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June 2013

                                                                                                    June 30, 2013

To Members and Friends:

The month of June has come and gone, and it is once again time to "inflict" my monthly missive on you all.  Kidding aside, I do make a serious effort to devote time to ensure that you get an accurate monthly update. In this manner, you can have an insight on the kind of effort that we devote to making sure that Balesin Island Club maintains its ranking as among the best in the world.

In contrast to the hectic months of March, April and May, which were school holiday months, when we were filled to the brim most weekends and even occasionally, on weekdays, June has been relatively quiet.  This respite has enabled us to catch up with a lot of "to dos" which we could not attend to during the hectic days of the previous months.

Costa del Sol

With the onset of June, we have been able to resume full blast work on our remaining projects.  At Costa del Sol, we have been able to complete most of the work on the residential casas, where there will be a total of 48 villas and suites.  The villas and suites are all very large, many over 100 square meters in size and all facing the Pacific Ocean, with its picturesque three small rock islands.  In alphabetical order, we have named the six casas after the picturesque towns along the Costa del Sol:  Estepona, Fuengirola, Malaga, Marbella, Ronda, and Torremolinos. They are all decorated in authentic Spanish style as interpreted by Rico Sison and Monica Olbes when they absorbed the ambiance of the Costa del Sol, principally by eating their way through each town!   By next week, we shall be able to show you our model villas and suites and before the end of July, we will already be able to accept bookings in the villas of Costa del Sol.

Mykonos Beach Villas 

Hand in hand with the resumption of work in Costa del Sol, we have also resumed work on completing the Mykonos Beach Villas.  As I write this, we have over 200 workers in the Mykonos Beach Villas.  We have decided to add an indoor/outdoor pool right at the center of the villas, the design of which I think you will find most interesting.  We think that because of the uniqueness of the design of the Mykonos Beach Villas, this village will be one of our best sellers.

Toscana Village 

Toscana, on the other hand, has proven to be quite challenging.  While we have already completed the structure of the facade which is a replica of the Villa La Cerretana in Viterbo, one of the most beautiful towns of Tuscany, designing the interiors in the true Tuscan style has not been easy.  Nevertheless, we have made substantial progress with unique features which replicate the Tuscan style, particularly the interiors.   

We should be able to inaugurate Toscana in September when I intend to host an inaugural party, with the best Tuscan prosciutto, pasta, and other Italian goodies, which I have been personally selecting and bringing back from my trips to Italy.

Other Projects 

Concurrently, we have resumed work on the various projects on our drawing boards.  The organic vegetable farm is quickly taking shape.  We will soon open the salad and barbecue shacks.  Thus, in addition to harvesting your own vegetables from Italian seeds in order to create your favorite salads, you can also fish for hito, cream dory, dalag, and palos (fresh water eels), which are all native to the mainland of Quezon.

Expansion of Fish Fun 

Our saltwater operations are also well underway with our crustacean farms.  We have also decided to expand the Fish Fun because it has been a big hit with our members and guests, such that in addition to lapu-lapu, we can also offer many other types of saltwater fish.  Additionally, you can already see crab cages not far from the Fish Fun where we grow our crabs.

Conference Center

I am also pleased to inform you that we have now completed our Conference Center, which has been in great demand by our members who have been wanting to hold management executive sessions and conferences at Balesin.  We now have five conference rooms, each accommodating up to 30 persons. In addition to the existing one on the Main Floor of the Clubhouse, we have constructed four additional conference rooms on the Ground Floor of the Clubhouse, each also accommodating 30 persons.  Three of the four can be converted into one conference room, by removing the wall dividers and can actually accommodate up to 120 persons in a classroom style configuration.  Each conference room will be fully equipped with the latest audio visual equipment.  Within a few days, we shall be issuing a pamphlet to our members, detailing the conference packages available.

Balesin as a Wedding Venue

We have also been pleasantly surprised at the demand for wedding functions at Balesin.  Actually, when one really thinks of it, there are very few places in the Philippines, nay the world, where you can have as beautiful a wedding as at Balesin.  Also, by the last quarter of this year, we will have 300 villas and suites available which can accommodate even large wedding functions.  Joanna Duarte and her team are preparing a wedding package brochure which will be sent to members shortly.

Bicycles and “Tuk-Tuks”

We now have 60 bicycles, of all sizes and shapes, on the island.  And we find more and more bikers enjoying riding around the island.  Our Yamaha electric 5-seater "tuk-tuks" have not yet arrived, but we have been promised that they will arrive soon.  When they arrive, the "tuk-tuks," which can travel twice as fast as the golf carts, will be the principal mode of pick-up and delivery transportation around the island.  We shall at that point retire the golf carts but which will still be available for members who want to rent a golf cart for their exclusive use during their stay.  

Segway?

Do you know what a segway is?  I didn't until my son Julian told me that segways might provide an interesting form of transport cum entertainment around the island.  We are importing a few to see if they will function properly on our unpaved roads.   

