Zambawood: A Blissful Retreat in San Narciso, Zambales

Life has been challenging the last couple of months, that all I yearned for was some rest and relaxation, to help rejuvenate the senses. The universe finally heard my silent pleas, thus granting me a weekend that was filled with positive energy and inspiring people. I was brought back to a happy place, a happy home that once welcomed me with open arms. And like a giddy child, excited to explore once more, I was back in Zambawood.

It was great to see such familiar faces, especially Julyan and Ms. Rachel's. It was also exciting to have been welcomed by a bigger Zambawood team. I felt truly blessed to have been given the chance to come back and experience this beautiful abode with my friends again.  


Our weekend in San Narciso, Zambales was a blissful retreat. It was definitely a cure to a tired soul. There was time for us to reflect, to rest, to play and to create new memories. Our first day was packed with so much energy and learnings, that there was no time to even welcome a speck of weariness into my system. I was elated, and finally back in my happy place. I saw myself laughing more, and having an honest good time with old and new friends. It was certainly a good start for August.


Our first activity for the day started with a demo on how to make a Quesadilla --- a wheat tortilla filled with savory mixture (more like a Mexican-style stuffed pancake), which will be introduced in Zambawood Café in a couple of months (the Harrisons’ latest venture). Some of the ingredients that were prepared beforehand came straight from Julyan’s Pine Beach Farm. 

The kitchen experts: Foodologist Donna Chua, Chef Kristoffer Young and Kuya Robert, showed us how to prepare a fresh batch of Quesadillas using Breville’s Panini Grill. Breville, an Australian manufacturer and marketer of small kitchen appliances, was founded in Melbourne, Australia (1932). 

Zambawood’s version of the quesadilla became an immediate hit. I actually loved how the Quesadilla’s tasty chicken bits complemented the sliced vegetables and spices, especially the Mozarella cheese that oozed from it. But aside from that, we were also treated with Zambawood’s delicious house salad, the Talbos ng Kamote, with a side dish of Pickled Mango. Everything just mixed well, that I had to get second servings.



We all gathered after lunch to look back on Zambawood’s achievements through the year. Keith and Rachel Harrison were also there to facilitate the presentation. 

A lot has happened after Zambawood opened its doors to the public, and one of those was being invited to Madrid Fusion, where an opportunity to collaborate with Breville Kitchen Appliances (Australia) and Chef Philip Golding (Chairman of Escofier Philippine) were presented. Aside from that, Zambawood also started the Saturday Group of Philippine Artists (special mention goes to Hermes Alegre), where a great display of artworks on canvas can be seen in the resort. 

Right now, the Harrisons’ have invested further in the improvement of their property. They’ve also employed more locals, which has now grown to 16 employees. There's also been a high number of repeat guests, corporate events, social occasions (i.e. family reunions, birthday) and photoshoots (i.e. pre-nuptials, magazine) since the resort’s opening.

During the talk, we were again reminded of why Zambawood was created. According to Ms. Rachel, Zambawood’s mission is to instill “fun and purpose, and to increase the happiness of adults with Autism by helping them have life-long purpose and friendship in the local community. Acting always with integrity, compassion and fun.

The Harrisons’ also envision for Zambawood to be a “5 star” lifestyle business that will offer boutique resort accommodations and related clothing, craft and food products (special mention goes to Astrud Crisologo, Zambawood's featured resort wear designer). They also aim to be known for delivering outstanding “world class” service and innovative products to their guests. They also aim to be recognized as having the highest ethical standards. And best of all, they aim to be known as an enterprise that actively supports and engages adults with special needs in its business, while helping them better engage with their local communities.

How can you not love Zambawood, given its heartwarming advocacy. The family and the team behind my favorite Zambales resort is truly a blessing to many.


A stay in Zambawood will not be complete without having cocktails by the beach. We were actually called out of the pool, to prepare for an afternoon of bonding and sunset watching by the gray shores of Zambales. But before that, we trailed a forest of pine trees, crossed a wooden bridge, and walked a pebble-formed path (perfect accent for a wedding aisle) before reaching our destination. Upon arrival, we were immediately welcomed with a chilled Zamba Sunset (Sangria), care of Kuya Jaymark.

Just like last year, the Zambawood team prepared open tents for us, which had several spreads of blankets on the sands. Chairs and pillows were also provided, along with a few eclectic decor.

