"He just does not stop."
Harvard-educated tycoon Roberto V. Ongpin does not stop thinking of new projects despite his being past 80. The projects serve as the playgrounds of the rich and famous, local and foreign.
Aside from his iconic 490-ha. Balesin Island Club (BIC) members-only resort in Quezon province, he has two major projects: one, another island resort 1.5 times the size of BIC, and two, a resort and getaway residential Forbes Park of the north, the Baguio Mountain Lodges.
In between, RVO is expanding Balesin Island Club by building a new Chinese village, a cluster of new villas called Regency, two new restaurants (one Chinese, one Vietnamese), and a cavernous convention and events place.
Ongpin thinks Balesin Island so big it can actually accommodate large weddings and international conventions of up to 1,000 people. For sit-down dinner, the island already has The Balesin Royal Villa for 300 guests. That is where Senator Chiz and Heart got married. Not contented with Royal Villa, the inveterate tycoon has ordered the construction of The Balesin Marquee as a special events facility for 600 guests, seated, and for as many as 1,000 guests, seated theater-style, for a performance.
Balesin Island Resort already has 384 villas catering to the club’s more than 1,500 members.
For an events place, “we have ordered a fabulous (but expensive!) marquee events-style tent, made of PVC polyester tensile fabric from Germany. It is guaranteed to withstand 250 kph winds. The marquee will have its own large kitchen, a dozen comfort rooms, and huge storage spaces,” reports Ongpin.
“The marquee will be fully air-conditioned and will have a cocktails/reception area with a beautiful view of the beach and Lamon Bay. We have sited it at the former driving range area near The Regency Private Villas,” he relates in his latest update letter to members. “For us in Balesin, it is a game changer, and will optimize the use of the many villas that we have built over the years.”
Ongpin has just completed the first Regency Private Villa (Villa A). It will have 20-bedroom suites and a splendid deck, pool and cabañas, overlooking what he calls the best beach on the island. Before Regency villas, the Balesin’s largest facility was The Balesin Royal Villa with only 14 suites. Three more Regency villas will be completed this year. In all, there are 52 bedrooms in four different buildings—Regency A, B, C, and D.
Ongpin has signed up with one of the most affluent entrepreneurs from Shenzhen, China, for a long-awaited mini Chinese Village. Called “Apsaras Tribe” (“not very Chinese-sounding, but it is the name they chose,” grins Bobby), it will house 12 villas and a banquet area for 150 people. The Chinese investors have pledged to bring in Cantonese chefs from Hong Kong or from Shenzhen.
Half an hour helicopter ride from Balesin is an even bigger island resort, the 732-ha. Balesin Island Gateway (BIG) on Patnanungan island. It is geared for the ultra rich, high-end tourists, and high rollers from Macau, Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea and as far as Europe and the Americas for them to enjoy their own beachfront homes while enjoying the amenities of five hotels and a championship golf course. It will come complete with a 2.5-km runway to accommodate wide-bodied jets.
“The beach is pink, not white as Balesin, but attractive in its own way,” says Ongpin. “We intend to qualify as an international airport, a championship golf course, five hotels of about 200 rooms each, and over a thousand home sites. Unlike Balesin, it will not be a membership club, but available to the general public.”
During 2019, relates Ongpin on Patnanungan, “we target to complete the runway, the wharf, and a 50-suite villa, by Christmas time.”
Up north, 250-kms from Manila, Ongpin is developing the Mountain Lodges, just 9 kms from Baguio City on Ambuklao Road.
He is erecting 300 veritable log cabin houses that sell for P25 million to P55 million apiece, on an 82-ha. mountain property nestled 5,300 feet above sea level. “We have completed 27 log homes and sold all of them. We are building an additional 11 single-family homes, in addition to the two quadruplex units (four homes in one building, or a total of eight home units),” reports Ongpin.
There, summer or no summer, the air is crisp, the weather is cool, and the greenery lush and luscious with pine trees and tropical forest flora and fauna.
At the Makati Central Business District, Ongpin’s Alphaland Corp. has two major facilities, the City Club, and the Alphaland Suites, a serviced residences cum five-star hotel. They are housed in two buildings called Alphaland Makati Place that sits on a three-ha. property at the corner of Malugay Street and Ayala Avenue Extension.
Opened last May with 250 keys, the hotel “has been doing quite well,” boasts Ongpin. “We have been getting superlative ratings from several hotel booking companies. One hotel booking company rated us 9.4 out of 10, and gave The Alpha Suites the best rating out of all the serviced apartments in Metro Manila.”
Indeed, notes Bobby, “it is not possible to find a hotel in the city where you have access to nine restaurants within the premises, a 500-sqm gym, plus tennis, basketball and badminton courts, and a huge swimming pool.” Rate is P7,000 per night. Balesin and City Club members can probably haggle a discount.
In 2017, Alphaland refinanced its debts for a fresh P5.5-billion loan from BDO Unibank to bankroll Ongpin’s current ambitious projects.