If you haven't heard of Balesin Island, it's probably because it's a fairly new resort and because it's exclusively for members and their guests. I had long been envious of friends who had been there, and finally, I got a chance to fly there myself last weekend. My dad's friend was a member so we asked him if he could arrange for us to join him on his next trip.
To get to Balesin, one takes a plane from the Alphaland hangar to the island (ours was a 30-seater, I think, but some of their planes are smaller). It was a short 25-minute flight to the island, located east of Quezon Province. Upon arrival, we were welcomed with buko juice and were whisked away on golf carts to their clubhouse where we checked in.
The clubhouse has a modern tropical feel and has about 3 or 4 infinity pools to swim in close to the beach.
The 500-hectare island has 7 themed villages patterned after some famous tourist destinations around the world. So in just 3 days, it's like we were able to do some serious globe-trotting. These are just a few of the photos I took. Let me take you through each of these areas on this lovely island.
BALESIN. This area has calm waters and fine white sand. Tropical paradise. This and the clubhouse area, both located on the west side of the island, would be the best places for a dip in the ocean.
BALI. Also on the west side of the island. Enjoy cocktails and watch the sun set at the Nusa Dua bar which is flanked by 2 water villas. Such a lovely area at dusk.
PHUKET is another Asian-themed village. If I'm lucky enough to return, I think I'd like to book here and try their outdoor shower and jacuzzi! Loved the use of apple green on their furniture.
MYKONOS. One of the must-see areas. Enjoy authentic Greek cuisine and wander amidst the blue and white villas and structures that blend perfectly with the clouds and skies. You'd swear you were really in Greece!
COSTA DEL SOL gives you a taste of Spain. Since this area is located on the east side of the island facing the Pacific Ocean, the waves here are big and probably more suitable for surfing rather than swimming (I didn't see any surfers though), but they certainly make for breathtaking views. We spent our first evening here and had Spanish food for dinner, complete with a trio of musicians who serenaded us (and they were actually pretty good!).
ST. TROPEZ, also located on the east side of the island, is where we chose to spend our second night. We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite that had both a garden patio and a spacious beach patio leading to the swimming pool. I loved all the colors and attention to detail in every room, hallway and restaurant, which included a creperie. So pretty!
TOSCANA brought me memories of Loreto and other places I had been to in Italy. Its entrance was imposing at night. We enjoyed a brick oven-baked pizza for dinner here.
Another must-see area is the all-white Balesin Spa which has 2 rooms for couples massage and several other rooms for individual massage. One also has the option for having a massage by the beach.
If, like me, you cannot afford to be a Balesin Island Club member but may have friends who are, find a way to get them to get you to visit this place. Even if you have to pay for your own villa and food, I'd say it would be money well spent. In our case, total cost per person for a 3D/2N stay came down to approximately P20-25K, all in (flight, accommodations, food). This is something you'd end up spending in other high end resorts and hotels around the country, especially if it's somewhere you need to fly to. (I've actually spent more than that on a luxury resort whose food was nothing great and whose service left much to be desired). But this is the only place that offers all these sights - 7 themed villages and more - that make you feel you went on an instant world tour!
Good food, excellent service, lots of activity options (they have a fully equipped sports center/gym and you can even go biking and horseback-riding), and lots of privacy (the island had about 500 guests last weekend and we couldn't feel it at all because of the distance between villages).
And since it's only a half hour trip from Manila, you don't feel tired when you return and feeling like you need another vacation from your vacation. It's the perfect place to relax, unwind, recharge.
I know, I know... I wanna return, too. =)
I don’t remember when or how Bituin and I met and became friends. I do remember when I first saw her perform: it was the musicale Rent showing in Music Museum, and she blew everyone away with her solo part in “Seasons Of Love.”
In 2000 my friend Arnold Reyes became a Metropop finalist and looked to me for some help recording his entry “Paano Na.” My “suki” arranger Arnold Buena worked on the instrumental arrangement, and I helped out with the vocals by giving Bituin some directions so that the song would start out mellow, build up and fly at the end. A bit of "contest formula" that had worked for me in the past. "Paano Na" won 2nd Prize that year.
