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December 2014

                                                          December 9, 2014

To Members and Friends:

I arrived back in the Philippines on December 2, exactly one week ago with my wife Monica, and went straight to Balesin.  The next day, December 3rd, I went to Manila to chair three shareholders’ meetings.  I returned to Balesin on the afternoon of Thursday, December 4th, when “Hagupit”, a super typhoon (I think “Hagupit” being a Tagalog word is more appropriate than “Ruby”), was taking aim at the Philippines.  At that time, no one was sure where it would make landfall.  So, I asked that all members and guests on the island be immediately informed and flown to Manila by the next day, a policy which we always have for their own safety.

The last five days have been some of the most exciting and eventful days of my life!  I witnessed first-hand here at Balesin the very systematic and detailed precautionary measures taken by our management staff, under the superb leadership of our Island CEO, Mike Asperin.  I have also been very impressed with the dedication and perseverance of all our Village Managers and staff who spent many sleepless nights until the typhoon had gone, anticipating and monitoring every hour of the typhoon’s movement.  Until last night, we were not sure how Balesin would fare under the brunt of the typhoon.  I am greatly relieved and very happy to tell you that there was zero damage to Balesin.  When I go around the island three or four times a day with Mike Asperin and our senior staff to monitor the precautionary activities being undertaken, it has been heartwarming to see the total commitment of the staff to the island which they all love.  After being awake most of the night last night, I woke this morning to just a slight drizzle and the sun has been trying to emerge the entire afternoon but so far has been unsuccessful.  I believe that by tomorrow, it will finally succeed.

Monica and I are celebrating our 53rd wedding anniversary today and we have decided to host a thank-you dinner for all of our management staff for their heroic efforts these last five days.  I am pleased to inform you that other than a lot of leaves, we did not lose even a single tree except three banana trees!  Most of the afternoon and tomorrow will be spent clearing up the debris and pushing back the sand that had been blown ashore back to the beach where it belongs.  By Thursday, I will be willing to bet that you would never even realize that a typhoon had come and gone.

Monica was especially thrilled at the Balesin Royal Villa.  She says that she has never seen such a magnificent masterpiece, but she is of course prejudiced because she is partial to Rico Sison’s work.  Rico spent a week with us in Paris a couple of weeks ago and the net result was a lot of beautiful gilt etching on the furniture finishes of the Balesin Royal Villa.  

The formal inauguration will proceed and will begin at 4:30 in the afternoon this coming Saturday, where cocktails will be served to members and guests who will be on the island at that time.  I am not going to attempt to describe to you the regal elegance of the Balesin Royal Villa.  You just have to come and see it for yourself.  Those who have seen it have already booked the Royal Villa for most of the holiday period and as usual, our policy is on a first-come first-served basis as we don’t want to show favoritism to anyone.  

I am also delighted to inform you that Jimmy Bautista, the new President of PAL, has confirmed to me today that there will be at least 18 PAL flights on their Bombardier Q300’s to Balesin this holiday period.  Thus, supplemented by our own fleet and an ATR42 which we are chartering, we will hopefully not have to turn down any reservations since the Q300’s can seat 56 passengers and the ATR42’s can seat 46 passengers.  Additionally, due to the completion of the Balesin Royal Villa, we now have a total of 314 villas available for our members and their guests.  

Jimmy Bautista has agreed to be here on Saturday for the formal inauguration of The Balesin Royal Villa, and I will try my best to twist his arm so that the Manila-Balesin-Manila PAL Express service will become a regular route for PAL Express, not just for the busy season, but year-round.

I am also very pleased to inform you that in addition to the excellent service we have had from Smart Telecommunications for the last three years, our Globe service will begin.  We have been promised that our Globe service will start operating on the 20th of December, less than two weeks from now.  Since more than 60% of our members are Globe subscribers, I am sure this is very welcome news to you even if it is not exactly welcomed by my friend Manny Pangilinan!

This will not be my usual “loquacious” update since I want to get this off to you right away and to let you know that your beloved Balesin has overcome “Hagupit” with flying colors.  Hope to see you this weekend for the formal inauguration of the Balesin Royal Villa where Babes Oreta and I will be hosting the formal inaugural cocktails.

Last but not least, I am very pleased to announce that our Executive Chef, Mark Biddle (a.k.a. Marco Bidello), has returned from his three-month Australian sabbatical and will be with us not only for the holidays but for the rest of his life!

 

ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman

 

The Balesin Royal Villa at Night