It’s been months since I had a good vacation. This pandemic has really ruined my travel plans for the year. So when a work-related invitation to visit Balesin came, I was all over it even before the invit details were completed. YES, I was going. And YES, I was going to enjoy a short vacation while working on my official function there, I insisted. I have heard so many wonderful things about the place, and this was a great opportunity to see it for myself.
A day before the trip, we were required to take a mandatory SARS-COV 2 Antigen Swab Test at the Aegle Wellness Center. It was reassuring to know that the Balesin folks were taking great pains to ensure that the island would remain COVID-free. And I have to commend the resort’s management for working on complying the stringent measures that finally got the nod from the Health Department and all the other screening agencies.
So off we flew to Balesin one sunny Friday morning. It had been 7 months since my last plane-ride, so I tried to savor it as much as I could. The ride was brief (roughly 30 minutes). We flew over the Laguna de Bay, before we saw the lush forests of Quezon, followed by the dark blue sea that was obviously the Pacific Ocean. In a short while, we touched down on the island’s airstrip, where we would be feted lavishly for 3 amazing days.
Balesin is a 500-hectare tropical island situated east of Quezon Province. With pristine white beaches covering roughly 90% of its entire coastline, it is an exclusive tourist paradise developed magnificently by Alphaland Corporation. It has 7 meticulously-designed themed villages featuring authentic or close-to-original concepts from the different countries it strove to recreate. These villages, namely: Balesin (Philippines), Bali (Indonesia), Phuket (Thailand), Mykonos (Greece), St Tropez (France), Costa Del Sol (Spain) and Toscana (Italy) – all feature authentic architecture, interior design and country dishes to make your experience as close to reality as possible.
Balesin’s tireless General Manager, Mike Asperin, was on hand at the airport to welcome us all. Mike is an old acquaintance, having trained together in the Philippine Military Academy back during our cadet days. I still remember him as one of the snappier plebes we had then. Unfortunately, he had left the service early; after a short, yet colorful stint with the Navy. Mike was clearly the Navy’s loss, and business sector’s big gain.
After GM Mike’s quick briefing about the island, plus a short talk on the business at hand, our group was brought to St Tropez, our designated home away from home for the next 2 nights. And Mike would provide us plenty of time to explore the sights!
We finished our official business in a couple of hours. After that, we were practically off on a grand vacation. Thank God for that! But to be honest, 2 days in Balesin just can not do justice to the many alluring sights and activities the island has to offer. If you truly want to have some serious leisure time in Balesin, stay for a minimum of 4 days. Relax, indulge yourself. You will certainly have a blast.
Balesin Island provides many opportunities and activities for all types of people. If you love long stretches of pristine white-sand beach, Balesin’s beaches will pleasure you. If you love to jog or trek in the forest, Balesin’s trails are a delight. There’s also fishing, scuba-diving, horseback-riding for those who love adventure. There’s basketball, tennis and badminton for the sports-buffs. For the foodies, you can try the different dishes in the 7 themed villages. There is also the Balesin spa for those who wish to be pampered with a relaxing massage. There’s a small chapel for those who are looking for spiritual rejuvenation as well. Plus, aside from all these enchanting experiences, Balesin also offers a state-of-the-art health and wellness facility that provides numerous programs guaranteed to keep you healthy and younger-looking.
Planned meticulously with the environment and the preservation of the natural surroundings in mind, Balesin has its own water harvesting and re-cycling facilities, plus other alternative energy sources. The island also has a robust organic farming program to sustain the island’s growing needs. As part of its effort to maintain the surrounding marine ecosystem, Balesin Island Club constructed special fish pens, making them self-sufficient in their seafood requirements as well. From their organic garden, duck farm and aquaculture pens, a big part of the delectable cuisine offered in the different themed restaurants in the island are sourced.
Mike opined that the island’s plans for the year suffered a huge hit with the pandemic. With tourist arrivals going down to almost zero, they have had to temporarily close some of the themed villages, cut down employment, and even sacrifice pay and allowances . But ever the dynamic innovator that he is, Mike has been able to keep the grounds ready for the time this pandemic is finally under control.
My wife and I had a grand time touring the sites, enjoying the sand and sea, and trying out the sumptious delights in the different villages. Our memorable visit was capped by an intimate dinner with GM Mike and his charming wife, Charu; and retired General Boy Santiago with his winsome wife, Gladys, on our last evening in the island. That night, we had a truly great time renewing old bonds, reminiscing the good old days, and re-committing to old habits of professional conduct and proper service to our fellowmen. Indeed, that was an evening to remember. But that’s a story for another time. Overall, that trip was truly a most memorable and enjoyable one for us.
Visit Balesin. It’s like viewing 7 different countries in a span of a few days. No visa needed, no long plane rides, no airport hassles, no nothing. And do remember to pack some suntan lotion.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover Photo courtesy of VacationHive.com. Other photos courtesy of Wit Holganza, wikipedia, Pinterest, ThePhilippines.com, Balesin Island, Bride Worthy, Deal Grocer, Twitter, Sunstar, Grandeur Traveler, Esquire Philippines, Suniture, Jayson and Joanne Arquiza, and Facebook.