I didn’t get to see much of Bituin after that, but we’ve been in touch the past few years thanks to wonders of social media.
Last Easter was the 10th year anniversary of Mass Appeal, a choir I’m a member of that sings every fourth Sunday of the month at the La Salle Greenhills Chapel. To give this special anniversary mass a bit of “sindak” power, I invited Bituin to do the solo of “Joyful Joyful” (that famous Sister Act version) for our recessional song. The whole choir was over the moon with excitement when she agreed to do it. With her family and 2 babies in tow, she arrived middle of the mass and was apologetic about not being able to come earlier, but the absence of an opportunity for us to rehearse with her didn’t faze us one bit. We knew she would be awesome and she was, and the whole number was truly a joyful one for us all. You can watch that performance right here.
A few days after that, Bituin invited us to her upcoming gig at Balete@Kamias where she would perform Cole Porter and Gershwin songs. I watched the show with my parents who came all the way to Manila from Silang, Cavite (this cool couple found out about the gig through posts on Facebook – yes they’re both on FB – and gave me a call when they read about the show to ask me to get tickets) and a bunch of Mass Appeal choristers (including our musical director Inday Echevarria, choir founder and Route 70 vocalist Ding-Dong Eduque, Tux members Popo Suanes and Manny Aquino and a few others).
I found myself hanging on to every note and word Bituin sang. I was so caught up in her music that I forgot to order a drink! Ding-Dong and I talked about her on the ride home after the show. "Ang sexy ni Bituin kumanta no?" I remarked. Ding-Dong went, "Hindi na nga sexy eh...bastos na!" We meant it in the best way possible. I found the right expression later on and told Bituin through a thread on Facebook what we thought of her singing: "Ang libog mo kumanta!" It was the best compliment I could give her and I think she knew it.
What sets Bituin apart from many other artists is this: you have many great singers who aren't good actors, and many great actors who aren't good singers. Bituin is both an excellent singer and a trained theater actor. She combines her skill in stylizing and belting out notes with the ability to express what a song is really all about because you know that she understands her material. She's an intelligent and expressive storyteller with an awesome set of pipes. That's what makes her different. And THAT is what real singing is all about. Right now, I can't think of any other local performer who can do it the way she does. Certainly not at the level Bituin does it.
She performs again at 7th High's Apex Lounge on April 30. You can find details of that show HERE. Do yourself a favor: watch Bituin perform and treat yourself to some REAL singing.
One of my favorite PhilPop blessings: weight loss.
Knowing that PhilPop would be televised, and knowing that one gains about 10 lbs on TV, I was determined more than ever to lose some weight. I had made a number of attempts over the past couple of years to exercise in the hopes of losing some weight - extra weight that has come with the slowing down of metabolism with age - and my attempts had only been discouraging. Working out continuously or brisk walking and semi-jogging for 40-45 minutes and not losing a single pound made me feel it was all a waste of time. I started buying bigger clothes instead.
But big clothes can't hide face fat, so who was I kidding? I had to lose some weight and I wanted to. I searched the internet for options to increase metabolism and came across this page. I had never heard of Shaun Hadsall, but I took the time to watch his videos. A 14-day Rapid Loss Plan sounded like something I needed and could certainly use in time for PhilPop. It seemed doable and seemed to make sense. The concept of High Intensity Interval Training was new to me, but something I was willing to try.
Here's a photo of me with Mr.C at the presscon of PhilPop in June, and this is how I looked before the exercise and diet program.
After 2 weeks, this is how I looked in time for PhilPop Finals Night, which was when this photo below was taken (by my friend Gino Cruz).
I lost 8-9 lbs in just 2 weeks - and it might not sound like a big number, but I had never lost that many pounds it that span of time ever in my life! In fact, I had never lost that much weight ever. I lost about 7% of my starting weight and lost 1-2 inches around my waist and hips. I fit into my old pants again! And so far so good... it's been about a month and a half and I haven't gained the weight back.
I've also learned a bit about Tabata, which is good news for people like me who are generally lazy about working out. Imagine a 4-8 minute workout that's more effective than all those 45-minute exercises I used to do! So this is what I do now to maintain this weight. It's very much in line with that 2-week program I followed. Plus of course I still try to stick to the diet principles the program recommended.
