It was a very stormy weekend getaway to the enclave of the rich and famous, yet the experience and the place was simply fantastic for gusty winds and rain to dampen. And to think that I was initially skeptical of my inclusion in my client’s invited guests list. The confirmation, in fact, came just a week prior. Well, even my client was also a guest of a guest of the real member! Haha! That is how exclusive this place is that those who wanted to enjoy it will just have to exhaust all “connections” just to be invited; how much more for an ordinary “Juan dela Cruz” like me! This is the reason why I really did not take it seriously, even a bit uninterested. Add the Pope visit travel ban to the picture and you will get why I really did not give a damn!
So fate would have it that this island paradise and I will meet. I love the beach, that is a given, but add seven themed villas reflecting the best beach destinations around the world to choose from and that is just heavenly. Not only that, sumptuous cuisine of the countries where these beaches can be found are served in the individual restaurants, called “sala”, found in each of them. It was unarguably love at first sight, and taste!
Welcome to Bali!
Touchdown Balesin Island after a matter of 20 minutes chartered plane ride from one of the private hangars in NAIA, faster than waiting in an MRT passenger line. The Bali Themed Villa was the first one offered to us. It reflects the Indonesian cottage-like circular houses “inspired by the Salakot, an Asian farmer’s hat” according to the brochure, with wood and earth-toned interiors, artifacts, and many bath fixtures like Jacuzzis and outdoor showers. Around the cottage is a very cozy and private veranda surrounded by plants and garden. There is like a princess bed in one side and a lounging area in another. The mood inside is romantic, with the dim lighting and dark furniture. A long working table opposite the headboard makes combining business with pleasure a smooth as silk. The place is secluded, good for those not really in here for socializing.
Despite this very authentic and unique set-up, the family of my client does not like the place because of the isolation of the villas from each other. Asian themed ones are built this way, cottage-like and isolated; while European-themed ones facing the Pacific are like duplexes and apparteles. We came in three groups and we wanted at least a shared or tangent front porch if that is available. The signature romantic seclusion of Bali is just not the right ambience for this kind of group. So they asked to be transferred.
Scouting a bit for the villa that appealed to them, they decided for Mykonos, a Greek-themed white and blue cement structures at the Pacific beachfront. Since the place is mostly white and constructed side-by-side the usual beach resort way, it is in total contrast to the dark and isolated Bali. With its open-aired second floor complete with lounge areas in addition to the ones in the front porch, and Jacuzzi, this is suited for large families and group of friends wanting to make noises together.
A storm was ranging the morning we woke up from Mykonus. The sand blasting our exposed skin and the gusty wind dissuaded us from going out. We received an advisory that all those located in this area will be relocated to those more storm protected ones. So after breakfast, on we all were to our third themed villa just overnight!
Ola Costa del Sol!
Lo and behold, I found my theme! I was so in love with Spanish-inspired Costa del Sol villa that I immediately decided I wanted my house in this design! The color palette was terracotta and the interiors were dark brown furniture against off-white and terracotta walls. But it was the view of the splashing Pacific waves as they hit the big rocks right before my eyes that enamored me. The place resonates an upper class property vibe along the Pacific coast. Two relatively long pools – a fresh and a salt water – fronting the sala serving sumptuous buffet of Spanish cuisine to the “harana” of a trio. By the way, aside from food, there is also a videoke room called Alhambra, a Moroccan-themed room for after dinner cocktail drinking and singing. If singing is not your thing, below is a bar complete with bombastic lights and sounds.
The Royal Balesin Villa
On our way to Costa del Sol, we passed by this yet-to-be-completed majestic palatial place of Asian-inspired design in white color and pointed decorative eaves, the Balesin Royal Villa. True to its name, it was way bigger and imposing than the rest, a fitting locale for a Royal clan. Rumors have it that this will be the setting of Heart Evangelista and Chiz Escudero’s wedding in February. With a total number of 14 rooms and lots of lounges, activity, videoke, bar, office, conference rooms inside, it can well accommodate and entertain a good number of their guests. The spacious terrazzo and the luxurious pool area are equipped with the best view of the sea and the sun. All the amenities of the island can be totally enjoyed and experienced inside this palatial structure. All of these luxuries can be yours for P250, 000.00 a night!
Sun Bathing in St. Tropez and Diving in Balesin
Our pictorial brought us to two contrastingly themed villas, the Saint Tropez and the Balesin. Reflecting its European namesake, Saint Tropez is a tenement-style villas in a colorful and sunshiny design concept, a French Riviera vibe obviously. Built for sun worship, the courtyard is transfixed with a large pool and many sunbathing lounging chairs for tanning Europeans. The Balesin on the other hand is the centerpiece villa being the namesake of the island. Reflecting Filipino architecture and cuisine, this area is adjacent the most beautiful beach in the entire island, if not the country. The off-white sand pervades a good stretch the eyes can see towards the beach and the horizon. Many aquatic activities aside from swimming in the ocean and in the abundant pool and Jacuzzi areas can be enjoyed including jet skiing, snorkeling, diving, and even fishing in the water cottage a good distance from the shore, among others. In fact, the lighted bridge that connects this fishing cottage to the shore became one of our fave pictorial sites with the pastel sky and golden sunset as our background. Fabulous!
