as high as 150 feet from the ground below and about 500 feet from sea level. We’re on the ledge of a steep cliff; strapped on to a man we had just met.
Suddenly we aren’t quite sure of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. One miscalculation could set in motion the slippery slope that could send us plummeting to our death. The possibility of broken bones and/or concussions makes us puke in our mouths a little, but we suck it up, wanting to look like the brave aerial ninjas we were about to be. With sweaty palms, butterflies in our stomach, and shaky hands, we stare into the horizon, about to take a leap of faith.
Acrophobia, or the fear of heights, is common among those who would rather have their feet planted firmly on the ground than hanging in the air. It’s an innate predisposition for man to get a bit queasy once high levels of elevation are involved. Man wasn’t given wings for a reason. But what if you could simulate flight, soar into the air, and float amongst the clouds?
Buko Raymundo, air sport aficionado and founder of the Philippine Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association, has been doing just that for more than five years now. But still, he experiences a little vertigo before taking off: “Kaya ako pumasok sa sport na ito kasi mayroon akong fear of heights, even up to now. Every time I strap on the harness, every time I get down on the ledge and I am ready to take off, nandun pa rin eh. It’s always like that because you’re uncertain of the wind condition. You’re reading nature and nature is hard to challenge. It’s a humbling experience.”
Paragliding is, indeed, very challenging and humbling. Paragliders, also called pilots, jump off insanely high surfaces using a canopy chute called a wing to ride the wind as surfers would a wave, ultimately defying gravity. The Philippine Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association, formed two years ago, is a barkada of down-to-earth individuals who share the common thrill of taking flight. They represented the country in last year’s SEA Games when paragliding was introduced to be in competition.