So there you have it: vanity gave me a much needed push, got me reading about these exercise and diet options. I'll certainly do my very best to keep myself looking and feeling this way. Thank you for my new look, PhilPop!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Short break muna from my PhilPop series.
I had not had a McDo burger in a while. Mc Donald's really has become more of my emergency go-to resto, my last resort when there are no other options. Well, this is one of those times I'm in a bit of hurry, so I just drove through for my early lunch and ordered McDonald's Big N'Tasty Burger, which some friends had recently told me about.
And they were right: masarap nga siya! Definitely better than the other McDo burgers. At mabigat! Well, my appetite has shrunk a bit because of recent weight loss efforts (that have paid off - but more on this later), so maybe it's part of the reason I couldn't finish my meal. But I do think they've really put in more meat, or better meat. Tama yung description na para siyang cross between a Big Mac (its having lettuce, etc) and a Quarter Pounder, as it has just one patty, pero mabigat na patty. It can be ordered as a meal (with fries and a drink) or a la carte. I regret not going a la carte. Not because the fries and drink were bad, but because even just the small (regular) fries and drink were too much for me, given how heavy the burger was. I think for "regular" eaters though, they'll be happy that this meal won't be "bitin." The burger tastes much better, too. Next time I'll probably just go a la carte for P120 because it's all I can finish. If your appetite isn't small, it's P145 with a small drink and fries, a little more for an upgrade. Try it and see what you think.
I bought mine the day it came out, which was the day of our technical rehearsals at PICC, one day before Finals Night. I couldn't wait to hear what songs I was up against. I'll admit I felt my chances of winning slipping away. LOL! All the songs were well written and well produced. I was so impressed with my competition! 14 good songs and only 3 winners. Having had the experience of screening songs and judging in other contests, I can be really objective and not be influenced by knowing who wrote the songs. And there were at least 6 songs other than mine that I would pick out to fill those 3 winning slots. Not a good feeling to have the day before the competition! But boy did I feel proud to be part of such a collection of new songs.
Let me say a little something about each song in the album.
3am by Keiko Necesario. 1 of only 2 English songs in the album, written by the only other female composer in the competition. Fresh, radio-friendly, current, easy on the ears and very honest.
Bawa't Hakbang by Karl Villuga. Beautiful message coming from a sincere place, simple but effective arrangement by Arnold Buena, it soared at the right moment. Early on I told Karl "Afraid ako sa kanta mo." I thought it could win and I was right.
Bigtime by me! Mel Villena did a fabulous job arranging this for me and I had the best vocalists (Baihana) and cream of the crop jazz musicians from the AMP Big Band record for me. A dream come true to have this under my belt now.
Brown by James Leyte. Loved that it had a story/scenario that was painted clearly. Great vocals by the composer himself and wonderful reggae performance by Brownman Revival.
Dulo Ng Dila by Noah Zuñiga. Well-written song that I love singing along to, and vocalists Jay R and Deejay Poblete sang so well without oversinging, I loved the stylizing they did. Clear message, great lines, one of my faves in the album.
Himig Ng Panahon by Thyro Alfaro. Thyro's the youngest contestant at age 20. I thought the lyrics were very skillfully written, lots of internal rhyming, which is hard to do. Catchy melody too, great singing and harmonies. This was another song I thought could win.
Kesa by Edwin Marollano. Definitely a favorite of mine from the collection. Loved the feel and groove of the song, and this Daniel Gorospe guy can really sing and put in all sorts of emotions. I love the song's positive message (and I find myself singing it to myself when having a bad day), love the production, love it, love it! If I had been one of the judges, this would have been one of my winners.
Kontrabida by Soc Villanueva. Listening to the first couple of minutes of the song for the first time, I thought the song was nice at best. Well crafted, as Soc's songs always are, but so-so in appeal because I couldn't see yet where the song was going. And then I heard the bridge. "Ako ang dating bida sa puso mo/ Dahil sa pesteng bagong bida, ako ngayon ang kontrabida." Oh. My. God. "Walanghiya ka, Soc!" I told him shortly before the announcement of winners. Brilliant twist there. He deserved to win.
