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July 2012

Members and Friends: 

     It has been about a month since you were “inflicted” with one of my reports on Balesin. So, I thought that it is time that I try once more to infect you with my enthusiasm and zeal in creating this wonderful island paradise! 

     You may recall that I set up my office here on the island about a month ago and in that month, I have spent more than half of my time here. I have actually gone to the extent of scheduling my appointments here on the island rather than going back to Manila. Inevitably, my guests have enjoyed our meetings here and are always awed by the beauty of this island and the pace and progress of the construction which they find incredible. 

     By being here on the island most of the time, I am able to directly address issues that are brought up by our architects and engineers and thus speed up decision making. I also think that they really appreciate my daily rounds of inspection of each project on the island.

     Many who have been here for the first time or have not visited since last year, can hardly believe what we have accomplished in such a short time. You may recall that we started work on the airstrip only in April last year and now, which is just about 16 months later, we have completed almost 70% of our projects on the island. This fast pace has been achieved despite the fact that we have to transport every single item of construction, from equipment, gravel and sand, cement, furniture and fixtures, and even every single nail, all the way from Manila. 

     It may come as a surprise to you that we have 3 LCTs that continually ply the 29-mile route between Real or Atimonan in Quezon and Balesin. They are all Roll-on-Roll-off vessels, which make the logistics much simpler because we simply drive the fully loaded trucks onto the LCT and then unload them when they get to the island. Still, because of the fast pace of the construction work, our vessels are almost always on a daily 24-hour service in order to keep up with the construction requirements.

     We have as many as 1,500 to 1,700 construction personnel on the island, many of them working 24/7. They have at their disposal over 60 pieces of heavy equipment. Managing them is a hardworking and dedicated supervisory staff of over 30 engineers and architects. Thus, those of you who have visited the island recently are always amazed at our fast pace of construction. 

     Let me now describe to you the progress on the various projects since my last communication to you about a month ago. 

     The Clubhouse is now fully operational with its huge swimming pool and white-sand beach frontage. The 7 Clubhouse Suites which are all duplexes, each with 2 full bathrooms, and can comfortably house a family of as many as 6 people, have proven to be quite popular.

     The leisure facilities on the ground floor of the Clubhouse are also now in full operation. Tomorrow, I will have my first haircut at the Barber Shop. I have seen many women trying out the adjacent Beauty Salon, and I have heard no complaints from them.

     The Tabacalera Cigar Divan, which also has a Karaoke facility, is now also complete. Thus, if you feel like having a cigar after dinner, complemented by your favorite single malt whiskey, the Cigar Divan is the place to be.

     Joanna’s, which is our Sundries Shop on the Ground Floor of the Clubhouse, is now fully stocked and has been serving the needs of our members.

     The Ground Floor Lounge which is equipped with 3 Billiard and 2 Ping Pong tables, serviced by a full Bar, is also now being enjoyed by our members.

     Additionally, we now have 2 Mahjong/Poker rooms fully operational and 2 Wii rooms, which surprisingly are proving to be very popular. We also now have a Business Center with 5 computers with Internet connections for those of you who need to do some business while on the island. Also now operational are 2 state-of-the-art Karaoke rooms which our members enjoy after their dinner.

     The E.L.Tordesillas Library is now also open, with the mementos and old photographs of my friend, the late Ed Tordesillas. By next week, we will be receiving 200 books that we have ordered for this Library.

     The dining facilities on the Main Floor of the Clubhouse are always busy, especially on weekends. By far, the most popular is Sakura which is managed by our extraordinarily talented Chef Edu-San. On weekends, if you want to make sure you get a place in the Sakura, you now need to make a booking. Edu-San has also expanded Sakura by having an aquarium system in which he can stock live fish and lobsters for his sushi and teppanyaki masterpieces.

     We are truly proud of the quality of our food and I have never heard any complaints from any of our members that I chat with when I run into them at the Clubhouse. As a matter of fact, the biggest problem for me about living on the island is putting on too much weight, despite my very strenuous inspection tours of the various projects. The food is simply too good!

     In addition to our Clubhouse facilities, our signature Spa which is now fully operational and can cater to as many as 14 members at a time, always draw rave reports. These all-white facility and ultra-modern architecture are deliberately in stark contrast to the generally rustic theme of the entire island. Last weekend, we had a total of 79 guests and the Spa was so much in demand because of the inclement weather. There was in fact a waiting line for their massage appointment.