“The Segway PT is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire, USA. The name Segway is a homophone of the word segue, meaning smooth transition. PT is an abbreviation for personal transporter.

Computers and motors in the base of the device keep the Segway PT upright when powered on with balancing enabled. A user commands the Segway to go forward by shifting their weight forward on the platform and backward by shifting their weight backward. The Segway detects, as it balances, the change in its center of mass, and first establishes and then maintains a corresponding speed, forward or backward. Gyroscopic sensors and fluid-based leveling sensors detect the weight shift. To turn, the user presses the handlebar to the left or the right.

Segway PTs are driven by electric motors and can go up to 12.5 miles per hour (20.1 km/h).” (reference: Wikipedia)

Ralph’s Wines

I am also pleased to inform you that we have now closed our deal with one of the largest wine importers in the Philippines - Ralph's.  Ralph's has given us a fine selection of reasonably priced vintage wines not only from France but also from Italy, Australia, California, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand as well.  The Ralph's Wine Cave at the Ground Floor of the Clubhouse will be operational by this coming weekend and our members can purchase their wine selections there.  Additionally, because of our large purchase volumes, Ralph's has agreed to have our members be able to order from the island wine cave and delivered to them in Manila.  I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at the modestly priced wines that we were able to negotiate.

New Restaurants at St. Tropez 

We have also now opened two additional restaurants at St. Tropez, the L'Escale and Le Neptune.  We have found that the demand for French food at St. Tropez far exceeds our private dining areas.  Many times, we have had to set up tables even in the hallways to accommodate reservations.  L'Escale and Le Neptune will add 36 more private air conditioned dining guest facilities at St. Tropez.

Balesin Weather

With the onset of the rainy season, we have been fortunate at Balesin in that most of the rains come in the late afternoon or at night, allowing us many sunny days for beach activities.  Incidentally, I might remind you that our website shows updated weather information at Balesin.  You may also call (02) 703 7204 to ask for the specific weather at Balesin at anytime.

As I was in the process of writing this, I was just informed that the tail end of a typhoon hit the island briefly last night.  Fortunately, there was almost no damage except for a lot of banana trees that were beaten down by the winds.  There was no structural damage at all to any of the villas at the entire island.

Baguio Project

Finally, I am delighted to inform you that we are embarking on a major new project - in Baguio - to be called Alphaland Mountain Lodges.  This will not be a membership club but will be log cabin homes, prefabricated and imported from the U.S., much like Woodlands in Tagaytay Highlands.  We intend to give Balesin Island Club members a first crack at this project.

In 1977, I bought a track of land on which to build my own log house which still stands proudly on top of the mountain until today.  Over the years, I have been acquiring land all around the property so that at this time, I now own the entire mountain, consisting of over 75 hectares.  For the last 30 years, I have operated this as a citrus farm and it has been a profitable little operation.  But now, after more than 30 years, the trees are getting old and I have decided to convert it into a log homes project.

In contrast to Woodlands at Tagaytay Highlands, which is only at 1,500 feet above sea level, Alphaland Mountain Lodges will be between 4,500 to 5,000 feet.  Having lived there occasionally for over 30 years, I can assure you that you will want to light your fireplace almost the entire year round.  Situated some 9 kilometers from Baguio, it used to take me between half an hour to an hour to get to Baguio but now, the entire 9 kilometers to Baguio is totally paved in concrete and it now takes me only 10 to 15 minutes to get to the city.   All cabins will have 3 bedrooms, 3-1/2 baths, and a great room. 

The development will consist of an estimated 100 to 150 log homes, of between 250 to 350 square meters of floor space in each cabin.  Each log house will have a full panoramic view of Baguio or the northern mountains beyond.

The entire development will be fully secured with a perimeter security fence and a road with security outposts all along the perimeter, thus ensuring residents of complete security.

Earlier this year, I retained the services of EcoPlan of Florida, the same Master Planner of Balesin, to prepare the conceptual plan on how to optimize the plans and elevations of the development.  They have visited the site, were absolutely thrilled with the project and have finished detailed topographic maps such that they expect to submit their first site development plan by mid-July.  The timing for the project is perfect.  As we wind down our major work on Balesin, we can then start the earth moving and site development in Baguio.  More information on this Baguio project including pictures, in next month’s update.

I should mention that I started this project as a personal project of mine because I own the land.  However, I thought it was only fair that I present it to the Board of Alphaland, and give them a choice as to whether they would like to take it on as an Alphaland project, or leave it as my own.  They have unanimously voted to make it an Alphaland project.  Thus, you can all look forward to another unique Alphaland development by next year.

As I write this, I am in Europe, again on business, but also again shopping for Rico Sison’s requirements.  But I’ll be home at Balesin this coming week, thank goodness!  Hope to see you then!

 


ROBERTO V. ONGPIN




Balesin Photos for the Month of June