Minsa'y Isang Bansa by Gary Granada. Well, it's Gary Granada so how can you go wrong? The guy is a genius! I must say there are other Gary G works I like better ("Saranggola Sa Ulan" is my favorite), but I love the chord progression of this song and of course the words were well-written - another Gary G masterpiece.
Negastar by Mike Villegas. The first time I heard the song in full was at band rehearsals and I just had to applaud. Loved Cathy Go's raspy vocals and told Mike I loved the song's modulation. "Huwag kang Negastar" - definitely a line we'd all find ourselves telling certain people we know. Right?
Piso by Krist Melecio. One of the songs with the strongest hooks. I was already singing the chorus after our Press Conference in June! I love the heavy world music drums. Joey Ayala was perfect for the song - you would think he might have written it himself.
Slowdancing by Kennard Faraon. Perhaps rather simple sounding to a not-so-trained ear but I actually loved the chord progression used. It's not the usual 4 chords people pick out to loop for a song like this.
Takusa by Byron Ricamara. First time I heard just the chorus at the presscon it made me laugh. And then I listened to the song in full for the first time when I bought the CD and found myself laughing again.
Tayo-Tayo Lang by Toto Sorioso. I first met Toto about 12 years ago. He was a fellow finalist for Himig Handog Sa Bayaning Pilipino in 2000. Toto was a newbie then, but since that time he's won the Grand Prize in the FILSCAP songwriting contest and now 2nd Prize for PhilPop. Don't let his shy and can't-hurt-a-fly demeanor fool you. He's a force to reckon with! A great performer too! And what a song. Inspired by his experience of lonely gigs where practically everyone has already left. Beautiful song, heartfelt singing by Ebe Dancel, wonderful arrangement and production.
Listen to a sampler of the whole album here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4044938434233
The album is available in Odyssey and Astro stores. You can also purchase online here: http://www.mymusicstore.com.ph/album/baihana/1019833/Philippine_Popular_Music_Festival_2012:_The_Fourteen_Finalists.html
Buy a copy now and please help support OPM. This album's worth your money, I promise.
I use my iPad for mainly 2 things: as a sheet music browser (particularly for choral singing) using the ForScore app, and as a tablet to scribble on, a replacement for my various notebooks (my datebook, scratch paper for minutes, writing lyrics, even sketching) using such apps as Penultimate, Noteshelf and Adobe Ideas. For this latter function (which has been life changing and a source of joy to me), a stylus has been a necessity. I had purchased the Pogo Sketch Stylus in San Francisco (even before I bought my iPad!) upon recommendation by my good friend Denise who said it was the best stylus available and I could see why she thought it was: I've seen other styli and some or most of them (including one I regret purchasing for my dad because it was the cheapest I could find) have a tip that feels like a pencil eraser which doesn't glide on the iPad surface as smoothly as that of the Pogo, whose tip feels more like mesh or a piece of foam. It's also very slim and lightweight...
...and so, although I haven't really used any other brand, I do think this is the best stylus brand.
I had gone to the Apple store in Megamall a couple or so times and found other stylus brands for sale but none of them had this foam-like tip, and I was surprised at how expensive these styli were (they cost about PhP800 or more!) I told myself I'd better take extra care not to lose my stylus.
And so I semi-freaked out when I couldn't find my one and only stylus a few days ago. I've looked in the only 2 bags they could have possibly been in and couldn't find it. =( Must have dropped it somewhere after ACS rehearsals.
I rushed to Google and kept my fingers crossed as I typed in the words "pogo sketch stylus sale philippines"... these words did not yield results months ago when I wanted to buy for my dad but maybe, just maybe, this time I'd get lucky. And I did! Someone from Cebu sells them for just P400 a piece! I ordered 3 pieces (2 for me, one for my dad), paid through my Paypal account and they arrived today via Air21 just 2 days after I ordered them. I can now breathe a sigh of relief. My iPad life goes on. ;-P
So if any of you are iPad users and want a good stylus, I recommend the Pogo Sketch Stylus and if you'd like to purchase it for about half the price of styli sold in malls, click HERE.
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
GreatSongsToSing is my online store and I thank you for dropping by! Do comment on my blog posts. I'd love to hear from you!
Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.