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August 2012

Members and Friends:

          Today is the last day of August and as usual, I find myself here in my office at my beloved Balesin island. 

          August has not been a particularly kind month, weatherwise for the Philippines, and Balesin has been no exception.  While the rains we have had at Balesin have been less than 10% of what Metro Manila has had, and therefore did not really affect our construction progress, the voyages of our LCTs have been severely affected by the huge waves from Real in the Mainland Luzon to Balesin which prevented our LCTs from making a crossing on 5 days during the third week in August,thus, delaying the availability of cement, gravel and sand in Balesin. 

In the last few days, however, this problem has been solved because we have acquired a new LCT which is 3 times larger than our largest existing LCT so that we have been able to catch up with our schedules.

          Many of you have been surprised that while it was pouring rain in Manila when you took off from Manila to Balesin, upon reaching Balesin, there was sunshine.  The weather pattern in Balesin is in fact 2 to 3 months later than that of Manila.  Thus, many of our members and guests, when they see it pouring in Manila have decided to cancel their trip to Balesin, only to find out from those who did not cancel that there was beautiful weather in Balesin.  Obviously, there could be times during the year when the opposite is true, i.e. sunny in Manila and rainy in Balesin.

Balesin Weather Hotline

          In order to help our members determine what the actual weather is in Balesin, we are in the process of installing a Balesin weather hotline which can be accessed on a 24-hour basis and will give our members the latest on weather information in Balesin.  This will be a PLDT line which can be accessed 24/7 from any landline or cellphone in Manila or elsewhere.  This line is presently being installed and you will be informed in the next few days how to access it.

Aviation Developments

          On the Aviation front, our 2 CESSNA Grand Caravans have been doing a yeoman’s job in transporting our members and guests to and from Balesin, oftentimes making 5 or 6 round trips a day, especially during weekends. 

On one weekend in August in fact, we had 79 members and guests on the island and as we complete the various villages, we see a very strong and steady increase on our island visitors.  For this reason, we have decided to acquire a larger plane, probably a Bombardier Q400 which can carry a total of 72 passengers and is a twin-engine turbo prop.  It will be operating by about mid-September on Fridays, Saturday, Sundays and probably Mondays, in order that none of our members and guests are denied access to the island by reason of unavailability of seats on our 2 CESSNA Grand Caravans.  Those of you wanting to visit the island on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday will be accommodated by our usual 2 CESSNA Grand Caravans.

The Bombardier Q400 is owned and operated by PAL Express (formerly Air Philippines) and as you may know, since I am on the board of Philippine Airlines, my friend and partner Ramon Ang, now President of PAL (and who loves Balesin Island even as much or more than I do!), has been kind enough to assist in this arrangement.  Because of the more expensive operating expense of this aircraft than our CESSNA Grand Caravan, we will be constrained to make some adjustments on the trip fares because the flight time will be reduced from 25 minutes to only 15 minutes and of course on a much bigger airplane.  We will inform our members of the new fares as soon as we complete our negotiations with PAL Express, which we expect to be this week.

Bombardier Q400

Cabin interior 

As you know, I have always believed that a state-of-the-art airport is a must for any resort and a Q400 fully loaded can land without difficulty on our fully concreted airstrip which has a length of 1,530 meters.  In fact, many private jets have been using our airstrip and by early next year, we plan to have scheduled full jet service from HongKong, Singapore and Tokyo direct to Balesin bypassing Manila altogether.

80 Villas Now Operational

As of today, we have a total of 80 villas fully operational and in another two months time, we shall have another 24 operational.  By Christmas time, we plan to have all 240 villas in service.  As you know, we have decided to add Costa del Sol on a beautiful beach which we discovered on the Pacific side of Balesin.  Costa del Sol will have a total of 40 villas and will be, if not as good, even better than most of the famous resorts in Spain.  Because of a late start of Costa del Sol, we will endeavor, but I cannot promise, that we will be able to complete Costa del Sol before the end of the year.  But certainly, it will be finished early next year.  This will add another 40 villas and thus, we will have a total of 280 villas fully operational by the first quarter of next year.  This is a full year ahead of the original schedule which we promised our members, even with the addition of Costa del Sol.

The Balesin Chapel

          I am pleased to inform our members that we now have a regular weekend mass at our beautiful Balesin chapel.  This is usually held on Saturday evening and our members and guests, including village residents usually attend this mass since the chapel has a capacity of over 200 devotees.  The first mass was celebrated last August 25, 2012 by Rev. Fr. Delbert Jardinaso, OSJ.

