August 19, 2019
To: Balesin Members and Friends
Dear Members and Friends:
Yesterday, I received a text from one of our members who deplored that I had not written my “update” for several months now. I replied “Mea culpa,” but I was really swamped with work the last few months. In an effort to make amends, here goes my update for August.
I must start off with Adrian Zecha. As you may know, Adrian created the iconic Aman resorts, starting with the Amanpuri in Phuket, closely followed by the Amandari in Bali. In all, Adrian was the creator and indeed the soul of some 35 Aman resorts all over the world. A few years ago, he sold Aman to a Russian oligarch named Vlad (I don’t remember his last name), and started to create a new chain which he christened Azerai. There are now 2 Azerais operating and 4 more are under construction.
In 1990, while I was building Tagaytay Highlands, I invited Adrian to do an Aman in Tagaytay Highlands. But at that time, Adrian had almost a religious conviction that the Amans could not exceed 40 suites, and since I needed to build a lot more (we had a hundred hectares at that time), we never made a deal.
Adrian, who is not an architect is in fact a journalist. He was head of Time Magazine for Asia for many years in the 1960s. Adrian is a person I have always admired because of his inimitable touch with the Amans and has truly been an inspiration for me.
I had the pleasure of hosting Adrian and his business partner, Robert Murdoch (no relation to Rupert) in Balesin last weekend, and am delighted to tell you that he was totally impressed with Balesin. Rico Sison, my partner in design, toured Adrian around the island, and was beaming from ear-to-ear when Adrian told him what a great job he had done.
You may be wondering why I am so effusive about Adrian Zecha. He actually is one of the most iconic hoteliers of our time and created the new concept of Lifestyle Hotels. For more on Adrian Zecha, I suggest you Google him.
The Balesin Marquee
The Balesin Marquee, our new events facility, is now complete and is really magnificent. It has a capacity for over 600 at a sit-down dinner and a theater seating capacity of 1,000. The next time you are in Balesin, do come and see it and be justifiably impressed!
The Chinese Restaurant
The Apsaras Chinese Restaurant is coming along nicely, and should be ready for business by October. Part of our deal with Apsaras is that they will bring a Cantonese chef from Hong Kong, and their restaurant, with a seating capacity of 150, should be available to Balesin members.
I am pleased to announce that we have decided to have a Vietnamese restaurant in Balesin. It will be located at the back half of the wine cellar at the Clubhouse, adjacent to Sakura restaurant. We are fortunate to have the Le family from Vietnam, who will manage the restaurant. They now operate a very authentic Vietnamese restaurant at Alphaland Makati Place. Vietnamese food has been a favorite of mine since I used to regularly visit Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the early 1970s where we had an SGV Office.
We have also decided to do a major expansion and renovation of our aquaculture farms. To date, we have only crabs and sea bass, but we will soon be expanding to include vannamei shrimp, lobster, pompano, bangus, grouper, and other varieties of fish and shellfish. Marlon Lacuata has recently joined us after 8 years in a major aquaculture operation in Saudi Arabia. After seeing the beautiful seawater at Balesin, he thinks aquaculture production will be a cinch as compared to Saudi Arabia. Our first harvest of shrimp should be available at Christmas time.
When I visited Jin Jiang City in China’s Fujian province in March, a visit which was organized by my friends Ricardo Brito, Jerry Tan, and Marcelo Sy, I saw a magnificent granite elephant at the entrance of a seaside restaurant which we visited. Granite is actually indigenous to Fujian province, and the trading ships of centuries ago used to carry granite as ballast (we call it Piedra China). Ricardo Brito, the owner of Unitop, was gracious enough to send me a pair of these impressive granite elephants, each of which is about a meter and a half tall and weighs 2 tons. I have decided to put them on the lawn in front of the Clubhouse.
Governor Danny Suarez
We had a visit from an old friend, former Congressman and now Governor Danny Suarez of Quezon. This was not his first visit to Balesin, but he was amazed at the additional construction at Balesin, particularly the Regency Villas. He and his family stayed at the 20-bedroom Regency Villa and very much enjoyed it.
Danny had a few suggestions, all of which I think we will implement.
He suggested a special menu for the Balesin Clubhouse Veranda consisting of culinary delicacies from Quezon province. Chef Tisoy and his assistants have now been practicing cooking these special dishes. I served them at lunch for Danny at The City Club a few days ago. He pronounced them “excellent.” The specialty menu is now available at the Balesin Clubhouse Veranda.
Danny also owns a large farm near Lucena where he grows not only seafood but deer and guinea fowl as well. He has offered to teach our staff how to raise deer and guinea fowl and Mike Asperin has located the area where we will do it near the Horse Stables. I have also asked Mark Biddle to start devising new dishes for venison and guinea fowl and in a few months, they will be in our menus at Balesin.
That’s all for now folks. I’ve got to get back to work!
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
L-R: Rico Sison, Adrian Zecha, Chef George with cochinillo, RVO, Robert Murdoch, Julian Ongpin
Adrian and RVO
The Balesin Marquee
Inside the Balesin Marquee
Chinese Restaurant – Apsaras
Apsaras Main Salon
Vietnamese Restaurant Partial Menu
Vannamei shrimp pond
The granite elephants in front of the Clubhouse
One of ten deer just arrived
The Guinea fowl grazing away
Specialties of Quezon Province
Governor Danny Suarez