To: Balesin Members and Friends
The month of May has been the busiest month we have ever had in Balesin. It is not yet quite the end of the month as I write this update, but we already have had more than 3,500 members and guests enjoying the beautiful weather in Balesin. On one weekend, we had over 500 members and guests on the island. This has, of course, put a strain on our resources, but we still had a lot of happy and smiling faces. There were of course the occasional hiccups, but no major mishaps. I might mention that I don’t know of any resort, private club, or hotel operation anywhere in the world that does not have a hiccup occasionally.
As you know, we have beefed up our aviation resources by the addition of a 31-seater Dornier 328. This has increased our daily transport capacity to as much as 300; of course, weather permitting. The weather during May has been very cooperative. But there is always the inevitable wait at the NAIA for our planes to be able to have their take-off slot and on some occasions, the wait at the runway of our aircraft has reached as much as an hour. But it is of course beyond our control. And on very busy days, we have had to set earlier departure times in order to accommodate all of our members and guests. As I write this, we are examining the feasibility of acquiring additional and larger aircraft to accommodate the ever increasing number of members and guests visiting the island.
We also continue to exert our efforts in getting a CIQ (Customs Immigration Quarantine) Permit to allow us to fly directly to the island from Hong Kong, Singapore, and other destinations. This is however a protracted process, but we hope that by the end of this year or early next year, we will have this in place. When we have the CIQ permit, we would then be able to have scheduled flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and other destinations fly directly to the island, bypassing the congestion at NAIA. Our fully concreted airstrip is 1,530 meters long and can handle commercial jet flights (Caticlan airport in Boracay is only 900 meters).
I think that many of you would have noticed the improvement in our reservations system since Debbie Ledesma came on board from Philippine Airlines. As in any reservation system, there will always be some kinks, but many improvements have been made. We are now automated (but not fully as of yet) on our check-in and check-out systems, but I know that there is much more room for improvement and I can assure you that we will continue working on it.
Transportation Facilities at Balesin
Our transport system within the island has also improved with the addition of some 30 bicycles which our members and guests enjoy using not only for exercise, but to make their way from village to village. We are also installing dynamo lights on our bikes so that they can be used at night. Today, I authorized the acquisition of another 20 bikes, having observed that over the last weekend, all of our existing 40 bikes were being used by our members. Thus, within a week’s time, we should have a total of 60 bikes in operation.
We are also in the process of acquiring additional electric powered “tuk tuk” type vehicles that can carry six passengers and travel twice as fast as our golf carts. The most interesting development is a proposal we have received which we are presently studying, to provide an electric tram system that can carry up to 60 passengers for the daily tours that we conduct for newcomers to the island.
Costa del Sol Inaugurated
This last weekend was an extremely busy one as we inaugurated the sala dining facilities of Costa del Sol. We had over 100 reservations the first evening which spilled over to the following day (Sunday). Filipinos have always loved Spanish food and I can sincerely vouch for the high quality of our tapas, our paella, and our cochinillo. We have five dining facilities at the Costa del Sol Sala and we are adding more chefs trained in Spanish cuisine. While the quality of our food is excellent, our Interior Designer, Monica Olbes, who grew up in Spain, keeps finding and correcting spelling and accent errors in our Spanish menú!
Having finished the Costa del Sol Sala, we are now hard at work to complete the 48 suites and villas in the six other buildings that comprise the Costa del Sol Village. By the beginning of July, we will be opening each building sequentially and by the end of July, we will have 48 additional villas available for occupancy.
Those of you who have visited Costa del Sol, with its two swimming pools (one fresh and one saltwater), have marvelled at the beauty of the suites, which is in true Spanish classical style. In fact, Rico Sison has outdone himself in designing the villas and suites at Costa del Sol, even surpassing, in my opinion, the world-famous Marbella Club, the most renowned Costa del Sol resort in Spain.
Mykonos Beach Villas
Now that the summer holidays are over, and we expect less visitors to the island as the children and families of members go back to school, we will be resuming work on the Mykonos Beach Villas since they are almost half-finished at this point. We expect the Mykonos Beach Villas to be available for occupancy by September, adding an additional 32 villas to Mykonos, with its own indoor/outdoor pool. We have found that many of our members and guests prefer to stay at the Mykonos Village not only because of the authentic Greek food, but also because of the unique Greek-style villas.
