"What are you doing Friday--do you want to go to Balesin? There's one more seat on the plane," my friend Joanna texted me. Are you kidding? Of course I want to go to Balesin. The first and last time I was there was as a kid, ten thousand years ago, when it was still owned by the Tordesillas family and only a few people knew about the island.
Balesin is now owned by Alphaland and is being developed into the Balesin Island Club with membership shares for sale. This is a great opportunity for beach-loving non-Philippine residents to own a share of paradise. By current Philippine law, foreigners are not allowed to own property in the Philippines, however membership shares don't fall under the "property" category.
We went to the lounge at Alphaland's private hangar to wait for our flight. I thought that this concept was perfect for foreigners who wanted to vacation in a tropical island. From an international flight, they would transfer to this lounge a couple of kilometers away, and take off for the island, eliminating the hassle of negotiating through Manila or any of the provincial airports.
One of their private planesBalesin Island Club has its own private planes to fly members to and from the island. This particular trip was on a chartered plane because a big group was going (good thing too, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to tag along!) By the way, a "big group" in private club parlance is something like 19 people.
The island is exactly as I remember it-- lush vegetation, white pristine shores
When the club is completed, members will be able to stay in one of six beachside villages: Balesin, Bali, Phuket, the Costa Smeralda, St. Tropez and Mykonos. Each of these villages will be built in the design of those famous destinations.
I suspect that when you're in one of these themed villages, you won't even know you're in the Philippines (except if you're staying at the Balesin Village.) It's quite ambitious, a bit surreal...and very exciting!
The stone for the exterior walls is sourced from the island.
When I was there last October, I saw one of the villas of the Balesin Village--the village that represents the Philippines. The stylized nipa huts are luxurious minimalist one-bedroom units with equally luxurious (but not minimalist) bathrooms. Touches of the Philippines are modern and tastefully subtle -- ikat wall hangings, driftwood lamps, solid narra desk chair.
The view from the villa's front porch. The villas are right on the beach.
Each village will have its own specialty restaurant, serving the "local" food. We had lunch at SALA, the Filipino restaurant of Balesin Village. There will Greek for Mykonos, Italian for Costa Smeralda, French for St. Tropez, Thai for Phuket and so on.
Each of the six villages will have 40 villas--big enough to feel like a cozy community, but small enough to still be private and intimate.
Aside from the villas, there will be a Sports center, an Equestrian center (riding horses on the beach? wow!), a main Pavilion, a spa, and other amenities. I didn't see any "boutique row," which might be nice to have since people are also in shopping mode when they're on vacation and more so when (they think) they're abroad.
From what I gathered from our host Marco Diaz, Sales Director of Balesin Island Club, members will be entitled to 14 complimentary nights a year. Monthly dues are targeted at an affordable P5000 a month, or about us$120. Only a limited number of shares will be available for local residents. Many of the shares have been snapped up by foreign nationals. And why not? Who doesn't want to be a part of a luxurious island lifestyle?
A lot of the vegetation is going to be kept as is even if many smaller trees are being moved around in keeping with the design theme of a particular area. The heritage trees though, like the huge banyans above, are not being touched. It's comforting to see a healthy respect for the environment even with all the development happening in the island.
I hope provincial governments take notice of what a resort airport can look like.
Full-blast construction is currently ongoing. I'd love to see Balesin Island Club when it's fully completed. Can you imagine being in a European beach destination like Mykonos, St. Tropez or the Costa Smeralda in 25 minutes flat? And once on the island, you can cross borders and be back in Asia, enjoying Thai food. Very exciting indeed. Balesin Island Club is six destinations in one, no visas or jetlag required.
Balesin Island Club
9th Floor, Alphaland Southgate Tower,
2258 Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo) corner EDSA,
Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines 1232
T : +632.846.6205
T : +632.998.9521