To: Balesin Members and Friends
It is Sunday today, June 14, and the end of a great Independence Day weekend here at Balesin. We had the usual run of beautiful sunny weather during the day and occasional rains at night—a most welcome combination!
This weekend, we had more than 1,000 members and guests at the island and again, despite these large numbers, the island never felt crowded.
Jon “Bon Jovi” Joven and Friends
Balesin also seems to have taken on a new image for night time entertainment, with the appointment of Jon Joven as AGM for Entertainment and Hospitality (in addition to being our resident crooner). Jon had the Ryan Cayabyab Singers featured on both Friday and Saturday evenings. And we had a big crowd at the Clubhouse Lounge where they performed.
Last night, their performance was followed by a “Balesin Idol” karaoke contest which the guests enjoyed until well past midnight. Jon has many friends in the entertainment industry and has the ability to select and invite to Balesin to perform for us some of the upcoming and even established talents in the musical world. I am very happy with this development since a number of members have been commenting that after dinner, there is nothing much to do. All of that has changed with the arrival of “Bon Jovi.”
An additional after-dinner attraction is the Music Lounge on the Ground Floor of the Costa del Sol Village where the younger set loves to rock until the wee hours. They told me that on Friday night, the Music Lounge was full and rocking until 3 am. I, of course, have never seen this spectacle, since in view of my “advanced age,” I conked out after the show at the Clubhouse and headed straight to my villa.
As you know, I have always been very insistent that the variety and quality of our food and beverage services should compare with the 5-star resorts not only in the Philippines but everywhere else in the world. It is for this reason that every time I go to Toscana in Italy for my regular visits to my wife Monica, I end up coming home with a planeload of my favorite Italian wines plus all kinds of Italian prosciutto and salami, not to mention the wonderful Italian cheeses. On this last trip, I was fortunate enough to find two 40-kg wheels of Parmigiana cheese. Awesome! One is on display at Toscana and also one at the City Club.
As you know, some two months ago, I made a trip to Chile where my wife Monica was born, and I was amazed by the variety and quality of wines they now produce. Chilean wine has always been excellent, but the variety has expanded exponentially with the arrival of many new vineyards, many of them partners of great French vineyards. And so, in Balesin’s Toscana Village, I have converted one of the restaurants into a Chilean corner (Un Rincon de Chile), where some of the best Chilean wines are served.
Han-Gang Korean Restaurant
Those of you who have been to Balesin recently have also enjoyed our newest restaurant Han-Gang, which is located where the Conference Room was at the Main Floor of the Clubhouse. With authentic Korean dishes and appetizers, Han-Gang is always in demand and has received many kudos for the quality of the food.
Continuing on this culinary tack, Rico’s Hideaway (Rico Sison’s erstwhile home which I confiscated and turned into a lovely restaurant), serves Mongolian barbecue for lunch and a variety of pica picas in the late afternoon for those who want to watch the spectacular sunset there. Despite the fact that we have 75 seats available, they tell me that reservations are now required to ensure yourself a table or a cabana.
Balesin Farmed Crabs – Fantastic!
Our Island CEO, Mike Asperin and I have embarked on another culinary treat for our members and guests. Since the end of last year, Mike has developed a unique aquaculture project on the northernmost part of the island, where he farms crabs, giant prawns, lobsters, and a variety of saltwater fish in tidal saltwater ponds. The next time you explore the island, you may want to go past Mykonos all the way to the tip of the island where the Aquaculture Farm is located to check it out, and then go to Rico’s Hideaway where we now serve the best crabs I have ever tasted in my life. As you know, crabs are scavengers by nature and eat all kinds of “things” and the crabs that you buy from the market are always suspect. Our Balesin crabs are properly farmed and fed normal seafood. After six months, we can now harvest about thirty 1-kilo crabs per day, each of them with the most delightful taste. I have now been here for four days and everyday, I have had crab for either my lunch or dinner and I can’t get enough of it. The prawns and the lobsters are not yet fully grown, but will be available in a few months from now.
Mike has also a new project which is the growing of dragon fruit. Mike tells me it is like cactus and doesn’t need much water but is a very unique and fast growing fruit. He is now planting about a hectare of dragon fruit. I was a bit reluctant in going through with this project but he made me taste this dragon fruit last night and it was quite delicious so I gave him the green light. I wonder how many of you have tried dragon fruit. I had never tried it until last night.
Mike’s newest project together with our Farm Manager, Pipoy Coscolluela, is a Duck Raising Pond to be located at the Picnic Grove area and he says we will be producing both the best balut and penoy in a few months. He is presently sourcing the most suitable variety of duck from around the Philippines but he thinks the best are in Bulacan. Pipoy said we can even produce a variety of duck which is suitable for Peking duck!
Finally, I would like to tell you of a wonderful new surprise. Mark Biddle, our Executive Chef, has a sister who is married to an Italian and they live in Sorrento, Italy. They have been producing a variety of exquisite limoncello, with the beautiful name of Goldendrop. Apparently, the Goldendrop limoncello has won awards not only in Italy, but in many other parts of the world. Fiona, Mark’s sister, was kind enough to send a case to my house in Tuscany and as soon as I tried it, I told Mark to order 10 cases for Balesin. It is excellent! TheGoldendrop limoncello varieties are now on display at Toscana and I think you will be thrilled with this new addition to our after-dinner drinks.
Let me also tell you about the other projects which we have now completed:
First, what I originally envisioned: speedboat garages for members to park their speedboats here on the island. But I have just seen the finished product and it is so well done that I call them speedboat palaces. Members who are interested in keeping their boats here can get in touch with either Mike Asperin or Alex Cenzon for details.
Butandings Are Back!
