July 7, 2016

Sambali Beach Farm

The most wonderful journey always takes us home.

I got a message from Tita Mila early March, requesting me, Jane and Bunny to look for a beach place, not too far from Manila but away from the usual tourist crowd. She just booked a flight from HK and will be taking a leave for a few days in time for Doc’s birthday. She wanted everything to be a surprise for her unico hijo. After more than three months of searching and planning (na nabuking din ni Doc in the end), a gang of 14, composed mainly of Doc’s family from the mother side, eventually headed to Sambali Beach Farm in Botolan, Zambales. 

Named after the local language of Zambales, Sambali is a sprawling eight-hectare seaside property boasting of a charming native beach house, an organic farm, and a somewhat private beach front. It has a maximum capacity of 25 persons and is very ideal for intimate family gatherings and small team-building activities. It used to be the private hide-away of the family of Ching Camara until they decided to open it to public in 2013 upon the prodding of their friends.

The two-storey house is mostly made of native sawali material and Philippine hardwood and adorned with locally-made art pieces, giving it a homey and rustic appeal. A hat rack stands in the corner of the living room. The hats (some fashionable) come handy when visiting the farm or the beach while the sun is still up.   

For guests’ recreational activities, they have a cable TV, videoke, sungka, board games and puzzles, and a superb selection of DVDs. Nobody will ever get bored in this house.

The adjoined dining room and kitchen showcases numerous hanging native baskets which look like an art exhibit.

There are sun decks and tables (with colorful chairs and umbrella) on the veranda for lounging. The pine trees on the background somehow give the place a cool Baguio-feel (despite the unbearable summer-like heat). 

The open ground patio facing a garden, also serves as an extension of relaxation and recreation area with its rocking chairs and sport facilities like indoor basketball and table tennis.   

The rooms all look lovely. They are air-conditioned and depending on the size, could accommodate three to six persons. Beds are made of wood, and some even have canopy curtains. Every room has its own private bathroom with hot shower and organic bath essentials.

A minute-walk from the main house is a gazebo surrounded by pine trees. It also serves as a sleeping quarter for those who prefer waking up closer to nature.

When we first booked the place, we overlooked one of the house rules - that availing their full board meal is mandatory. But perhaps, it was all for the better since their farm-to-table food is one of the highlights of this escapade. The buffet spread of fresh salad, brown rice, vegetables, seafood, meat and desserts, mostly sourced from their farm, is such a heavenly treat. They are absolutely healthy and delicious. Everybody’s tummy were happy every after meal.  

What makes Sambali extraordinary is that it was able to sustain an organic vegetable and animal farm despite its very unlikely location.  It was actually the first time I’ve seen a farm by the beach, and was amazed how it thrived despite the sandy shores. Some of their produce includes Romaine and iceberg lettuce, arugula, spinach, citronella lemongrass, basil, oregano, chives, squash, papaya, pineapple, and siling labuyo. They also breed organic chicken and pigs. It is truly inspiring that the Camara family is able to provide livelihood to the local community thru their farm.   

A few meters from the main house is the Dambana Eucharistic Hermitage, a place for retreats and meditations. Aside from the tranquility it offers, what I love about this place are the heartwarming bible passages and quotes scattered from the gate up to the trees.

Since the area is a fishing village, most of the time there are no other people on the beach. The kuyas of the house are also very attentive, as they bring up chairs and beach umbrellas whenever we go down the beach. We enjoyed swimming in the late afternoon. While braving the big waves, nag-usap kami nina Doc and Bunny about family matters and how Tita Mila wanted everybody to be happy just for this occasion. Pag kasama mo si Tita, pampered ka talaga from beginning until the end.

Sambali is definitely one of the best places for R&R, recharging, and healing in Zambales area. Ate Lyn, the mayordoma of the house, and the rest of the household staff were very warm and accommodating, and really took good care of us. I guess everybody enjoyed Doc’s birthday get-away, especially that it was mostly Tita Mila’s treat. We just chipped in a little.

It was good to slow down a bit, simply enjoy the company of family and friends, and see how real-life love and drama unfold by the minute. Surely I will miss the salad but just a few moments from the hermitage showed me that…  We are only here for a time. We don’t have to worry. We don’t have to hurry. We need to forgive. And sometimes, we need to love even the people we don’t and will never understand, especially if they are family.    

Sambali Beach Farm
Danacbunga, Botolan
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