Beautiful Balesin

04/14/2013 | By: Tony Lopez, Manila Times

There is nothing quite like it elsewhere—seven themed villages ensconced and rimming the shorelines of an island nearly five times the size of the Makati Central Business District.

This is the Balesin Island Resort—a 500-hectare, P4-billion development designed to create seven world-class luxury resort and beach destinations in one of Asia’s most exclusive membership clubs on an island 25 minutes by small plane from Manila.

The seven themed villages are patterned after the world’s most popular resorts and/or destinations. These are: Bali, Phuket, Mykonos, St. Tropez, Costa del Sol, Toscana, and our very own, a Balesin village. Each incorporates the look and feel of the famous original resort destinations plus the imprint, refinements and local touches of among the Philippines’ best designers and architects.

Each village is home to about 40 villas on an area of three to four hectares.

Each villa has a beach or a beachfront and overlooks one of two bodies of water—Lamon Bay east of the island and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Phuket Village at the southern tip of Balesin has beaches on both bodies of water. Balesin has 350 hectares of virgin forest. It will not be touched.

Though Balesin might have been a group effort, only one man can be said to have built it—the Harvard-trained management and finance whiz kid Roberto Velayo Ongpin. In 2009, he bought Balesin from the widow of the previous owner—Ed Tordesillas, a former trade and industry undersecretary.

RVO served as managing partner of SGV & Co. for nine years and minister of trade and industry of Ferdinand Marcos for seven years, from 1979 till the strongman’s ouster by People Power in 1986.

Out of government, he established an investment banking firm in Hong Kong where he became the non-executive director of Shangri-La Asia Ltd and deputy vice chairman of the South China Morning Post. In Alphaland Corp., his RVO Capital Ventures Group formed a joint venture with Ashmore Group, a London-based private funds management firm with about $71 billion. RVO’s group became a major stockholder in San Miguel and Petron.

Chaired by Ongpin, Alpha­land has become a boutique property developer of projects notable for their scale, unique approach and focus on high-net worth individuals.

Alphaland has seven major projects. They include the six-story Makati Place Condominium with a members-only City Club for dining, sports, games, relaxation and shopping on a former Boy Scouts property in Malugay, Makati; the 34-story Alphaland Tower on Ayala, the Alphaland Bay City, Alphaland Marina which will be good for 300 boats, the Alphaland Bora­cay Gateway, the Fort Boni Shangri-La, and Balesin.

Balesin is Alphaland’s flagship and Ongpin’s focus and passion. The chairman has moved his offices to the island to personally oversee the project, attending to nitty-gritty details like he were an interior decorator.

Balesin has captured the interest and patronage of Ma­kati’s globe-trotting and polo-playing crowd. So huge is the demand and so rapid has been the development of the resort that the price of membership has tripled in less than two years, from P1 million to the first 100 members, to P3.2 million, with more than 750 enrolled. Ongpin believes Balesin can take in as many as 7,000 members eventually as he goes international.

Each member is entitled to 14 free nights in any of the resort’s 180 villas (rooms) built so far. Each villa costs P4 million to build. Ongpin figures each villa can service 26 members (365 days divided by 14 is 26). Thus, the 180 villas so far are good for 4,700 memberships; 300 villas will be good for at least 7,000 memberships. Alphaland committed to the SEC to build only 150 villas.

Each Balesin share will cost P4 million, by end-2013 and P5 million by 2014 bringing potential revenue for Alphaland to above P30 billion, seven times development cost.

Ongpin disclosed a big luxury auction house with real estate operations is interested in 300 memberships which it intends to sell to the high-end Japanese and Hong Kong markets.

It has taken RVO barely three years to develop Balesin, build and furnish the villas down to the last little touches like vases, jars, carpets, tables, chairs and bric-a-bracs.

Except for decor items handpicked and hand-carried by Bobby Ongpin from his travels abroad, nearly all the furniture and woodworks were handcrafted by a team of Igorot wood­carvers he brought down from the Mountain Province.

The idea of having themed villages came from his travels abroad. He is one of the most extensively traveled Filipinos.

Near the Clubhouse, Spa and Aquatic Sports Center, the Balesin Village has 40 villas which feature the best of Philippine indigenous architecture, craft and design, with a modern twist. Filipino cuisine is exquisite at the Sala.

Balesin has the best beach on the island, with the same white powdery sand of Boracay but with less of the latter’s crowd and pollution.

The Bali Village, overlooking Lamon Bay, embodies the harmony of nature and religion with its tropical landscape settings, generous open spaces, water features and courtyards with wooden decks.

Mykonos, the Greek village, has stunning views of Lamon Bay, just like the original Mykonos.

Phuket is on the southernmost tip of Balesin and is unrivalled with its combined views of Lamon Bay and the Pacific Ocean and the beaches of both bodies of water.

St. Tropez Village epitomizes the look and feel of the Mediterranean resort, with its chic, stupendous cuisine, and impeccable service.

Just 35 kilometers northeast of Mauban, Quezon Province, Balesin is a quick 25-minute plane ride from Manila, yet is a world completely unto itself. Alphaland has a private hangar at the domestic airport with a lounge that puts to shame the VIP lounges of the major airlines.

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