Working hard and traveling around the world for most of their life—long-time partners Cocoy Bajuyo and Elden Chamberlain had their eyes set on the prize: to one day settle down in a cozy retirement home where they can start a joint venture.
Cocoy, a native of Cagayan de Oro, is an artist and photographer and has extensive marketing and communications experience in the travel/tourist industry in Southeast Asia. Elden, his British husband, has worked on international public health and HIV/AIDS efforts for over 25 years, which he does up to now. Both have traveled extensively around the globe and have lived in Thailand, the UK, USA, Australia, and Malaysia.
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“We thought living in a small island would be an adventure,” Cocoy remembers. And having gone to Camiguin a few times for vacation, the island province easily became one of their top choices. “We just fell in love with the place, so we decided to stay here. And to make our stay productive, we decided to build a resort that will cater not only to our friends but also to guests of the island.” Cocoy’s family also hails from nearby CDO, which explains his affinity to the island. And when he discovered he has relatives living in Camiguin, his love for the place deepened even more. Elden, who only knew about Camiguin (and the Philippines) through Cocoy, was likewise love-struck.
Some may be turned off by Mindanao’s notorious reputation, but Cocoy and Elden personally attest to Camiguin’s idyllic beauty and charm. “The beach is not the only reason why we’re here—it’s the complete package. The island is peaceful and the people are friendly. I always say, everything you want in an island is here in Camiguin,” quips Cocoy.
Elden says Balai sa Baibai came about because they wanted to offer something that’s unique and different, something that is not yet available in Camiguin. “Because the island is becoming more popular, people’s expectations about what they want to do and where they can stay has changed. What we provide is a private, quiet, romantic weekend getaway,” he says.
No name could be more apt than Balai sa Baibai. “Balay is a Visayan term which means house, while baybay means coast. It’s also a play on the Thai term sabai-sabai which means ‘to chill out, cool down, to relax, to enjoy and take things slowly’,” explains Elden. “That’s exactly what we want our guests to experience,” adds Cocoy.
Having lived in Southeast Asia for ten years, it comes as no surprise that Cocoy and Elden decided on an Asian fusion concept for their project. “It’s Balinese and Filipino,” Cocoy says, describing the architectural design and landscape of the resort. They didn’t feel the need to hire an interior designer or an architect for the resort; they basically just trusted their own creative instinct and personal taste. “Any problem we encounter, we just Google,” smiles Elden, obviously pleased with their handiwork.
At the time of this visit, Balai sa Baibai has a total of six rooms: two villas, two garden rooms, and two poolside rooms. For couples who want exclusivity, the villas are perfect choices. Each villa has an air-conditioned bedroom, a Bali-style outdoor garden bathroom, solar hot water, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, a private plunge pool and waterfall, and a living room/sala with kitchenette. But if you want to enjoy the relaxing view of nature, opt for the garden and poolside rooms.
“The idea was to keep it small, romantic, and exclusive. When we were looking at what we can do and what was missing on the island, we saw that this was the market that hadn’t been catered to and this market had been growing. Fortunately, we always have an 80 percent to 90 percent occupancy rate. So hopefully, we keep that up,” says Elden.
The resort has a lush, well-kept garden with trees and plants, a sight that is best enjoyed with the early morning breeze while having breakfast at the beach gazebo. By late afternoon, you can relish the view of a sunset, while having some cocktails at Bar sa Baibai, an al fresco bar that sits beside a pool. The bar is open until 10pm.
Cocoy and Elden are happy to inform us they are currently constructing a few more villas, but they would like to keep it up to nine or 10 rooms only, so guests can enjoy an intimate experience. They are also building a bunker boat, so they can offer sunset/island cruises to their guests. “This will happen very soon,” Cocoy assures.
Elden says part of the plan is to expand their menu—offer a bit of Thai dishes, which he loves, on top of the well-loved Filipino fare. At the moment, the resort serves breakfast and even makes their own breads, pastries, yogurt, and fresh juices (prepared with slow juicing). Special dinners can be arranged by the beach as well, which is perfect for wedding proposals. They have a small in-house menu for snacks and lunch, but they also have tie-ups with five restaurants whose food qualities they vouch for.
By sharing their piece of paradise, Cocoy and Elden hope to offer a place for couples to rest and recover from their busy lives—essentially, what being home is about.
Balai sa Baibai Agoho, Mambajao, Camiguin Tel. +63883879594 Mobile: +639189622808/ +639772078889 Email: [email protected] www.balaisabaibai.com Interior shots and portrait by Andre Drilon Additional photos from Balai sa Baibai's Facebook page