We then will focus on Toscana, which has the most complicated architectural style requiring a lot of very detailed and intricate design in order to truly capture the Tuscan ambiance. Unfortunately, cypress trees do not grow in the tropical climate, but they will be the only thing missing when we open Toscana Village in November. We apparently have quite a few of our members, who, having been to Tuscany and having enjoyed not only the cuisine but the scenery as well, are looking very much forward to the opening of Toscana. It is a bit difficult to recreate the Tuscan countryside at Balesin but we will do our best to approximate the ambiance of the seaside towns of Tuscany.
300 Villas by November
Before the holiday season begins by the end of this year, we will have some 300 villas and suites in operation. I should point out that this is double the number of villas we originally promised our members. I should also mention that despite the huge crowds that we have been having during the month of May, we have never had to turn down reservations because we were short of villas. Obviously, we could not accommodate everyone in the village of their first choice, but there were another 20 to 30 villas that were always available.
St. Tropez, which has 52 suites and hotel-type accommodations, has become a favorite and we have decided to add two new restaurants: L’Escale and Le Neptune which will increase the seating capacity of our restaurants in St. Tropez to 75. We are continuously reviewing the quality of our French food and are now very close to replicating the many French bistros in the real St. Tropez.
Many of our members who are wine lovers will also be pleased to know that we are now finalizing negotiations with a major wine distributor for our own wine cave at the Ground Floor of the Clubhouse on the opposite side of Joanna’s. With its temperature controlled facilities, we have selected wines from not only France but also California, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa which by reason of our large consumption, we shall be able to sell at very reasonable prices to our members and guests, both for consumption at the island and possibly for delivery in Manila. We are in the final stages of negotiations and I hope you will be pleased with our wine selection and the very reasonable price tags on them.
In about another two weeks, we shall be completing our Conference Center, with four conference rooms accommodating 30 persons each. Having movable partitions, we can actually accommodate 150 persons in a classroom style configuration. We have noted that more and more corporations are beginning to be interested in having “bonding” and executive conference sessions. Our existing conference room is no longer adequate to accommodate the demand for such facilities; thus, a new Conference Center has been built on the Ground Floor of the Main Clubhouse. For those interested in utilizing the Conference Center facilities together with villa accommodations, please contact Joanna Duarte for details.
New General Manager
I would also like to inform you that we have a new General Manager at Balesin who will be arriving next week. He is Rene Verhulst, a Dutch national who has been living in Asia for many years, and has managed several major resort operations in Asia, including the Macau Golf & Country Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Saigon Town & Country Club, and Hollandse Club in Singapore. Unfortunately, Gerhard Kropp, who has been functioning as Interim General Manager is unable to spend full time on the island and he will probably be with us on a consulting capacity for Alphaland Corporation and its many projects, based in Manila.
New Executive Chef at Balesin
We also have added an Executive Chef devoted solely to Balesin. He is an Australian national, Mark Biddle, who has had an extensive experience as an executive chef in many hotels around the world, including the Dorchester Hotel in London. Food is clearly one of the main attractions of Balesin Island Club and very rarely do we have anyone who doesn’t love our many different styles of cuisine. Great food will always be the hallmark of Balesin Island Club.
I am writing this earlier than the end of the month as I regrettably expect to leave for Europe again by early June. As usual, I will miss my beloved Balesin!
The Merry Month of May at Balesin
Bienvenidos a Costa del Sol
The Casa Grande at Costa del Sol
Entrance to the Sala Grande
Reception at Costa del Sol
Reception Area at the Sala
Vista del Mar Comedor
Vista de la Playa Comedor
Terraza Bar at Costa del Sol
The Tapas Bar
Marbella Club Comedor
Puerto Banús Comedor
(great for intimate gatherings)
Fresh Water Pool
Salt Water Pool
Vargas Family Amazing Race
Vargas Blue Team
Vargas Green Team
Vargas Red Team
Yoga by the beach with Bri Manglapus
Enjoying Ouzo at Mykonos
Horseback riding at sunset
Sunset Cruise on Alpha One
Enjoying the beach
DJ Cristina at Phuket