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Monday, June 3, 2013

No Meat, No Frills, No Strangers at the Veggie Resort of Ambay


"It's a vegetarian resort, plus they don't serve alcoholic drinks" I told a few friends as I try to invite them to visit this resort in Botolan, Zambales called "Ambay". My carnivore and beer drinking friends can't hide the smirk on their faces at my prodding to come with me. "What are we going to do there, more importantly what are we going to eat?". What seems to be a great concern to them, It became a source of wonder which drove me to visit the place with my friend Kara early this summer.

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There's no off-key Karaoke singing in here. Thank God
A few years ago under its original management, Ambay was hit hard by a typhoon. The fence was swept by the rampaging waves that came from the overflowed sea. It was left with non-descript features with fallen trees and collapsing ceilings. It still remain an attractive spot though, enough for my old mates at UST Mountaineering Club to choose it as the venue for their reunion party. As fate would have it, one of the USTMC oldies, Leah Bonzo Paningbatan was able to talk to the owner, who hinted at wanting to rent out the place. Sensing an opportunity to manage a beach resort (a dream job for most of us) and also to introduce a healthy-way of living, she and a few vegetarian friends leased the place and re-opened it sometime last year.

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Kara Wow. Relaxing on one of the hammocks
Today, Ambay doesn't show any lingering effects of the forces of nature that once battered it. It now resembles a lively community during weekends, when guests starts showing up as strangers. But when, mealtime starts and each picks a seat next to one another. A delightful random conversation ensues. Brought about by the excitement of what's about to be served. People who have never had a plateful of vegetables in their life, are now delighting to such in-house favorites like Veggie Sisig, Kare kare with veggie bagoong and malunggay pesto to name a few.

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They introduce you to a myriad ways of no-meat gastronomical experience
While I know that I will never had the discipline to become a strictly vegetarian person. I enjoy the concept that Leah and her friends have introduced at Ambay. It is not only the quiet and homely environment that pulls you here, but also gives each guest something to look forward to. Like what would Chef Edil would serve at the dining table next.

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That's Veggie Sisig served with Kalabasa, Rice over a Banana Lead = Yum
My friend Kara could only stay until midnight, but the next morning after she'd gone home. She texted me asking what was served during breakfast. For sure, you won't get that curious in other beach resorts knowing they'd only serve tapsilog, longsilog or pancakes.

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You end up looking forward to your next meal.
With the vegetarian food as the selling point. It never ends there. The place also serves as a magnet for the guests and the managers; Leah, Edil, Aaron, Paul Dennis & Rolly to interact with one another. As you go around the place, you will see random paintings, you walk further you can lay down on a hammock and listen to nothing but the breeze coming from all corners. The sea itself, as if knowing this resort doesn't cater to off-key Karaoke sessions,  remains quiet thus, leaving you with your thoughts undisturbed and unperturbed.

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Guests who eat together ends up yoga-ing together
By mid-afternoon I walked over the large shore, feeling the fine sands against my feet and watched people swim on the beach. Most of the time though, my eyes were directed towards the other guests who were doing yoga. (Ambay also has an in-house Yoga Instructor). They did all sorts of body contortion, stretching and relaxing positions. After I went home I practiced some of it and only heard cracking bones. I find it really interesting just seeing them from afar.  

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I could try that in 12 moves. Kidding
Dusk arrives only after seeing a beautiful sunset, which is the trademark of Zambales, as it faces the South China Sea. The sun gleams in its finest fiery golden red as it slowly moves down before disappearing at the edge of the sea. As the darkness bites the remaining sunlight, me and Kara headed to the kitchen to watch Edil and his co-chef prepare for dinner.

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Yoga by the beach
It's like harvesting from a garden. All that was being cut on the chopping table were greens, with red peppers, and on the grill veggie meats are being barbecued. On one corner of the kitchen, fresh watermelon fruits are being cut to pieces. You don't smell burning meat or feel anything greasy. The whole dinner preparation process was chilled, steady and relaxed. 

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Sunset is always a must-see in Zambales
Come night-time, everybody gathers around a specific spot for a bonfire. Through a ukulele jamming session, guests are encouraged again to socialize and mow down that wall of strangeness and turn it into a gates of kinship. This is how it goes at Ambay I muttered to myself. One does not only see a beautiful sun go down into darkness, one also sees a new way of living (the veggie way), and most of all one realizes there are no strangers and all those random paintings found around the resort were painted with a reason behind it.

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Ukulele jamming at night

Ambay Botolan Beach Resort is located at Botolan, Zambales. 

Directions: 
- take an Iba, Zamabales bound bus from Victory Liner in Cubao or Caloocan—tell the conductor to drop you off at Ambay.
- private cars:  Take NLEX then exit to Subic via SCTEX take road goin to Iba, Zambales. You will pass by the towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe and Cabangan. Next will be Botolan, resorts are on the left, Ambay is just after Rama Beach.

For reservations and inquiries, call Leah Paningbatan at 0920-9020860.

Like their Facebook page for more information.
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