November 17, 2019
To: Balesin Members and Friends
Rejuvenated Balesin Coral
A few weeks ago, our Balesin friend, Jay Server, who has been helping us operate our sea sports facilities at Balesin, emailed me some photos of the coral around Balesin that he had taken recently, and wow, was I amazed! The coral reef had rejuvenated!
As background, when we bought Balesin Island some 10 years ago, local fishermen had been doing a lot of dynamite and cyanide fishing, which destroyed the coral. We of course put a stop to this once we took over the island, but we have never been able to really brag about the dive spots around Balesin, since there was really nothing much to brag about.
Last year, Dennis Valdes, who is a long-time and serious diver, told me that surprisingly, the coral around Balesin had started to rejuvenate. But it was only when I saw the photos from Jay Server that I literally jumped with joy. Included at the end of this update are some pictures.
I have asked Jay to collaborate with my son Julian to produce a booklet on the rejuvenated coral and marine life, which we will publish and will send to our members, hopefully in time for Christmas.
A few months ago, I asked John Mangoba, an experienced shrimp producer, to take over our shrimp operations, and he has done a wonderful job. He sent some photographs of the shrimps (the vannamei variety, which is originally from Vietnam and which comprises more than half of the current export of shrimps from the Philippines) and the vannamei has grown from 5 mm to some 9 cm In length and almost 4 grams in weight. We have converted two of the old ponds at the Picnic Grove into a vannamei shrimp operation, and I am pleased to let you know that by the time the holidays come around, we shall have around 5 tons of harvestable shrimp.
I asked Mark Biddle, our Executive Chef, to cook for me about a kilo of them a few days ago, and my family (including my granddaughter Lia) pronounced them wonderful. Mark blanched the live shrimps in a mixture of white wine, garlic, rosemary and coriander—and they were really good!
I have now asked Mark to put shrimp aquariums in the Picnic Grove, Fish Fun, and Clubhouse so that we can serve these wonderful live shrimps for our members and guests to enjoy. I have also asked him to acquire Chinese “drunken shrimp” metal pots so that we can also offer the dish in Balesin and later on even at The City Club because we can fly in the live shrimps daily from Balesin to Manila.
The Chinese Village
The Chinese Village, which was acquired by the Shenzhen Yacht Club Group, is now about finished, and the restaurant can actually start to operate within the next few weeks, depending on whether or not they can complete the immigration papers of the Chinese chef. As usual, Rico Sison has done a great job. I think you will agree that he has been able to metamorphose into a Chinese architect. With seating for 150 guests and accessible to Balesin members and guests, the Chinese restaurant will be a most welcome addition.
The Vietnamese restaurant Áo Dài, continues to be very popular with our members and guests, and has actually become the third or fourth most popular restaurant on the island, with guests overflowing on to the Veranda.
At this point, I think I will refrain from adding further specialty restaurants at Balesin. With a total of 28 now operating, I think that is enough. However, my daughter Michelle has been gently nudging me to do a weinstube (German wine bar). She apparently has a German friend who makes wonderful schweinshaxe and eisbein, of course with sauerkraut. I am resisting it so far, but if enough members “vote” for it, how could I continue to resist?
Focus on Weddings
As you know, we completed our Balesin Marquee last June, and it really is impressive. It can hold as many as 600 people for plated dinner service and more than 1,000 with a theater-style setup. It is now being booked for weddings and corporate events, and we will soon be importing international artists to perform there.
With the completion of the Marquee, we have decided to emphasize Balesin as a wedding venue. Heretofore, we have been having only about a dozen or so weddings a year because we had acquired the reputation of being a rather expensive wedding venue. Here is a link to our new wedding brochure: Balesin Wedding Brochure. In the last part of this brochure, you will see where we compare the cost at Balesin (for 100 guests) with the three other most popular wedding locations outside Manila, i.e., Boracay, Cebu, and El Nido in Palawan. In our case, particularly when you consider the cost of round-trip airfare, Balesin is really less expensive by between Php 1 or 2 million than these three other popular venues. Attached are the last 3 pages of the wedding brochure. Please read them so I can prove my point.