In this connection, I might mention that since we took over the island almost five years ago now, we have banned dynamite and cyanide fishing; thus, our Aquatic staff told me that there are now several dive spots where the coral has been rehabilitated and is worth exploring. Additionally, the butandings are back. Having sighted them for the first time last summer, we’ve had two sightings already this year, and we expect more sightings in June and July. They have probably been attracted by the purity of the waters around Balesin and the rejuvenated coral beds.
The Pinky Tobiano Aviary
Also operational now is an Aviary, which is in front of the Balesin Chapel. Through the courtesy of our dear member, Pinky Tobiano, who provided the exotic birds and the wonderful koi fish, the Aviary is now fully operational, but is available only on a guided tour basis, because these birds are exotic and are very sensitive to noise and other distractions. I am told that during the past months, nine eggs have already been produced by these exotic birds and are now in the process of being hatched.
Balesin’s Fantastic Flora and Fauna
While I am on this subject, let me also tell you that I have commissioned a coffee table book for Balesin flora and fauna. I was not aware of the true extent of the island’s natural riches and most pleasantly surprised when Mike invited a group of UP Los Baños professors and they identified a great variety of flora and fauna on the island. Also, my friend Ely Teehankee, who is a wonderful photographer, spent a few days on the island and produced spectacular photos of birds—again, many of which I never even knew existed. I am giving them a few months to complete this project and hope to give the coffee table book to our members as our Christmas gift.
Expanding our Manila and Balesin Hangar
I think you would be interested to know that the patronage for members and guests is running double from that of last year’s. As a result, we have had to rethink our hangar and aviation facilities.
We are in the process of refurbishing our Manila hangar so that from the present seating capacity of 75, we will be able to more than double it to 155 seats. We are also expanding the Reception area so that there will be no bottlenecks at the entrance. However, I should also tell you about a rather worrying development. With the extension of the NAIA Expressway, we have been informed by the DPWH that the entire parking area in front of the hangar and lounge will have to be eaten up by the new road. This will present in a few months many issues of concern and we are now trying to deal with them as best as we can but the loss of about three meters on the parking and the driveway will certainly cause a lot of problems. We will have to rethink our luggage transport system and our arrival system at the Manila hangar.
New Airplane Parking Apron at Balesin
Additionally, we have had to expand our Welcome Center and Departure at the Lounge here at Balesin. I authorized this morning the construction of a separate baggage claim area to facilitate baggage handling and retrieval by our members and guests. In addition, I have had an airplane parking apron constructed (1,500 sqm) between the departure area and the fire station which will be completed by next week. When we get the larger planes coming to the island, this will be a welcome addition since we will have two points of embarkation and disembarkation, one in front of the Welcome Center and one beside the apron in between the departure area and the fire station.
Showroom of Alphaland Projects
I should also tell you that the old Sundry Shop at the ground floor of the Clubhouse has been converted into a showroom for Alphaland projects, including the Makati Place Residences, The City Club, and the forthcoming Baguio Mountain Lodges. Those who have visited me this weekend have peppered me with questions on the Baguio Project, but more on this on the next update. (You can still find sundries at the Balesin Souvenir Shop on the same floor.)
Finally, I have some good news! We have decided to allow our Balesin Island Club members who are not City Club members to enjoy the facilities of The City Club on a courtesy basis with no monthly dues. We have also decided to allow our City Club members who are not Balesin members to enjoy the facilities of Balesin, but only on weekdays. The specific rules and details of these will be sent to you within the next week. I should let you know that there has been a long-time clamor for this, but I think that with the increase of members in both Balesin and City Club, we should now allow this as a special privilege for our loyal members.
I need to end now because my secretary is hungry and the beautiful sunny Balesin outside beckons!
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Photos for RVO June 2015 Updates
Jon “Bon Jovi” Joven and friends
Balesin Concert Series features the Ryan Cayabyab Singers
Guests show-off their Karaoke prowess in hopes of bagging the competition’s major prizes
Balesin Music Lounge
Happy members and guests rave during the Balesin Black Light Party
Music Lounge filled up with members and guests
Members and guests dance and unwind at the Balesin Music Lounge
40-kg Parmigiano Cheese
Assorted selection of Italian prosciutto, salami and cheeses
Chilean wines available at Un Rincon De Chile
More Chilean Wines
Han Gang Korean Restaurant
Han-Gang Korean Restaurant, the newest addition to
our line of international cuisine, opened its doors last April 2!
Rico’s Hideaway serves Mongolian barbecue for lunch and a variety of pica picas in the late afternoon
Balesin Farmed Crabs
Fantastic Balesin-grown crabs are now available at Rico’s Hideaway and Fish Fun!
Dragon Fruits soon to be grown in the Balesin fruit farm!
Speedboat Garages now available for members to park their own speedboats on the island!
Butanding Sighting at Lamon Bay
Photos courtesy of member Stefano Marcelo
Chef Mark Biddle’s sister Fiona’s Goldendrop Limoncello is now available at Toscana Village
The Pinky Tobiano Aviary
Aviary, the island’s newest attraction located in front of the Balesin Chapel
Indian Peacock at the Aviary
Blue and Gold Macaw at the Aviary
Scarlet Macaw African Grey Parrot
Balesin’s Fantastic Flora and Fauna
Photos from award-winning Photographer Ely Teehankee
Green Imperial-Pigeon locally known as “Balod”
A nesting Green Imperial Pigeon
White-collared Kingfisher locally known as “Tagkarit”
White-breasted Wood-swallow locally known as “Pagatpat”
Brown Shrike locally known as “Tarat”
Dollar Bird, locally known as “Chuk Chuk”.
Black-naped Oriole; locally known as “Kilyawan”.
Balesin Water Birds
Alphaland Projects Showroom
New Airplane Parking Apron at Balesin