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November 2013

November 30, 2013

To Members and Friends:

The month of November will go down in Philippine history as one of the “cruelest” months ever.  Not for Balesin island, but for the poor people of Leyte and Samar and the rest of the Visayas.  I know that as I write this, the people in the affected areas continue to suffer and need help, and I hope and pray that we can all get our act together to alleviate the indescribable misery of the typhoon victims.

In several previous “mini-updates”, I have already informed you of the modest efforts that Alphaland was able to contribute.  We fortunately had the unique capability, with our four smaller aircraft (2 Grand Caravans and 2 Jetstreams), so that we were the first to reach previously unreachable areas such as Ormoc, Guiuan in Samar, Coron in Palawan and others.

I dropped by the Alphaland hangar at about 10:00 pm on one evening the week after the typhoon and was amazed to see the Hangar Lounge filled with volunteers.  I was even more amazed at the mountain of relief goods in the hangar that had been sent to us by many donors, too many to mention here.  

But I would like to give special mention and commendation again to our Island CEO Mike Asperin for his managing the relief operations so efficiently, together with the able assistance of Marco Diaz.  Mike was even interviewed by CNN and Marco was prominently featured in Facebook.

I am fully aware that our efforts were modest compared to the massive relief efforts that followed.  One might say our Alphaland relief operations were only a “drop in the bucket” but I am sure that that “drop” helped many people in need of urgent care.  I must not forget to commend our medical staff at Balesin for their many medical sorties to the affected areas and our staff pilots who were flying almost non-stop everyday with very little rest.  We are proud and thankful to all of them.

In all, I estimate that in addition to the many donations that we received in kind and in cash from many members and friends, Alphaland itself spent about Php10 million in our relief operations.  We also effectively lost about 10 days of our normal construction activities but I am sure you will agree that it was all worthwhile.

Christmas Coming

As we approach the Christmas season, our villa reservations are quickly filling up the 300 villas that we have available.  Especially between Christmas and New Year, we are almost fully booked, even as early as now.  In fact, on several of those days, we expect over a thousand members and guests on the island.  But the week before Christmas and the week after New Year are still available for those of you who may want to make last minute bookings.

New Senior Staff

I am also pleased to inform you that Alphaland has been able to acquire new senior staff to beef up our management.  Foremost is my own daughter Anna Bettina, who joined us a few weeks ago.  After early schooling in England, Anna graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and has lived and worked principally as a management consultant for a number of firms while she lived in the U.S..  After much pleading, she finally agreed to move back to the Philippines to help her old man.  She is now Senior Vice President of Alphaland and my all-around assistant.  Having had a totally American background, and speaking only broken Tagalog, she is finding the adjustment not the easiest of tasks, but she’ll get there.

We have also been fortunate, through Anna’s efforts, to have Allan Locke join Alphaland as Senior Vice President.  Allan’s father Richard, who passed away some years ago, was a friend of mine and used to run Colgate until Colgate dropped their Philippine operations after which Richard joined John Gokongwei’s operations.  

Meanwhile Allan (who does speak Tagalog!), after finishing at International School, went to the University of California in Berkley, regarded as one of the top technical schools, where he graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.  Allan has been involved in several technology companies in the U.S. and has had a number of entrepreneurial projects on his own.  Fortunately for us, he decided to return to the Philippines a few months back to permanently reside here.  I find him to be a perfect fit at Alphaland because of his clearly superior skills in technology and systems.  In the one month that he has been with us, Allan has been focusing on streamlining our operating systems. 

We have also been fortunate to employ a senior Filipino hotel executive who has operated most of his life in the U.S. with various hotel chains.  I am sure that Gil Santiago will be an important contribution to our F&B operations both at the City Club and at Balesin.  

When you next go to Balesin, you will also see three young Europeans - one Austrian, one Dutch, and one German - two men and one woman who are all recent graduates of one of the top hotel schools in Holland.  In the few weeks that they have been with us, they have shown a lot of initiative and I am pleased by their infectious work ethic which I am sure will gradually be transferred to our own Filipino staff.

Finally, we have retained Paolo Nesi, a true Italian from Tuscany, who has lived for a long time in Manila and started several Italian restaurants here.  Paolo will be our overall consultant in all aspects of Italian food and beverage both at Balesin and at the City Club.

Balesin Island Club GM

At this point, I am obliged to give you some unfortunate news.  Rene Verhulst, who has been our GM at Balesin for the last few months, has developed a serious heart condition and has had to leave us.  

Many of you will be happy to hear that Bollie Bolton who was our first GM, but who also had to leave us because of medical reasons, has informed me of his eagerness to return to Balesin, but his doctors won’t permit him yet at this time.  But I hope that he can resume as GM early next year.  In the meantime, Mike Asperin, Marco Diaz and Gil Santiago will be running the Balesin operations. 

