"Reports of the Ulysses battering the island felt like a chainsaw cutting off my left leg,’ cried Ongpin."I read last week that to escape from COVID-19 and the lockdowns imposed by a growing number of LGUs in the United States, Americans are driving up or flying to beaches, the free, open and invigorating miles of coastal scenery that has become a must-visit destination in the age of the pandemic. In this light, I yield my column to my friend, Bobby Ongpin, the irrepressible master builder of properties for the rich, famous and the aspirational. Here is RVO’s letter to Balesin members and customers: “Today is Monday, November 16, and it is early evening here in Balesin. It was sunny the whole day, and the calm has returned to the island after the horrific typhoon Ulysses, which made a direct hit and battered Balesin on Wednesday last week. “I returned to Manila on Friday from London, where I had been for six weeks. London is eight hours behind Manila and I spent a sleepless night monitoring the wrath of the typhoon. Fortunately, the mobile phone connection in the island held steady and Mike Asperin gave me almost an hour-by-hour report on that terrible night. You all know how dear Balesin is to my heart and the reports of the typhoon battering the island felt like a chainsaw was cutting off my left leg! “I went around the island immediately after I returned to Balesin yesterday noon. I had been dreading seeing the typhoon damage to the island. But I am happy to say that I am, in fact, quite relieved. One gets a distorted idea of the damage because of the several hundred photographs and some video clips that I was sent. They were understandably all about the damage. But going around the island yesterday and also today, while there was certainly a lot of damage, it wasn’t that bad at all. “The most telling aspect for me were the leaves that had been torn away from the branches of the trees on the island, so that the shade was not like before. Surely, plenty of ‘bruises’ but no ‘broken bones.’ “The most damage was at Balesin Village, where 24 of the 40 villas suffered, some with roofs blown away. Up to today, we are still carting away the debris. As I told my management staff, in the next few weeks, the leaves will return to the trees and our beloved Balesin will come back to life. “There will surely be evidence of the typhoon’s wrath for the next few months, particularly the Balesin Marquee, where the roof was partly torn away by the winds. “We had imported the structure from Germany where we were told that their special polypropylene fabric could withstand 250-mile per hour winds. Ulysses had ‘only’ 100-mile per hour winds, but they were torn anyway. We will be able to restore the villas in two to three weeks, but the Marquee will remain as a sad memento of this typhoon, as the fabric will have to be imported from Germany again.