Saint Tropez Sun Worship Areas
The Balesin Villa and Beach Front
I Ran Half the Island!
We had almost wasted three days after we were limited to inside our villas while the storm “Amang” was raging. However, by the fourth day, Monday, the weather made a 180 degree turn to reveal the grandeur of the island. Upon waking up to the kiss of the energizing morning sun and while the rest were still in deep slumber, I took off for an hour run to wherever extent my legs carry me to. By the way, the island is best explored through pedaling the mountain bike across this 500-hectares tropical island paradise belonging to the Polilio Group some four hours of “banka” (a local motorized passenger boat) ride deep into the Pacific Ocean from the Quezon Province. The bike is right in front of the Balesin Sala. Or, like me, by running.
I was brought by my feet to the adjacent villas of Balesin where I discovered how pristine and expansive its beachfront was comparatively and where many water activities can be had like snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and surfing. I went to San Tropez, the next villa, and saw how the European villas where built reflecting the architecture of their famous international tourist destinations namesakes tenement style with wide sun worship areas by the pool. And the Phuket Villas at the other side passing through a canopy of tall trees and thick forest shrubs making the entrance look like you are in a lost city by the Amazon rainforest. I did not enter since it looked secluded and dark early in the morning that imagining a snake crossing your path is not remote. But this is just my imagination being perked by the excitement of this adventure.
Taking snapshots of some greeneries while running one sunshiny morning.
Every Nook and Cranny of the Island
The great thing with exploring the island on foot or by bike, if you have the aerobic capacity, is being able to comb its every nook of forested and developed activity, living and dining areas thoroughly without relying on the guides or drivers nor waiting or hurrying up for other passengers. On foot, I passed through diverse activity nooks that can be availed aside from the usual water related activities like the archery range, the indoor sports center, and the soccer field. Along the way too were the farms where you can personally pick fresh fruits and vegetables if you prefer to or just for the experience of it and the stables where I saw the equestrian breed horses that were retired from active racing and now utilized for horseback riding pleasures for the first time and they were tall! Another mode of individual transport by the way is the Segway. However, with only two in circulation and with charging time to boot, you have to schedule your utilization ahead of time and not on whim. So not me!
Run with the Horses
The Map of the Island showing the various villas and activity centers.
Interview with the Locals
Not only was I enchanted by the place but made a point to learn something from it. I happened to pass by the watershed areas and learned from the caretakers that this is where water siphoned to the rooms’ faucets and showers comes from. Of course after desalination and filtration process that is. There was also an Ifugao community where you can buy authentic handcrafted souvenirs, furniture, and decors! I met a resident here, Michael, cleaning up the area from the litter of the typhoon. I interviewed him of their life in the island compared to where he and the rest grew up in. Most of the regular workers came from the island itself like Mario, one of the drivers of the jeepney plying the route 24/7, who is also a barangay councilor. He had been at this job ever since it opened for more than two years now. He told me that fishing had been the preoccupation of most residents before in this island he and his family grew up in before it was built by Alphaland into this prime tourist destination. Now they have this job in the hospitality realm that they obviously embrace and welcome with all the perks if offers.
These and the numerous excitement of a splendid sunrise view, the cool breeze of fresh, clean island air, and sightings of colorful and endemic birds cannot be readily had when riding the jeepneys. I was imagining myself being shipwrecked in this island paradise by my lonesome and was shocked to find it to be this exclusive enclave. Well this could have been the only scenario possible if I am to experience this place outside of being invited by my gracious client.
Some more picturesque areas
My Hopes and Fears
Come February 14 when this island will be transformed into a political and showbiz arena lending glitz and glamour with a dose of intrigue to this peaceful and dreamy land, I fervently hope these will not pervade it with urbanite culture and materialism. Despite all these developments, all these transformation into something grandeur but unnatural to the place, I hope that portions of the thickly forested areas and those resided by the locals will be kept untouched and protected from construction spoilage. This will ensure that come several years from now when by another stroke of luck I will be “ship wrecked” in this island, I will still be able to smell the cool and fresh early morning breeze as my skin is kissed by the welcoming sun; that I will be able to see the numerous species of enchanting birds crossing my path unaware of this human invasion.
I hope this island paradise will remain as such.
I came and left on a jet plane.