A vaccine from the routine


James Deakin

For two whole years, all we’ve heard about was what to wear on our faces, what to think, where we could and couldn’t go, and how scared we should be at any given moment. Now that Putin miraculously cured Covid by giving the mainstream media and governments around the world something new and shiny to fear monger about, I needed to find a vaccine for the routine — so that I could not only survive, but thrive in 2022. And I found one that cures all. And the best part is, it's 100 percent natural, and 100 percent Filipino.

It's called Balesin — which is basically paradise spelled differently. If you’ve never heard of Balesin island, you’ve missed some pretty big news stories, like the wedding Heart and Chiz, Coleen Garcia and Billy Crawford, as well as the thousands of picture perfect posts of countless other A-list celebrities who have indulged themselves in this playground for the rich and famous. In showbiz lingo, it's the place to be seen.

But there’s more to Balesin than just the perfect Instagram shot. Balesin is a testament to the power of dreams, and a man’s passion and pride to bring that all to reality. Opened back in 2012, this was the passion project of Roberto Ongpin, who also built the famed Tagaytay Highlands. It showcases the beauty of the Philippines and the potential we have to create a world class, international destination to rival some of the most famous patches of paradise anywhere on earth.

It remains unique in the way that while it is unmistakably Filipino in its warmth and hospitality, guests can travel the world on a golf cart, and experience perfectly recreated villages that capture the magic of places like Tuscany, Costa del Sol, Bali, Phuket, St. Tropez and Mykonos in every detail, from the architecture, interior design, landscaping and food.

Each village is faithfully recreated to the tiniest of details. If there was a Madam Tussauds for destinations, this would be it. There is also the 14-suite Balesin Royal Villa, situated on a cliff with a view of Lamon Bay, that hosts the most spectacular sunsets and, in the distance, the Sierra Madre mountain range on the mainland. Meticulously designed, it takes the best of Asian royal heritage and blends it into something authentic yet original.

Located off the eastern coast of Luzon in the Philippines, this impressive flagship project from Alphaland sits on a 500-hectare tropical island paradise with 7.3 kilometers of pristine white-sand beaches that stretches even further than a romance novelist’s imagination.

The journey begins at the private hangar of Alphaland in NAIA, where their own dedicated private plane ferries guests across 60 miles of Pacific ocean, eventually landing 25 minutes later on its 1.5 kilometer private runway just by the main clubhouse and a state-of-the-art wellness facility. Guests are welcomed on the island by their friendly staff that explain the layout and accessibility, before ushering you to the check in areas to receive your room keys.

Our villa came with an assigned golf cart that allows you to explore each unique village (or country) at your own leisure, while appreciating the lush forest sanctuaries and the surrounding marine sanctuaries along the way.

Master-planned by EcoPlan of Miami, Florida, USA, Balesin Island Club was carefully designed to be in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings. Water harvesting, 80 percent water recycling, a reverse osmosis plant, on-site eco-friendly transportation, organic farming, and alternative sources of energy reduce the amount of waste and ensure sustainable development—all without scrimping on luxurious, top-notch facilities.

Unlike most — if not all — resorts, Balesin places a premium on privacy and exclusivity. We stayed in the Phuket village, where each villa has its own private deck by the exclusive beach, with daybeds and outdoor furniture that allow you to sleep under the stars while being lulled by the gentle breeze and crashing waves just meters from your toes.

Ive been to countless resorts and destinations in my time as a travel writer and motoring journalist, and I can say that very few places on earth can capture the magic that they created in this tropical paradise. Just two nights here undid two years of anxiety, depression and fear, which transformed Balesin from a place to be seen, to a perfect vaccine from the routine.