I decided to join my friend Beng for a quick dip by the beach, until we were called in for some afternoon snacks, which were lovingly prepared by the Zambawood Team. We were also treated with a sumptuous set of fried spring rolls, tossed garden salad, which they called ‘Zambaslaw’ and some ceviche. Everything just tasted so well with my ZambaRita, a.k.a Calamansi Margarita (c/o of our amazing bartender, Flo), that I ordered another glass later on. 

The best part of the afternoon wasn’t just the glorious sunset or the savory snack. The highlight of my day was Rachel and Keith, our kind hosts who both graced us with their loving presence. An outpour of love was immediately felt when they sat together by a log, with only the sand and sea as their background. They were truly an epitome of real and genuine love.


It was about to rain, and the area was getting dark pretty fast. So we went ahead to our last activity for the day: Pizza making in Zambawood Café. We only had with us our things and some candle-lit lamps that guided us on on our way to the bistro (probably a 10 to 15 minute walk).

What Ms. Rachel and her family has done through the year was definitely awe-inspiring. Their love and commitment not just for Julyan, but for their community, definitely showed in their great work. Moreover, opening the café this year will certainly bring additional jobs for the locals in Zambales. 

Now, Zambawood Café isn’t just your ordinary bistro. It’s also a space where budget travelers can stay for the night, as individual beds are provided as well. They will also open a store, where Rachel’s curated art pieces will be sold, as well as a Nails and Body Spa where guests can be pampered during their stay. And if that’s not enough, Zambawood Café will also be offering some of the tastiest pizza varieties, which some of my friends got to make on their own. My personal favorites were the Breakfast Tuyo with Salted Egg Pizza and Pakbet Pizza, all of which were oven baked in a matter of minutes (using a small brick oven). 


Since most of our friends had to go back to the city, Ms. Rachel made sure to gather all of us to have breakfast at Julyan’s Pine Beach Farm. She brought us there so that we could experience what farm to fork dining would be like, which was fun in an interesting manner. 

The farm itself has changed since we last saw it, which has grown immensely (they only had a few farm animals then). They’ve also gone into vermicomposting, which is a great environmental solution. The process works by feeding the worms leftovers from the kitchen and garden (worms love coffee beans and vegetable scraps), which they will turn into compost later on. Worm poop is actually a great fertilizer, as it's safe and completely organic.


One of the activities that I enjoyed on our second day was our coffee-making class. The Zambawood Team, which was lead by Flo and Mariel, did a demo on how to make coffee in different variations using only a Saeco coffee maker. They showed us how to prepare brewed coffee, latte, cappuccino, caramel macchiato, white chocolate and dark chocolate. Out of all the flavors, white chocolate became my favorite (and a hit to many). If not for Culinary Exchange providing their yummy resources, we wouldn't have learned so much about coffee. So, thank you Culinary Exchange!


The last activity for the day was Julyan’s cooking demo. Teacher Ricky, a SPED Specialist, educated us of the importance of a person with Autism to have a routine. Julyan had a schedule of his own, and one of those was cooking his favorite Pinoy dish: Pinakbet. 

He has shown a lot of progress since the last time we saw him. And I felt so proud of him as he demonstrated on how to cook Pinakbet (he also prepared the ingredients beforehand). He knew which vegetables he was putting into the pan, and also knew how to cook all the vegetables in a timely manner. And the best part about it was that he ate his dish with much gusto right after. Now, that’s impressive. Even I can’t cook something as simple as that. 

The table-setting where Julyan cooked was also amidst a herb garden. The space itself was created so that each herb and spice would be easily accessible to him.


We started the night with a sumptuous dinner, but ended it with some wine and cheese sampling. I tried almost everything like the Pesto, Smoked Brie, and Goat Cheese (my personal favorite!). The latter had to be the cheesiest and tastiest for me, as it complemented my red sangria wine. Now, the cheese wasn’t the only thing that was good about that night, it was also the interesting topics and meaningful conversations that were shared that evening. It was definitely a night, more so, a weekend that was worth remembering and cherishing for a lifetime.

Thank you again to the whole Zambawood Team, especially the Harrison Family for welcoming us into your lovely home again. Thank you as well to Sid and his team for arranging our worry-free weekend. You're all amazing! Here's to more passion-filled advocacies! 

Explore & Be Free!

(63) 915-9914715 / (63) 919-9230988 / (632) 401-8776
Instagram, Twitter & Facebook: @zambawood

Note: This is a sponsored stay with ZAMBAWOOD. (Budget Biyahera) I do not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of the establishment or its owners. All views and opinions shared on this website are solely my own.

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