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November 2012

To Members and Friends:

Once again, it is the end of the month, and what a month it has been!  Except for the first two days which I had to spend in Hong Kong, and the occasional board meetings that I have to attend in Manila, I spent the entire month on this wonderful island!

To say that it has been a busy month is an understatement.  Let me just bring you up to date on the highlights of what we have accomplished during November:

1. As you know, we have now acquired a twin-engine turbo prop British Aerospace Jetstream 32 which seats 19 passengers and we have therefore greatly increased our transport capacity to the island (now a total of 185 passengers a day), weather permitting of course.  This weekend is a long weekend, and we have over 156 members, their families and guests on the island, and 65 villas occupied.

2. Eric Recto, my partner, has started negotiations to acquire the second Jetstream (a Jetstream 41), which accommodates 29 passengers and, with any luck, we should be able to acquire this within a few weeks.  Realistically speaking, however, with the holiday season coming up, we probably will not be able to have this aircraft in service until January 2013.

3. We have appointed Col. Joe Ongchangco, the former chief pilot of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile when he was Secretary of Defense, to head our Aviation organization.  Not only is Joe an experienced pilot, but an effective administrator as well, and you can rest assured that he will optimize and streamline our aviation operations.

4. As many of you may have noticed, we have almost doubled the capacity of our lounge at the Alphaland hangar in Manila.  This expansion is now complete and as you wait for your flight, we know you will feel more comfortable than what you used to.

5. After many complaints from our members, I have terminated the Balesin Island Club’s former reservations head and have replaced her with a completely new team who will be more competent and more sympathetic to the needs of our members.  We have also developed a new reservations system to better serve our members.  Thus, I expect that henceforth, the acceptance of reservations and responses to your questions and requests will be served more efficiently and graciously by our new team.  

I have always been sensitive to the fact that our reservations system has been seriously inferior to what our members deserve.  I would ask you to keep in mind, however, that we are approaching the peak season and while our new team and our system will be operational, we may not always be able to accommodate your specific requests for flight times and the villas that you prefer.  I have just spent a 6-hour meeting with our senior staff here on Balesin and we have decided to transfer our reservations group to the Alphaland hangar in Manila to assure that they will be coordinating more closely and functioning efficiently.   

6. For those of you who are addicted to our Japanese restaurant, (and I am constantly surprised at how many fans there are of our Sakura Chef Edu San), I have good news.  We have almost doubled the capacity of Sakura and can now accommodate about 70 people in one sitting.  We did this with a minimum disruption by extending the southern wall of Sakura and adding a wall-to-wall sushi counter thus, enabling us to have two tepanyaki counters, all to be served by our superman Japanese Chef Edu San!

7. I am also pleased to inform you that we now have a POS system in operation at the Main Clubhouse and shall be extending this to all the villages in due course.  You can now also check-out using your credit card. 

8. We are also in the process of acquiring and installing a Children’s Playground to be located at the side of the Main Clubhouse Children’s Pool.  I had not heretofore realized how important this was to our members and how much their children enjoy such a facility.

9. The Sports Center is now fully functional and under the efficient management of Sonny Orallo.  More and more members are taking advantage of the excellent facilities which everybody tells me is the best in the country.  In addition, we just completed a Rock Climbing Wall and an Airsoft Target Range at the Sports Center.

10. The air-conditioned Balesin dining room at the Clubhouse, which to my mind is a beautiful facility, is underutilized.  I suppose it is because it is air-conditioned and many members prefer to savor the fresh air at the Veranda.  Thus, we have decided to convert this facility into a Music Lounge, where we will have live music every weekend and on holidays.  Additionally, we also plan to have live music in each of the salas in all of the villages in due course.  

11.  I am told that many of our members and guests do not particularly enjoy going up and down the stairs of the Main Clubhouse, and I am surprised that many of our members have thus missed out on the facilities of the Ground Floor of the Clubhouse.  Therefore, I am happy to inform you that we are now installing an elevator so that you don’t have to trudge up and down the stairs.  This elevator should be functioning within the next week.   

12. We have also decided to construct (but after the holidays), a second Clubhouse Inn on the north side of the Clubhouse.  We have found that as our members and their guests increase their visits to the island, we need more and more efficient staff and we have found that the accommodations at the present Clubhouse Inn for our senior operating staff are inadequate.  We have therefore decided to add another Clubhouse Inn on the other side of the Clubhouse, which will also accommodate another 60 persons.

13. Finally, among the projects we want to complete before the holiday season, is a new facility at the Main Clubhouse area.  We have always thought that the View Deck area, with its wonderful view of the pool and the sea beyond, would be a popular feature for our members.  This has turned out not to be the case.  We have therefore decided to convert it into “Balesin Sunset Sweets” because this is where you will sit at sunset and satisfy your craving for all kinds of sweets.  Frankly, I am always amazed at the propensity of our members for various desserts and sweets, as witnessed by the popularity of Magnum ice cream when we introduced it.  We will air-condition the entire View Deck area and on one end, we will have a Filipino merienda area, where we will serve bibingka, puto, cuchinta, taho, ginataan and other local delicacies.  At the other end, we will have a Western dessert area where we will serve Italian gelato, French crepes, and a vast array of pastries, especially now that we have hired a new award-winning pastry chef.  So if you don’t want to gain too much weight, I suggest you keep away from this area!

14. I should also let you know that we have made progress on our Zip Line project.  Instead of putting it on the originally planned area which is near the Mykonos Village and the two nearby islands, we are now planning to put it on the southernmost part of Balesin Island where the Phuket Village is located.  You can zip from one end of the rock formation on the west end of the cove to the other rock formation on the east end and this will be all over water, a distance of about half a kilometer.  As I said in my previous updates to you, I want to make absolutely sure that not only do we have enjoyable facilities for our members and guests but I also want to ensure that all of these types of facilities are failsafe.

