May 18, 2020
To: Balesin Members and Friends
It is Monday, May 18, 2020 as I write this. We are on the 64th day of lockdown and none of us have been spared from its impact.
I hear a lot from our members, mostly about the Balesin seafood delivery service that we started over a month ago. We have two flights a week (on Mondays and Thursdays), to serve your orders. But most of you have asked when Balesin will reopen.
I am very sympathetic to the fact that you have been cooped up in your apartments or homes in Manila for these past two months, and are raring to breathe Balesin’s fresh air and take a dip in the beautiful sea around us. Balesin has remained entirely coronavirus free and we intend to keep it that way.
And so, we have developed a detailed Protocol for all intending visitors to Balesin, a copy of which is attached. I am fully aware that this Protocol is a bit of a bother. But at the end of the day, we should realize that all of us are interested in keeping Balesin COVID-free and we expect that everyone who visits the island will cooperate.
When will Balesin be allowed to reopen? The short answer is: no one knows. You of course all know that Balesin is a very unique situation. We are a members-only island of 500 hectares, sitting 40 kilometers off the Mainland. We have been trying our best to convey this fact to the government authorities but so far, no luck. The province of Quezon has already been declared a GCQ area but NCR is still under Modified ECQ. We believe that we will be allowed to fly our aircraft from NAIA to Balesin and back, once Balesin is allowed to reopen. In the worst case, we could fly from Clark because Central Luzon is now under GCQ.
I have written three letters urging the authorities to grant us permission to open Balesin but so far, no response. I have written the IATF through Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, and Governor Danilo M. Suarez of Quezon. These letters are attached.
Governor Suarez is receptive but he does not yet have the full authority to decide on our reopening. But he assures me he is working on it. You will note that I have asked him to permit us to reopen this coming Friday, May 22. The minute I receive a green light, I will send a text blast to all of you.
In the meantime, we have kept ourselves busy in Balesin with new projects. The leading star of these projects is our Lobster Farm. Each of our menus in the island, especially Fish Fun and Sakura, will have live lobsters as a new feature. The quality of our lobsters is amazing. Grilled lobster is the most popular, but lobster sashimi is also fantastic.
Our vannamei shrimps continue to thrive. For our organic farms, we receive a steady supply of seeds, including many new varieties from my daughter, Anna, who is in San Francisco. I think she is the only person who is locked down in San Francisco, but actually enjoys it. We have taken the opportunity to expand our organic vegetable farms and you will see them when you visit Balesin, more than 5 hectares of new vegetable gardens.
The other new project, which has been welcomed by all, is our Balesin salt beds. As you know, the sea water in Balesin is most pristine and we are able to produce an unusual pure quality of sea salt. We are now experimenting flavoring the sea salt with tarragon, oregano, garlic, pepper and many other ingredients.
We have quadrupled our Duck Farm. We have acquired some 500 new ducklings and the Duck Farm has now been relocated to behind the Sports Center, where the ducks are happier.
We have also added a Native Free-Range Chicken Farm. I think you all know how much more tasty native chicken eggs are as compared to the mass produced poultry eggs.
Finally, we have also added a Turkey Farm and we are expecting our first delivery of turkeys any day now.
We have decided to convert our Souvenir Shop at the departure area of the airport into “Balesin Bounty” shop, where we will sell fresh seafood (lobster, vannamei shrimps, fresh catch of the day fish, vegetables, herbs and various types of flavored salt, condiments, and sauces), so you can go shopping while waiting to board your plane back to Manila. Also, we are organizing it so that you can place an order for delivery to Manila the next day.
The Balesin Bounty Project has been enthusiastically taken on by Luisa Banta, our Concierge, and she is doing a great job.
Now, a word about Typhoon “Ambo.” Fortunately, by the time “Ambo” crossed over Infanta, Real, which is only some 40 kilometers west of us, it had weakened considerably. There was damage in Balesin, but only minor and the repairs are all going to be completed this week. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of our banana trees, but we were able to salvage quite a bit of the ripening fruit, which shall be turned into banana chips, which has now become my favorite dessert.
I have a meeting twice a week with our operating staff here in Balesin. We still maintain over a hundred personnel. We have been diligently cleaning, maintaining, and improving each of the eight villages on the island and when you come to visit, you will see the results. Balesin is like new!
Let us all hope and pray that the powers that be allow us to open our beloved Balesin soon.
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
New Balesin Organic Farms
New Balesin Salt Beds
29-Kilo Sailfish Caught Off Balesin
Twice a Week Management Meetings at the Marquee