     The Bali Village is now nearing completion and the Warung “Sala” is now fully operational. It is a beautifully designed structure with authentic furniture and fixtures which come from Bali. Two of the water villas are now nearing completion and the Nusa Dua Bar, which is about 150 meters on the water from the Warung, will be operational in August.

     We have 2 private dining rooms at the Warung of Bali and I had dinner in one of them last night and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have had, because every single item of the décor is so pleasing to the eye. While I am not a great fan of Indonesian food, the Bali Warung can hold its own among the best restaurants in Bali. The Bali Villas are now nearing completion and will be available for partial occupancy by next month. I am very pleased to tell you that the “salakot” or wide-brimmed hat type roof designs and the authentic Balinese décor of the villas are truly a masterpiece.

     Also nearing completion and will be operational by next month is Mykonos Village. As I am usually the guinea pig in trying out the food, I will have today my first meal at the Mykonos Taverna. I am also amazed at the comments of our members who have visited our Taverna and the blue and white motif of Mykonos which is very faithful to the Mykonos Island in Greece.

     We are always being asked by our members when this facility will be operational and I always have to tell them to be a little bit patient because the execution of the architectural design of a Greek villa is not the easiest in the world. Nevertheless, you will be able to enjoy the Taverna and the Mykonos Deck by next month.

     I spent almost the entire afternoon yesterday in the St. Tropez Village. It is coming along nicely and I have no doubt that it will be one of our most popular villages. Most of the antiques which I shipped from France will be arriving in Manila in mid-August and we are fully intent on having the French restaurants of St. Tropez operational by September.

     Phuket is also coming along nicely and we expect to open the Phuket Sala which will house the Thai restaurant, together with some of the private dining rooms, in September. I tried out our Thai menu prepared by our chef who spent many years in Thailand, and I found it to be excellent. I can’t wait to have the Phuket restaurant and the villas operational.

     I should not forget to tell you that one of the most exciting developments on the island is the fact that we have decided to add a 7th village which we are calling Costa del Sol, after the world-famous coastal resort in Spain. On one of my helicopter trips, viewing the various developments on the island, I was pleasantly surprised to discover some 200 meters of the purest white sand beach on the Pacific side of the island, not far from the Phuket Village. Now that the various villages are taking shape, it became obvious to me that this pristine white-sand beach should be a village of its own. So last week, I asked Architect Meloy Casas to do the initial concepts and we shall be adding at least 30 more villas in Costa del Sol.

     Costa Smeralda is also quickly taking shape and all of the villages and the facilities will be fully operational within the next 6 months or by the end of this year.

     Finally, let me describe the sports facilities which we now have operational. 

     As you know, the Stables have been functioning for some time now. Recently, we decided to acquire another 7 horses which are bigger in size, from one of the more famous breeders in the country. Horseback riding has proven to be popular on the island and many members take the horses right on the seashore. 

     The Archery Range is now also complete and we have Fermin Barrenechea, one of our most famous archery Olympians, as our consultant for this project. Also now complete is the Paintball course which is in the jungle area right behind the Sports Center.

     There have been several “battles” by our members at this facility, and they tell me that they enjoyed it immensely because of the authentic jungle setting. 

     I am always being asked by members to have a golf course on the island. Although we could easily accommodate one, I believe that those who would like to play golf can enjoy playing in one of the many golf courses in Manila, and those who come to Balesin should enjoy the beach and the other unique sports on the island. However, of late, I have partially succumbed to the many pleas and have agreed to have a golf driving range and a putting green which are now nearing completion. They will be operational by next month.

     Most of our aquatic sports are already in place although the aquatic sports jetty which is proving very difficult to construct because it is built on the water, will not be ready until another month from now. Most of our members already enjoy kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding, and our hobie cats. 

     Last but not least, I am very pleased to inform you that the huge Sports Center facility with its 3 tennis courts, 2 basketball courts, 3 badminton courts, fully equipped gym and yoga facilities will be operational next month, just in time for the rainy season. This will give our members many things to do during rainy days.

     I am also very happy to inform you that the Chapel is now operational. In a few weeks, we will have regular Sunday masses and services at this beautiful structure of which we are very proud.

     Lest I bore you with my garrulous “rhapsodies” about Balesin, I would like to close by letting you know that I shall be leaving for Europe in a few days’ time and on my return trip, will again be bringing antiques, artifacts, and other items from Greece, Italy and France. 

     In the meantime, I earnestly invite all of you to come and visit Balesin. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Roberto V. Ongpin
Chairman

For membership information, contact Joanna O. Duarte at 3381234/ joduarte@alphaland.com.ph

July 26, 2012