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January 2014

February 2, 2014

To Members and Friends:

It is Sunday today, the 2nd of February 2014.  It is a glorious morning, and I am sitting here on the deck of my villa looking out at the Lamon Bay sea and the hills of the Cordilleras beyond, which is quite visible on a clear day like today.  From time to time, I see people water skiing or kayaking and almost a parade of horses trotting down the beach.

This weekend has been extraordinarily busy with some 700 members and guests on the island to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Surprisingly, we have had more people on the island this weekend than even the New Year’s weekend a month ago.  The weather has been mostly cooperative, except for one morning of rain.  

But the highlight of this weekend was the surprise performance of Martin Nievera last night, a truly incomparable singer and entertainer.  It was almost an impromptu performance.  We did not know he would be available until the last minute, but we were delighted to give our members and guests this really great Chinese New Year treat.  

It was a standing only crowd at the Clubhouse, and I swear that everybody had a great time, including Martin.  He is truly a great performer and he has promised to come back to Balesin which he has come to love just like all of us.

At the end of his performance, I took the mike principally to thank him for his fantastic performance (no, I did not sing!) but I did take the opportunity to tell the packed Clubhouse that while I was delighted with Martin’s wonderful performance, I felt a little melancholy because Balesin is now a completed project, and I won’t have an excuse to live here as I have during the past two years.  But as all of you know, Balesin is my “magnificent obsession” and I don’t think I can ever stay away.

I have just been told that one of the newswires carried an item entitled “Ongpin Says Goodbye to Balesin Project.”  It was rather amusing since whoever wrote it obviously had never been to Balesin before, and didn’t really understand what I was saying.  Unfortunately, he seems to have quite a wide following because I have received several texts saying in effect “Please don’t do it!”  But don’t worry, I will never leave my beloved Balesin.

It has been two years and nine months since we started this project and all of a sudden, it is now complete and that realization takes a bit of time to sink in.  From the six villages and 240 villas that we promised our members originally, we actually completed seven villages with 300 villas and suites.  Many times, many of my friends tell me “Why don’t you build some more of these masterpieces,” and I have to tell them that I must move on to other projects such as the Alphaland Marina and Country Club on the reclamation area between Solaire and the Mall of Asia, and of course, the Baguio Project which we can now resume.  But they point out to me that there are at least five more beaches (and they are right), where we could build other villages on the island.  I always tell them that I don’t want Balesin to ever be like Boracay where you can hardly see the sand because of the great mass of humanity fighting for every inch of the beach.  As you may know, Boracay is twice the size of Balesin but guestwise, Boracay must be a hundredfold more.

I was looking at some figures yesterday and we now have every week five times the number of members and guests that we had last year, but you never feel that you are in a crowded resort and you always have your own privacy which I very zealously ensure on Balesin.  That is why Balesin is a private club and we never accept guests unless they are accompanied by members.  

Speaking about memberships, when we started selling Balesin shares a bit more than two years ago, they were only Php1 million each.  Today, they are Php4 million each and I have no doubt that in time to come, they will continue to appreciate.  My management people have also suggested that we now have Corporate Shares which will allow two nominees, but will cost only Php6 million each.  They tell me that because of the sterling reputation that Balesin has gained, many corporations, in addition to individuals, would now like to become members.  We are now ironing out the details and Corporate membership should be available in a few weeks time.  I have also insisted that present individual members be allowed to convert their individual membership to a Corporate Membership.  Thus, with two nominees, their present membership which is worth Php4 million, with the addition of another Php2 million, will allow them one more membership.

We have also made progress on the Aviation side.  We hope to be able to get our AOC (Aircraft Operations Certificate) within a month.  This will allow us to have regular landing and take off slots and will minimize the confusion and consternation which sometimes happen when CAAP either cancels or disapproves our slot applications because of heavy traffic at NAIA.  Additionally, we are now looking at acquiring two more Dorniers with their 31-seating capacities, and retiring our Cessnas for only emergency missions.

I was amazed this weekend by the literally hundreds of people who toured and then decided to eat at the Toscana.   As many of you know, Rico Sison was inspired by my villa in Italy when he created Toscana.  Although we have a total of 140 seats at 8 restaurants in Toscana, yesterday we had a total of 248 guests, and many of them had to wait in line to get their table.  I am also told that we served a total of 120 pizzas from our wood-burning pizza oven.  

The finishing touches of the upper deck of Toscana which we have christened “La Terrazza,” from where one has a fabulous view of the three swimming pools and the gardens of Toscana, the two beaches on the north and south side of the peninsula, and the wonderful surf waves beyond, will open for business this week and I have no doubt whatsoever that “La Terrazza” will become everyone’s new favorite.  

I am also told that we have now run out of Grondino, my favorite Italian red wine, the vineyard of which is not far from my villa.  It is a combination of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a departure from the usual Chianti wine in Toscana which is purely Sangiovese.  The combination of the two grapes enable the Grondino to be savored earlier than the normal Chiantis.  Thus, I have just placed a reorder of 100 more cases.

Finally, in closing, for those of you who were misled into thinking that I am now abandoning Balesin, I promise you that I never will!


ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman

A NIGHT OF MUSIC WITH MARTIN NIEVERA
ON FEBRUARY 1 AT BALESIN ISLAND CLUB

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Alphaland President Mario Oreta Welcoming Guests

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Martin Nievera With His Opening Number

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Martin Nievera Serenading The Crowd

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CEO And Island Director Mike Asperin Together With Martin Nievera

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Anton Montinola With Martin Nievera singing "Just Once"

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Martin Nievera Together With Hi-Lites

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Martin Nievera With Three-Fourths

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Martin Nievera Serenading A Guest

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Martin Nievera Singing With A Guest

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Martin Nievera Singing His Heart Out For A Guest

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Enjoying A Duet With Alphaland President Mario Oreta

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A Round Of Applause For Martin Nievera And Alphaland President Mario Oreta

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Smiles From The Crowd

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Shaking Hands With Audience Members

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RVO Thanking Martin Nievera

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Encore Performance By Martin Nievera

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CEO And Island Director Mike Asperin With Martin Nievera

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Martin Nievera With RVO After The Show