SEPTEMBER 12, 2021
Dear Balesin Members and Friends
Today is Sunday, and it is another quiet time in Balesin. We have been locked down now for almost a month and a half. All of our staff in Balesin are hoping and praying that the September 16 date is not postponed again.
Two typhoons threatened Balesin last week, but fortunately they spared the island. First, Typhoon “Jolina” looked like it was heading straight for us but veered west, and then for a few hours, looked like it was heading for Baguio. But then it moved westward again. Typhoon “Kiko” was almost a super typhoon, but curved northward early on and we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. We had begun our usual typhoon precautions with sand bags, nets, and our routine of removing the fan blades from all exposed electric fans.
Our super yacht, M/Y Obsessions, had just returned from two months of being dry-docked in Cebu, and we had to dispatch it to Real for shelter from the typhoons. But it is back now, looking almost brand-new. Under the careful supervision of my nephew Apa Ongpin, Colorado Shipyard in Cebu did a fine job and when we reopen, Obsessions will be available again to our members and guests.
Good News At long last, our Moderna vaccine, which we ordered some months ago, has finally arrived and all our Balesin (and Manila-based) staff who have not been previously vaccinated through their LGUs, will be vaccinated this week. We have ordered 10,000 doses (but only 400 have arrived so far) in order to provide for not only our staff and their families, but also our members who may wish to avail of it. We shall keep you informed of future deliveries so our members and their families can sign up for it.
The cost of these Moderna vaccines is US$27 per dose, but we have been told that 30% will have to be donated to government. So, we do not yet have the final cost. We will provide them at cost to our members. They are provided at no cost to our staff and their families.
Julian’s Oyster Bar
My design partner, Rico Sison, was here this weekend and as usual, it was a delight exchanging ideas with him.
Rico has just finished Julian’s Oyster Bar, which has put new life into the second floor of Rico’s Hideaway. As some of you may recall, Rico lived there for several years when we started building Balesin, some 10 years ago. The Oyster Bar was my son Julian’s idea and I left it to him to work on it with Rico and our F&B head, David Chua. It has a long “tablon” counter where one sits on bar chairs to enjoy the oysters while looking out toward the setting sun.
David has found an excellent oyster supplier from Aklan and I must say that the oysters are superior to the ones that I love in the South of France. Yesterday, I had an “Oyster Sampler” which consisted of 6 oysters “au naturel,” 3 Rockefeller (baked with cream, spinach and cheese) and finally, Kilpatrick (cooked with bacon bits and Worcestershire sauce). The sampler comes with a little oyster shooter (Julian’s creation). It was delicious! I think you will like this latest Balesin Sunset venue. It will operate as soon as we are allowed to reopen.
Rico and I also designed “Shrimp Sarap” at the Picnic Grove. It will feature harvesting your own shrimp from the adjacent shrimp ponds, handing them to the chefs who will prepare them for you in five or more ways including kilawin, drunken shrimp, shrimp boil, peeled shrimp with aioli, gambas, or even your own recipe! All you can eat!
Our vannamei shrimp is truly delicious. We grow them in four ponds at the Picnic Grove, and they thrive in our clean, ever-flowing sea water. Today, we have some 8,000 kilos of shrimp of various sizes, growing happily until we can eat them! Our Balesin vannamei shrimp is becoming everyone’s favorite.
Alpha Beach Club
The most exciting product of our brainstorming this weekend is the Alpha Beach Club (ABC), which we will build on the tip of our 750-hectare property on Patnanungan Island, only 21 nautical miles north of Balesin. ABC will be our first project on Patnanungan Island, which we christened Balesin International Gateway (BIG).
It will be a day trip from Balesin. We will build a Clubhouse with a large swimming pool and other features right by the beach. We will not build villas for now, because the idea is that ABC will initially be a day trip from Balesin. Lunch will feature “catch of the day” seafood specialties supplied by Patnanungan’s many fishermen. Patnanungan’s waters abound with grouper, lobster, crab, danggit, and many other seafood delights.
We shall offer three ways of getting there: First, by our helicopter, which is just a 7-minute flight from Balesin; second, on our 20-passenger fast craft “Lia,” which can do up to 50 knots, and can make Patnanungan in just 45 minutes; and third, our super yacht “Obsessions,” which will take you in luxurious comfort to ABC in 2 hours. ABC will be a delightful introduction to BIG, easily accessible from the comfort of your villa in Balesin.
Upgraded Globe Telecom System
I am also pleased to let you know that, with full support from my friend and member, Globe Telecom CEO, Ernest Cu, we completed a major upgrade of our communications system on Balesin. They have actually put up 29 additional telephone posts around the island and so we now have faster and more stable mobile phone and internet connectivity. I was quite surprised when they told me that Balesin now operates on 5G!
It saddens me to report to you that our Chinese Chef in Tang Palace, Ah Keng, suffered a stroke last week and we had to transport him at midnight via our MEDEVAC system to Manila. I am glad that he is now in stable condition, but the doctors do not know yet whether he will be able to fully function again. For the few months that he was the Head Chef at Tang Palace, we got many rave notices from even our most discerning members.
MEDEVAC at Balesin
You may not know that we operate a fully functional MEDEVAC system in Balesin. This is the third case in which we have had to evacuate members, guests or staff who have a health issue while on the island. We always have one of our Cessna aircraft and pilots on the island overnight. And in case of a medical emergency, we have at least one doctor and several nurses 24/7 on the island.
In the last few months, we have greatly upgraded our desalination facility. As you know, Balesin has no fresh groundwater and no matter how deep you dig, you just get brackish water. When we started building Balesin, and before our rainwater storage system was completed, we actually built three small desalination plants, each producing about 50 cubic meters of fresh water every day.
Today, our rainwater storage capacity is 130,000 cubic meters. Balesin’s daily consumption of water averages 150 cubic meters, so that without a drop of rain for almost two years, Balesin will not run out of water. Beginning in October, our new desalination system will produce 500 cubic meters a day, or more than three times our daily consumption.
When I returned from Italy a few weeks ago, I brought with me 53 boxes (about a thousand kilos) of Italian prosciutto, salumi, cheese, and wine, which made our Toscana Village Manager, Rico Landicho, very happy. He had been pestering me to replenish his supply of Italian goodies, but the pandemic prevented me from going to Italy for a year and a half.
In closing, I will tell you that my granddaughter, Lia, will be three years old in a few weeks. As everyone knows, she is my favourite granddaughter, because she is the only one, so far! Everyday, she tours the entire island (even when it is raining) and surveys her domain! We had a little family “debate” a couple of weeks ago when I jokingly told Julian that I would call his Oyster Bar, “Lia’s Oyster Bar.” Of course, Julian prevailed. “Lia’s Oyster Bar” didn’t sound quite right!
Keep safe and well, all of you!