When Chris invited our barkada (gang) to a weekend in a “private, members and their guests-only” island, we all of course said yes even though we didn’t know specifically where we’re going. I just thought about my previous trip to Amanpulo, which is a very private island in Palawan, and thought it would be the same. I was wrong. I didn’t expect to be “traveling” to different countries just by flying to a small island 25 minutes away, east of Manila.
Balesin is Alphaland’s private beach resort development which is actually 7 resorts in one island. Each resort has an iconic seaside theme which starts of with Balesin (Philippines), Mykonos (Greece), St Tropez (France), Toscana (Italy), Costa del Sol (Spain), Bali (Indonesia) and Phuket (Thailand). Can you imagine that something like this actually exists in this Philippines?
To be honest, though it sounds really exciting, I am not a fan of establishments/structures being built in our country modeled after iconic international destinations ie. Venice Piazza in Fort and the entire concept of Balesin. Aside from it reinforcing our colonial mentality, it also overshadows the beautiful things that our own culture can produce. I think it would have been more interesting if the 7 resorts of Balesin were designed after 7 different regions of the Philippines instead. It would be like the former Coconut Palace where Filipino culture is promoted. But yeah, the sad reality is that the Filipino market would react more to the “around the world” concept than to “discover the Philippines”. I just hope developers would also do projects that educate the market instead of always giving in to them.
My personal preferences aside, Balesin was fun and it did deliver on its promise of exclusivity and relaxation. Only three points of major improvement for me:
1. Shuttle service – It was very erratic. Sometimes they will be very prompt but sometimes you would need to wait for as long as 30 minutes. I found it cool that some of them were modified jeepneys.
2. No Globe service and poor wifi connection – The first is more of a complain to Globe. Smart is really the way to go when traveling outside Manila. The 2nd part – there are very few establishments that don’t have decent wifi connections now so I was surprised that Balesin did poorly in this area. Villas don’t have wifi routers in them and you could only connect in some clubhouses, and even that is not reliable. In this modern age where everyone wants and demands to be connected, they should fix this.
3. Flight schedule – This was a huge downside which almost ruined my trip. Our original departure time from Balesin to Manila was 12NN. Perfect for me for I had a flight back to Singapore in the afternoon and it would give me time to enjoy the beach in the morning. But then the night before our departure, they sent new flight times to us. I got bumped off to 3PM. I brought up my concerns to the reception about my international flight and was told that I could only be moved to 9AM. I took it because I had no other choice. Good thing there was the Million People March that morning so I wasn’t so frustrated that my morning beach plans were gone. I was going to the march instead.
Here’s how our trip went:
Early morning at the Alphaland hangar lounge near NAIA. Look for the red gate along Andrews Avenue.
Earliest flight was at 7AM. We were aboard the 7:30AM flight
Balesin Island is 25 minutes away from Manila by plane.
The Soriano hangar where you take the plane to go to Amanpulo was actually just across the Alphaland hangar.
It was a very quick ride with a magnificent view of Manila. By the time I started thinking of napping, we have already landed.
As expected, there was a welcome crew with leis at the runway.
To which an orientation of the island followed.
As seen on the map, the island was divided into a lot of areas. Of course there were the 7 resorts (only 6 were opened at the time we came, Toscana was still under construction). Each of the themed resorts would have a main clubhouse which would have a restaurant, bar, pool and beach. The island also had its own sports center, spa, stables, golf driving range and chapel.
This is the Balesin Island Club – the center of it all. It has the nicest beach too.
After checking in, we went for the complimentary tour to see all the different resorts and determine for ourselves which one was the best. We also went to all the amenities. Our very friendly guide, Ankie, was awesome! We learned later on that she also graduated from UP (so that’s why!).
Balesin Island Club (Clubhouse)
The clubhouse is where we checked in. The exquisite pool and pristine beach front makes it the perfect place to hang out in. There’s a bar, a gaming room with Wii and lots of sofas to lounge in. It’s where you bump into most of the other guests, and the best place to get wifi to post your Instagram photos. The famous Japanese restaurant, Sakura, is also housed here.
The usually fully-booked Sakura Japanese restaurant. Tip: Make reservations for all your meals except breakfast the moment you arrive. Most of the restaurants are in demand.
They’re well known for their fresh sashimi (forgot to take a photo) and their creative sushi. This Edo-San Maki (eel, prawn etc) is the most popular.
Aside from the sushi, they have food straight from the grill.
Back to the resort:
The Balesin Spa
What better way to relax than to get a massage in a very zen environment. The Balesin spa allows you to either get your massage by the beachside or in private rooms.
Balesin Sports Center
They also had a golf driving range and putting green, archery range, tennis courts and rock climbing wall at the sports center.
You could also go biking around the island. You borrow bikes from the Balesin Clubhouse or here and each place you go to would have parking for them. For the more adventurous type, I highly recommend this. It’s the best way to get to know the island.
As most Filipinos could not miss a Sunday mass, they had a chapel with regular mass schedules. They even had a choir formed from the locals and their kids. The circular structure of this chapel reminds me of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman.
That’s just the amenities! Could you imagine what the different-themed resorts would look like? That’s what’s coming up next. Stay tuned.
Most photos are either from my friend, Justin Limgenco or my own photos. If you want to use any of them, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alice in Wonderland photo from www.dragoart.com
Balesin logo from www.forensikbranding.com