The aforementioned “magnanimous uncle” is Bobby Dekeyser, the founder of Dedon, the outdoor-furniture company known for its hand-woven poolside lounges and chairs, as well as for its beachy, Bruce Weber–photographed ads. Dekeyser can vouch for Siargao’s idyllic qualities firsthand: Because most of Dedon’s wares are manufactured in nearby Cebu, he’s been coming to the Philippines regularly since the early nineties. About a decade ago, Dekeyser started chilling out at a friend’s home in Siargao after his grueling factory trips, and in 2010 he persuaded the friend to sell him most of his land, renaming it Dedon Island.
Dekeyser, who looks like he could have been one of Weber’s models, was born in Belgium but moved to Germany when he was 9, eventually gaining notoriety as the goalkeeper for the famed soccer team Bayern Munich. In 1991, at age 26, he suffered a career-ending accident on the field that nearly cost him his left eye. Using his soccer earnings, he set out to create his dream company. “I knew it had to be something to do with being outside,” Dekeyser says. “I had this rattan furniture on the terrace, but it kept breaking down with the weather, so I thought, Let me try making my own.”
It did not go smoothly. During his first showing to buyers, the only thing Dekeyser sold were some wooden giraffes from Madagascar that he’d brought along to use as decorative props. A year or so after that, a Club Med outpost in the Bahamas placed an order for a thousand rattan pieces—every single one of which disintegrated a couple of months after delivery. “The executives called me in to the Bahamas and were waiting with a big mountain of unusable furniture and a lawyer from New York,” Dekeyser says. The next day, as he was moping on the beach, he stumbled upon Gilbert Trigano, one of the founders of Club Med, who was there on a visit, and told him the story. “He just said to me, ‘Ah, who cares?’” Dekeyser remembers. “‘When I started Club Med it was just about having people get together, bringing dancers from Paris, and having a good time. All the rest was secondary.’” Club Med ended up giving Dekeyser a second chance to deliver the furniture—one he did not waste.
In fact, Dekeyser seems to have channeled some of Club Med’s early laissez-faire attitude into Dedon Island—albeit without the legendarily orgiastic seventies vibe. Everything is included for a flat fee—about $1,200 per person, per night—whether you’re planning on a day of nonstop massages, are throwing a champagne luncheon on the beach, require a personal yoga instructor, or are bent on exploring the nearby coves via a private boat. “For me, luxury means being with friends and not thinking too much,” Dekeyser says. “I wanted to create a place that operates at a very high level but still feels completely natural.” Dedon Island, which can accommodate a maximum of just 20 people at a time, was built employing only local workers and materials (save for a few glass panes and bathroom fixtures) and also functions as a kind of testing ground for Dekeyser’s furniture. The impressive beachside bar was woven entirely by hand on location, and a couple of Dedon Nestrests—the womblike cocoons designed by Pouzet and Fred Frety—hang languorously from funny-looking palm trees bent during a monsoon.