Balesin is an unbeatable venue in terms of the beauty of the island and the highest-standard food & beverage. Moreover, we also decided to include, free of charge, the following: use of The Balesin Marquee, 2 nights at either the Royal Villa or any of the Regency Villas, complimentary use of all facilities on the island, and 12 nights at The Alpha Suites in Makati (an all-suite hotel that we opened a bit over a year ago and which we are proud to report has been rated No. 1 in Metro Manila by TripAdvisor for 5 months running), as part of the package.
A Royal Carriage
Another perk that adds to the sparkle of Balesin weddings will be a gold-etched, air-conditioned, horse-drawn royal carriage. I have included a photograph. We have just ordered this from China and we hope it will be here in January. Thus, if the wedding is at The Balesin Royal Villa, the bride and groom will be taken to and from The Balesin Marquee or one of the villages for their wedding ceremony in this horse-drawn carriage, much like what happens at the British royal weddings. See pictures attached.
In anticipation of the start of our Balesin International Gateway project (B.I.G.) in Patnanungan, 21 nautical miles from Balesin, we have acquired a 12-meter Rigid Inflatable Boat (R.I.B.), which I have named after my granddaughter Lia. Lia can take 15 passengers and can cruise at 30 knots, with a maximum speed of 50 knots, enabling her to traverse the water to Patnanungan in half an hour. When the seas are calm, Lia travels extremely smoothly and you can hardly feel any bump. While Lia will be dedicated to our Patnanungan project, we are thinking of acquiring another R.I.B. for the use of our members and guests for cruises around Balesin.
As you might know, the M/Y Obsessions, our 38.5-meter Heesen aluminum-hulled yacht, has been in drydock for the last couple of months, and is now ready to return to Balesin to resume its chartered cruises around the island. The Obsessions should be back in service in Balesin within the next two weeks.
I am also pleased to announce that we have just been awarded a 1,400 sqm lot at Sangley Point airport. As you may know, the government has announced that they would like all non-commercial aircraft to use Sangley Point instead of NAIA. Of course, for this, we would need a hangar and a passenger lounge. After trying for a year to lease space there, have just succeeded last week. The hangar we will build is about the size of the existing hangar in NAIA, so when the government finally orders the move to Sangley, we will be ready.
How to get there? We are told that there will be a road that will connect D.M.Macapagal Avenue directly to Sangley Point on reclaimed land, only 4 kms away. In the meantime, we intend to have more R.I.B.s so that we can pick up our members and guests from the pier in Mall of Asia and whisk them to Sangley Point in about 10 minutes. Aviation is the “jugular vein” of Balesin, and we have always given it the utmost priority and will continue to do so.
Speaking of aviation, as I hope you know, we have decided to continue our Amazing Airfare promotion for another 3 months or until January 2020. This airfare deal allows members and their immediate families to pay only Php2,000 per person for round-trip plus VAT. For guests, the fare is Php5,000 round-trip per person plus VAT. This airfare deal has been so successful that we doubled our visitors to Balesin in October as compared to last year.
Balesin Corporate Memberships
I am also pleased to announce that we are now offering Corporate memberships for Balesin Island Club. Heretofore, we had focused only on individual memberships so we had Gold, Diamond, and Platinum memberships, but no Corporate membership. No longer. At the end of this update is a summary of the Corporate membership details, which as you can readily see, is a great deal for corporations. If interested, you can just fill in the blanks and email the application form back to us.
We created our first video about Balesin Island Club almost five years ago now. In that period, we have completed many more projects, so we decided to update the video. We have just finished it, thanks to the help of our faithful member, Marty Ilagan, and his team. When I travel around the world, I always have a copy of this video with me to show to my friends, and only then can they appreciate how Balesin Island Club is truly unique in the world. Here is the video link: https://vimeo.com/199130900
Finally, I want to tell you a bit about our Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges project. We have now completed the first two quadruplex buildings—four 3-bedroom units in one quadruplex, and the other with four 2-bedroom units. The units are surprisingly very spacious and totally soundproof, and are excellent value for money, priced at about half of the single-family units.
We have announced a price increase beginning January 2020 for all lodge units—here is an updated brochure: Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges 2019.
As a parting word, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Rejuvenated Balesin Coral
Vannamei Shrimp Nursery
Vannamei Shrimp Pond 1
The Chinese Villa nearing completion
Áo Dài Vietnamese Restaurant
The Royal Carriage
Rigid Inflatable Boat Lia
Lia trying to grab champagne bottle from father, Frank Callaghan