December 5, 2020
To: Balesin Members and Friends
Today marks three weeks after typhoon “Ulysses” battered Balesin. Since then, on a 24-hour basis, all hands on Balesin have been tirelessly working to restore the island to its pre-typhoon beauty. We have “imported” workers from the Alphaland Makati Place and from Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges, hired additional skilled workers from Quezon Province and Manila, totaling over 100 in all. When added to the usual workers on the island, some 550 workers have been working diligently every day during these past three weeks.
Of the total of 364 villas in Balesin, some 200 were damaged by the typhoon, in various degrees. I am happy to report that many of these have been repaired and as of today, 292 villas are operational. We expect to finish them all before the Christmas holidays.
A few repairs have not yet been done because some of the materials need to be imported or otherwise have a long lead time. In addition to our sea craft, we have actually been utilizing our ATRs and Cessna’s to fly cargo to Balesin, in order to speed up the repairs.
I am also pleased to report that most of the leaves on the trees on Balesin have now returned. There is shade again at the Banyan Tree Park. Today, you will still see some evidence of the typhoon damage as you go around the island, but if you visit during the Christmas holidays, I hope that it will all be gone.
We carted over 350 truckloads of typhoon debris from all over the island, but a few scars remain. Balesin Village, Bali (except the two Water Villas), Costa del Sol, Toscana and Phuket, have all been totally repaired and are fully operational.
The Balesin Royal Villa was badly damaged, but it has now been fully restored. In fact, there is a wedding party at the Royal Villa as I write this.
The Balesin Marquee, the events venue (which seats 1,000), and was constructed using the polypropylene fabric which was imported from Germany, was almost a total wreck. But I am pleased to inform you that the fabric has been air-shipped from Germany, and has arrived in Manila. A total of 12 workers from our supplier will come to the island on Monday, and our supplier has promised to finish work in one week. Thus, I am keeping my fingers crossed, that many of the artists who will perform during the holidays can again use the Marquee and I am confident that it will be ready for the New Year’s Eve countdown.
We have a star-studded group of artists performing almost daily over the holidays.
Now, I turn to a more pleasant topic. The Bierstube in the Clubhouse, another masterpiece by Rico Sison, is now complete. I enclose some photographs. It is amazingly authentic and “gemϋtlich.“ My daughter Michelle has brought back much of the décor from Salzburg, Austria, including dirndls and lederhosen. We opened the Bierstube for viewing today, and will have a soft opening on Friday, December 11. The formal opening will be on Saturday, December 19.
We have been fortunate to find two Bavarians who have been helping us create the Bierstube. Andreas Maluche, of Currywurst Meister fame, is supplying and supervising authentic Bavarian dishes. I had lunch there yesterday, and the food was superb!
The other Bavarian is Alois Brielbeck, who is the supplier of the premium beer from Bavaria. I am not a beer drinker, but I sampled the beer yesterday and I must say, it was really good. Alois also supplied us with authentic beer dispensers, beer mugs and glasses, and Bavarian flags featuring King Ludwig.
Andreas has also recommended a Bavarian accordion player who plays at the German Club. I have not yet met him, but he will be here next week. I really look forward to having live Bavarian music at the Bierstube!
The members and guests on the island have continued to stream in. Today, we have 350 pax in all. Tomorrow, we will have 480 pax. After that, we will have a continuing flow of visitors to the island, culminating on December 26 and 27, with almost a thousand pax.
We have 70% more guests this year, compared to last year! Many really want to escape the lockdown in the city and enjoy COVID-free Balesin. We have “imported” about 25 chefs, waiters and bartenders from The City Club, and also some 20 housekeeping staff from The Alpha Suites in Makati.
I look forward, with much anticipation, to welcoming you all to our beloved Balesin these coming holidays. I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN