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August 2013

                                                                                       August 31, 2013

Dear Members and Friends:

The month of August was highlighted by the long weekend during which there were over 600 members and guests on the island.  Despite the two typhoons threatening the country, Balesin weather had its usual run of good luck because it drizzled on only two days of the four-day weekend.

Looking at the villa occupants, I was at first surprised that only 150 out of the more than 200 that we had available were occupied.  But upon further checking, I realized that most of the villas contained the maximum of four occupants, mostly families.  On August 26, the last long holiday weekend, we had 12 flights back to Manila including two BAe 146-200’s with 94 passengers each.  Fortunately, all flights got off on schedule and everyone got back to Manila, worn out from the frenzied activities on the island over the weekend but safe and sound.  

My son Julian must have been the busiest over the weekend because he, almost on the spur of the moment, organized two Balesin “happenings” (he prefers to call them “sessions” which he says is the more “hip” term), in which he brought DJs from Manila.  The first one was on Saturday night at the Mykonos Deck at which the revelry, I am told, lasted until 2:30 in the morning (I gave up at midnight); and the second one at the Balesin Sala on Sunday evening which was not as well attended as the night before because everybody must have been either exhausted or hungover!  Julian, who has turned out to be quite an imaginative events and facilities planner for Balesin thinks that on long weekends, or even on regular weekends with a large group of expected guests, we should always have a Balesin Session.  He has convinced me that many of the members and guests, instead of just eating at one of our many restaurants on weekends now would like to have a party afterwards, which he has pointed out to me that I had not recognized before, because I am too old!

Among his many other suggestions is the Segway Station where we have six segways and which have proven quite popular with members. We have now designed a segway track, which starts at the front of the Clubhouse.  The easy course meanders around the Welcome Center, and the tougher course goes on a track near the Airstrip.  We, of course, will take care that no segway riders are allowed on the tough course along the airstrip when there are flights in progress in order to forestall any accident, even though the segway track is outside the runway itself.  

Julian has also convinced me to build a soccer “pitch” (that is Australian for soccer field), on the other side of the road across from the Sports Center.

He also thinks that a champagne brunch at the various villages would be welcomed by members.  Being no champagne fan, I resisted the idea but was also finally convinced when I did a quick sample of our club management who agreed with him.

Julian is also working on what I readily agreed was a great idea, a Balesin Island LAN (local area network), which does not need internet connection but simply an upgrade of the existing communications system, including the POS (point of service) already existing among the villages.  He is now hard at work designing the system in which members and guests will be issued their own iPad while on the island, and they can communicate with a central service point for restaurant and sports bookings, transport requests, housekeeping needs and even tide and sea surf information through a webcam system along the security outposts that are on strategic points of the island.  Having lived and worked on the island for seven months now as Executive Assistant to the Island CEO, Mike Asperin, has I guess resulted in all of this creativity.

Going forward, i.e. beginning September 16, I need to inform our members and guests that we now have no choice but to increase our round trip airfare cost to the island, i.e. from Php6,000 to Php7,000.  With the charter of the BAe 146-200 and the attendant increase in our aviation overhead, our subsidy for air transport is pushing almost Php5 million a month, and we simply cannot afford that.  We also need to increase our hangar facilities and our maintenance personnel for our ever increasing aircraft fleet.  

I have always tried my best to make sure that we keep our prices steady and have actually kept our F&B costs at very reasonable levels while at the same time maintaining our excellent service and food quality.  But like in our Spa, where we increased our massage fees four months ago, we simply have no choice but to adjust our prices.

Speaking of Spa facilities, Julian (again!) is building a water floatation tank at the spa units.  He claims that this is the latest relaxation technology; and when I tried to argue with him again, he told me I was too old (and therefore obsolete!) to appreciate these new technologies. Thus I have surrendered!

Alphaland City Club

In the last few weeks, I had to pull out Mike Asperin and Rico Sison, my right and left-hand guys at Balesin, to ensure that our City Club function as effectively and as aesthetically as beautiful as Balesin, which is always my objective in our Alphaland projects.  The soft opening was held three days ago on August 28 for City Club members only, and it was a roaring success.  

I guess most people were surprised at how functional and classy the City Club turned out to be.  We are holding the formal inauguration on Thursday, September 5, just a few days from now, and those of you who are Balesin Island Club members but not yet City Club members have been invited so you can see for yourself what a gem my design partner Rico Sison has created.  I am truly proud of the City Club and I am sure you will be too.  Please look at our website:  www.cityclub.com.ph or call telephone number: +632.846.6205 if somehow we have missed inviting you for this grand opening at which Vice President Binay will be the guest of honor.  

As the Vice President, during a sneak preview at a small dinner last week said, this is another “jewel in the crown of Makati” so did his wife, Dra. Elenita Binay and their son Mayor Jun Jun Binay whom he insisted to attend the impromptu dinner.

Alphaland Marina Project

As many of the Balesin members are also members of the Marina Club, let me just give you a few words about its progress.  We broke ground on this project three months ago and have now awarded the contracts for the most difficult part, which is the rock supply for the breakwater.  This is an enormous task which requires intricate and complex logistics.  

I have also decided to transfer the Clubhouse from the middle of the Marina to the land immediately facing the Marina.  The pilings required for the original design which had the Clubhouse on the sea in the middle of the Marina was proving to be too difficult a challenge and I was concerned about the stability of the Clubhouse.  I just received the new designs for the land-based Clubhouse from Architect Meloy Casas.  They are a vast improvement over the sea-based Clubhouse, and we were able to add another floor for utilities and parking.  Thus, the new Clubhouse which should be looking over the Marina based on the original design, will now be looking at a fresh water pool and then at the boats in the Marina.  This decision to transfer the Clubhouse from the sea to the land in fact will expedite our construction schedule for the Marina, and we will be able to open it a few months ahead of our original scheduled delivery of the end of next year.      

Alphaland Mountain Lodges

Finally, a few words about the Alphaland Mountain Lodges Project in Baguio.  EcoPlan, our Florida based planning consultant, has now finished the first conceptual plan of the overall design on this 70-hectare mountain property.  We have also acquired about another 10 hectares of adjacent land with the most beautiful mountain views of Baguio City and the mountains lying to the north.  It is now rainy season in Baguio and we have had to take a pause on the soil drilling activities, but will resume as soon as the weather turns better in a couple of months.  With the completion of all the Balesin villages by November, Rico is now looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in the U.S. choosing log home designs.

Now back to Balesin.  Some months back, I designated Dadsie Coscolluela, our Sports and Recreation Manager, to be the official photographer of the facilities and events at Balesin, and the photographs below are his handiwork.

 

ROBERTO V. ONGPIN