The Balesin Chapel

Balesin Chapel Interior

Bali Village

          I am pleased to inform you that in addition to the Bali Warung restaurant (which has actually been operating for over a month), 12 Bali villas, including 2 water villas will be operational this coming weekend.  I inspected them yesterday and they look absolutely beautiful!  We have also decided to build and will complete in mid-Septembera Nusa Dua Bar which juts out over the Lamon Bay waters and I have no doubt it will be a favorite hangout at sunset.  But since pictures are worth a thousand words, let me just show you the various villas and the Nusa Dua Bar in the following pictures:

Road at Bali Village

The Nusa Dua Bar as Seen From the Warung

Bali Warung Main Dining

Ubud  Private Dining Entrance

Ubud Private Dining Room

Sanur Private Dining Entrance

Sanur Private Dining Room

Mykonos Village

          I am very proud of how Mykonos Village has turned out, an authentic reproduction of the island of Mykonos.  The villas and the Taverna are perfect.  To be completed by mid-September will be the Mykonos Cove Deck where there will be a Souvlaki Bar and 5 separate Jacuzzi and lounging areas.  Again, I shall show you the pictures:

Mykonos Village

Mykonos Village from the Sea

View of Mykonos Taverna

Mykonos Taverna at Night

Mykonos Villas

More Mykonos Villas

Mykonos Taverna Bar

Mykonos Taverna Main Dining Room

Mykonos Taverna Private Dining Room

The Upper Deck Bar at Mykonos Taverna

Phuket Village

          Phuket is quickly taking shape at the southernmost part of the island.  It is a faithful rendition of the famous Phuket resort in Thailand.  In addition to the Sala, which shall be operational by this coming month, a total of 12 villas will also be available for our members’ use.  Again, I will stop talking and just show you the pictures:

Phuket Sala

Phuket Sala Main Entrance

Phuket Sala Main Dining Area

Phuket Villa

Phuket Villa Interior

 

Phuket Dining Room Display

 

Phuket Carving

 

Phuket Spirit House

St. Tropez Village

          St. Tropez Village is located along one of the most beautiful beaches on the Pacific side of the island is rapidly taking shape and the various antiques and ceramics which I bought from my previous European trips are eagerly awaiting being positioned there.  As in the other villages, we have found that the members would like to try the food and the dining facilities at the various villages and we are therefore concentrating on finishing a creperie at St Tropez.  Again, let me show you the construction progress, particularly a beautiful sea view of the village.

St. Tropez View from the Sea

Road to St. Tropez

St. Tropez under construction

Costa Smeralda and Costa del Sol Villages

          These two villages will be the last thing we finish since they were started only recently.  But as I said, they will be finished and available certainly by the first few months of next year.

Sports Facilities

The Sports Center, a huge structure of some 5,000 square meters is now completed and the various sports facilities are being erected - 2 basketball courts, 3 tennis courts, 3 badminton courts, a well-equipped gym, a health bar and an airsoft facility are in the finishing touches.  Right behind the Sports Center is a most interesting paintball course, with its authentic jungle setting, now very popular with our members.   By the end of next month, the Sports Center will be completely operational just in time for the rainy season. 

Aside from the Sports Center, the Stables which have been operational for some months now have been expanded with additional 7 Australian quarter horses.  Thus, our horse population available for members is now 15.  We also have full riding equipment available and we now see riders going through the horse trails on the island or riding on the beach. Again, let me just show you the pictures.

Paint Ball Course

Quarter Horses

The Archery Range, managed by a former Philippine Archery Olympian,is also proving popular with our members. 

Archery Range

The Golf Driving Range is at its finishing stage and will also be available next month.

Golf Driving Range

Other Facilities

          As you know, the Clinic at the Clubhouse has been in operation for several months now and is manned by qualified medical doctors on 24/7 basis.  The ground floor of the Clubhouse is now also completely operational.  The Beauty Salon, Barbershop, Mahjong Rooms, Tabacalera Cigar Divan, Wii Rooms, Karaoke Rooms, Library and Business Center facilities are ready for use of our members.

I will be off to Europe again in a few weeks and once again will be trudging through antique shops and ceramics outlets for our various Mediterranean villages.  

Greek, Italian, and French Ceramics
on display at the Clubhouse

The Christmas holidays will be upon us in less than 4 months, and it is my promise that I will endeavor as much as I can for you to be able to enjoy many, if not all, of the facilities of the Balesin Island Club.  By that time, we probably will have daily flights, which will accommodate 72 members each day on the PAL Express Q400 aircraft.  I guess the most important message of this report to members is the news of the much improved aviation facilities available to members.  We hope that we will no longer have to turn you down when you want to come to the island for lack of available space in our airplanes. 

In the past few weeks, we have had many distinguished guests, both from the Philippines and from overseas.  Without exception, they have been impressed and even thrilled at the beauty of Balesin.  For me and for the rest of the staff at Balesin, it is a very rewarding feeling when we see how much our guests enjoy the island.

As you know, when I am in the Philippines, I now spend most of my time at Balesin, and if you come to visit, please do not hesitate to see if I am on the island.  While I most probably cannot show you around the entire island, I am always happy to have a chat with you and listen to any suggestions you might have on how we can make you more happy when in Balesin.

 

Sincerely,


ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman

August 31, 2012