15. I am very pleased to be able to inform you now that Phuket Village, with the exception of some final landscaping, is already operational.  We have been fortunate to employ a Thai lady who is an excellent chef and since she got on board, we have gotten rave news from our members (not as much as Edu San though!) The 30 villas will be open for reservations about mid-December after our usual “debugging” procedures.  Many of our members and guests surprisingly, tell me that their favorite village is Phuket and I suppose that it is because it faces directly south and you have sunshine the entire day.  Also the pool and the beach are extremely inviting and are very reminiscent of the famous Amanpuri in Phuket.

16. But I guess among all the villages, I must admit that I enjoy working on St. Tropez most of all.  We have now finished the main service areas which will have several bistros and the creperies.  We are now working suite by suite and expect to have at least 30 suites operational before Christmas.  

The view as you approach St. Tropez, if I may say so myself is magnificent, with its tree-lined avenue and the pastel colors of the village itself is a joy to behold.  We will also have one of the best swimming pools and beaches in St. Tropez, so I can’t help but tell you that this is my favorite village.  Since a few days ago when we opened the Main Lobby, and despite the fact that the only facility functioning now is a Creperie at the Lobby Veranda, quite a few visitors are viewing and visiting St Tropez, and sometimes it is embarrassing (but certainly gratifying) when they keep telling me how wonderful it looks.

17. Finally, let me state that as the holiday season approaches, we have not only increased our transport facilities, increased our villa and hotel facilities, but we have also increased our staff numbers.  We now have on board about 50 chefs at the various restaurants on the island and another 150 service personnel such as waiters, busboys, etc.   We now also have over a hundred well-trained housekeeping staff.

18. Because of the inefficiencies in our previous reservations system, many of you have been disappointed by our inability to confirm your reservations when you wanted to come to the island, especially with the coming holidays because of alleged lack of flight spaces or villa facilities.  Since this is of vital importance to all our operations, I have personally made a formal analysis of the criteria being used by our reservations people and have found to my great dismay that they have been using inaccurate and outdated data.

For this reason, I have instructed our new reservations team to post on our balesin.com website on a daily basis the availability of flights and villas during the upcoming holiday season.  This will be posted starting tomorrow so that you can see what the actual situation is day-by-day and organize your visits to the island accordingly.  I have been shocked to find out how many reservations have been turned down for the holidays when we still have, using correct data, many flights and villas available. 

19. The Balesin Island Club staff has also been hard at work, developing a holiday season activities calendar so that those of you who intend to spend several days will not get bored and can enjoy the facilities of the island.  This will be transmitted to you within the next week.  I obviously am not the best person to decide what programs should be scheduled during the holidays but I have gotten the management of the club to schedule not only holiday season programs but also both aquatic and land sports activities so that you may make the most of your holidays.  I should also tell you that for aquatic sports, we have now acquired 7 paraos (vintas) and a banana boat which I understand is popular among our young members.  We are also acquiring a second speed boat so that we can have more water skiing activities possible.

20. I should state here that I take full responsibility for outlawing firecrackers, fireworks, or any other pyrotechnics in the island during Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.  This island is totally pollution-free and I intend to keep it that way.  So for those of you who believe that firecrackers and the like are an essential element for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, I should tell you now that you will be disappointed if you expect to see these on Balesin.  We will, of course, allow all kinds of horns and noise makers, but absolutely no firecrackers.  

21. We have worked extremely hard this month of November so that you can have maximum enjoyment of the island during the holiday season.  We do hope that you are able to make it to Balesin and we hope that you enjoy the facilities as much as we have enjoyed creating them for you.

With best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Great New Year! 

ROBERTO V. ONGPIN

November 30, 2012

 

 BRITISH AEROSPACE JETSTREAM 32 
TWIN ENGINE, JET PROP


JESTREAM 32 WITH BALESIN ISLAND CLUB LIVERY

ST TROPEZ

DATE PALM TREE LINED AVENUE LEADING TO ST TROPEZ



THE GRAND ENTRANCE TO ST TROPEZ


ENTRANCE TO LOBBY OF ST TROPEZ


LOOKING OUT FROM THE FRONT LOBBY


WELCOME DESK FOR VILLAGE MANAGER



LOBBY SEATING ROOM



ANOTHER LOBBY SEATING AREA


STAIRWAY TO TOP FLOOR OF ST TROPEZ


MAIN LOBBY ENTRANCE



BEDROOM SUITE AT ST TROPEZ



ANOTHER ST TROPEZ SUITE



LOUNGE AREA AT POOL LEVEL OF ST TROPEZ



ANOTHER VIEW OF THE LOUNGE AREA



BISTRO AT ST TROPEZ



POOL LEVEL LOUNGE 

PHUKETPHUKET VILLA



MORE VILLAS



VILLAS FACING THE PACIFIC OCEAN



PHUKET VILLA

BALINUSA DUA AT NIGHT



NUSA DUA DURING DAY TIME



BRIDGEWAY TOWARDS BALI WATER VILLA



BALI KIDDIE POOL, WARUNG, AND NUSA DUA IN THE BACKGROUND 


BALI VILLAS



BALI VILLA

MYKONOSMYKONOS COVE DECK



ANOTHER VIEW OF THE MYKONOS COVE DECK


MYKONOS VILLAS WITH THE RECEPTION IN THE BACKGROUND



MYKONOS VILLAS



THANASSIS TAVERNA



MYKONOS BEACH VILLAS UNDER CONSTRUCTION



SITE OF MYKONOS BEACH VILLAS CONSTRUCTION

COSTA DEL SOLCONSTRUCTION OF ONE OF THE COSTA DEL SOL
CLUSTERS