Operations Improvements

In anticipation of the coming busy holiday season, we have been focusing on improving a number of our “soft spots.”  Of utmost importance is the Aviation facilities and Mike has been able to do a deal on increasing our Dornier aircraft flights so that we can, together with our own aircraft, have a capacity of over 1,000 passengers daily.  This will be more than sufficient to ensure efficient flights to and from Balesin.

With regard to our land/sea transport project, I am still not happy with the results of our study, so I have decided to defer this to until early next year.

Balesin Island Transportation System

One of our perennial problems is efficiently and quickly transporting our members and guests within the island.  As you know, our resort has a total of 500 hectares (7kms. long, 2 kms. wide).  This has proven to be quite a challenge for our golf carts and e-jeepneys and so we have decided to dramatically increase our transportation facilities, under the management of Alex Cenzon, our Head Concierge, who has had substantial experience in transport management and whom I have now designated as Island Transportation Czar.  

In addition to the 60 bicycles we have at the island today, I have ordered another 200 bicycles so that each village will have its own bicycle fleet.  This equates to almost one bicycle per villa.  Additionally, we have acquired six tandem bicycles for the enjoyment of our members.

Most importantly, I have ordered an additional 60 golf carts, thus increasing our total fleet to 100 golf carts.  With the technical assistance of Allan Locke in scheduling our island transport system, Alex will now have at his disposal a sufficient number of vehicles which will undoubtedly alleviate the sometimes unbearably long waits for island transport.

Christmas Holiday Events

I am attaching herewith a calendar of events for the entire Christmas season.  With the multitude of members and guests at the island during the holiday season, we have carefully devised not only a series of evening sessions by Julian, but also a full calendar of daytime events which is attached herein as a link.

Adding to our existing sports facilities, we have recently acquired the following for our members:  two kid-size competition bows for archery;  and for aquatic sports, we have acquired five 9-ft soft top surfboards.  We have also had a complete rehabilitation of our airsoft facilities for our members who love target practice.  

Toscana Village

Despite the delays caused by our typhoon relief efforts, we are now at the finishing stages of Toscana Village and I must say that my design partner, the inimitable Rico Sison, has really outdone himself in copying almost every detail of my villa in Tuscany.  My wife Monica, who has been egging Rico on, now wants to live permanently in Balesin, an idea which I have vetoed!  

We are on our way back to Manila as I write this, and are returning with a planeload of Tuscan wines, more Tuscan décor, and most of all, all kinds of Tuscan delicacies including several legs of prosciutto, tons of salami, and Monica’s favorite Italian cheeses and last but not least, a full selection of grappa.

Una Festa Toscana

When we inaugurate Toscana Village on December 14, Monica and I would like to invite all members and guests at the island to a real Tuscan salumi and formaggio party and serve you our favorite Italian wines.  All members and guests on the island on that day, are cordially invited with our compliments, to this “festa” at the Toscana Village.  I hope that our new Italian consultant, Paolo Nesi, will be available to properly slice the prosciutto, which I have, in the last 25 years that we have lived in Italy, never been able to learn!

Alphaland Clubs (A Special Christmas Offer)

On several occasions in the past weeks, I have been constantly surprised by the fact that many of our members at Balesin have never even heard of the Alphaland City Club at Makati Place, nor the Alphaland Marina Club.  At the same time, our City Club and Marina members, while they have heard of it, have never been to Balesin.  As you know, the creation of all of these clubs with the top-of-the-line amenities, has become an obsession for me and it is in all sincerity that I say that I have greatly enjoyed creating these clubs and their uniquely beautiful facilities.  I am therefore disappointed about the fact that many of our members in these clubs do not even know that the other clubs exist.  

Thus, as a one-time special offer, in the spirit of the holiday season, I have directed that a one-time special offer only to existing members of one of the clubs, of a 25% discount on the price of membership in the other clubs of which they are not a member.  Thus, only for the month of December, the special offer is as follows:

Present Price

Special Offer Price

(December only)

Balesin Island Club

Php4,000,000

Php3,000,000

Makati Place City Club

1,500,000

1,125,000

Alphaland Marina Club

1,500,000

1,125,000

All payment plans which are currently in effect, will apply proportionately.

 

Those of you who want to take advantage of this special offer, kindly contact by telephone, but preferably by email so that you can register your interest, to the following:

Ms. Joanna O. Duarte

Tel No.:   

+63908 886 3251

Email address:

joduarte@remove-this.alphaland.com.ph

Mr. Marco Diaz

Tel No.: 

+63998 998 9998

Email address:

diazmarco@remove-this.gmail.com

Ms. Jojo Manalo

Tel No.: 

+63918 918 6085

Email address:

jamanalo@remove-this.philweb.com.ph

 

I hope to see you all at Balesin during the holidays where my wife Monica and I and our “extended” families will be celebrating the holidays.

Finally, I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Great New Year!  

 

ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman