MANILA, Philippines - On the 25-minute plane ride to Balesin Island in Quezon, my mind was blank as to what to expect from the trip. I had been to other world-class resorts before, and I really didn't know how it could be different.
I even fell asleep on the plane, believe it or not.
But the moment our 9-seater plane landed on the Balesin Island Club runway and I opened my eyes, it felt like I was doing something for the first time. I didn't know what was coming, but I could almost taste it. A part of me started to come alive; I wanted to get to know the island as if she were a person who just welcomed me to her home with an embrace.
We had exactly one day to spend on the island.
After checking into our respective villas in Balesin, the Filipino-inspired resort on the island, we freshened up, had our lunch and set off for a day around Balesin for a photo-drive-and-walk. (My two shooters Adrian Portugal and Charlie Salazar were so happy to have joined the trip that they asked me to bring them along for the next one.)
At the time of our visit (it was early June), only Balesin was completely finished and operational, but we visited the sites of the other resorts nonetheless. Bali and Phuket were taking shape, while Costa Smeralda, St. Tropez and Mykonos were not hard to imagine when finished. We were not members of the club, but we were all excited to have something so world-class in our country.
We visited many other spots on the island: the jetty post, the stables, the spa and Sala, the Filipino restaurant in Balesin. At the stables, we got to meet lovely native horses Sugar and Marimar, among others. We visited the barrio and received warm smiles from the locals.
In the evening, we got to chat with Wilhelm Bolton, general manager, who has been in the Philippines so long that he has become a Filipino at heart. Mr. Bolton hails from South Africa and is happily married to a Filipina from Cebu. Seeing that our team was tired (travel photoblogger Paelo Pedrajas was also with us), he treated us to wine, halo-halo and good conversation — a truly Filipino way of hospitality.
That one day in Balesin introduced us to the club's sustainability practices on the island. From recycling driftwood from the Pacific Ocean to processing rainwater for toilet and then gardening use, to the jungle trail and al fresco sections of every villa being built, Balesin is a breath of fresh air as far as resorts go, even for one who has seen the best of the best.
The most important thing is that the club has a heart: for the locals and for the environment. This is one island that will not get exploited and abused. There is hope.
Watch this video to know why:
We left Balesin Island Club the following morning with a heavy heart. We fell in love with the island the more we got to know her.
Balesin saw us off with a gentle, loving nudge to our tiny plane. The energy that nature gave to me was so electric I headed straight to our office from the hangar and worked like I had just come from home.
Maybe I did. - Rappler.com
(For more information on Balesin Island, visit www.balesin.com)
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