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LOOK: This '70s Home In Poblacion Was Converted Into A Bright And Colorful Cafe For Fun And Purpose

Rachel Harrison brings her Zambawood Resort to Manila via a cafe, wellness space and art gallery in Poblacion

Zambawood , the resort in San Narciso, Zambales, is known to many nowadays as a popular wedding and pre-nuptial photo destination.  Its owner, Rachel Harrison holds a degree in Architecture, and was once a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific.  Her son, Julyan, is living with autism.  He was her reason for building Zambawood.  “My fear is that Julyan will not have anyone when I go. There comes a point in life where you really need to think of ways where [your children] become more independent,” Rachel tells Metro Home and Entertaining Magazine when its team visited the resort a few years ago. “At the end of the day, one just needs a job to sustain oneself. Julyan is physically able, but mentally, he is not there. So I thought, ‘Why not farming Why not art?” Rachel explains.  The result of these musings is Zambawood, Julyan’s Eden, his playground for exploring art, farming, surfing, biking, and many more activities, proving that indeed, the possibilities for him and people living with autism are endless.

IN PHOTOS:  This Cozy Store Shows What Baked Bread Looks Like As A Color and Material Palette


IN PHOTOS: This Cozy Store Shows What Baked Bread Looks Like As A Color and Material Palette

From this endeavor, Rachel birthed many more, one of which is the Zambawood Café in Poblacion, Makati. “We opened a café in Poblacion just over a year ago in October 2019.  We were very excited to be the only social enterprise in Poblacion, creating employment, for deaf/mute and high functioning people with autism, as baristas.  We made the community aware that people with different abilities are able to work if they get given the skills and the opportunity.  To our delight, people loved hanging out in our café.  They came because of our excellent coffee, milk tea, comfort food, cool ambiance and excellent service.  We became part of the Poblacion tours,  carefully curated by Jian Miranda from Z Hostel. We became the “heart” of Poblacion because of the purpose behind our business – to give skills and employment to PWDs. The foreign tourists came to buy their coffees before heading to the airport and to buy their local pasalubongs from our mini gift corner,” Rachel reveals. 

Step Into A 2D Sketch When You Visit This Milk Tea Bar


Step Into A 2D Sketch When You Visit This Milk Tea Bar

After five months from its opening, the lock down came.  Like many in the food and beverage industry, Rachel had to pivot.  If you’ve never met her, you have to know that  Rachel is  the kind of person where, at one moment, you run into her, chatting to catch up, listening to her, effervescent with many wonderful ideas.  The next minute, she’ll turn around, and have all  of those ideas in place, ready to launch.  With this lightning-speed sense of urgency, she and her team birthed yet another baby, the Zambawood Café, in the same Makati neighborhood, Poblacion, but this time, with a more generous outdoor space, ready to accommodate guests with social distancing and all the requirements for safety against COVID-19.  “We have the most suitable place to enjoy a relaxing and peaceful time with one’s chosen company right in the heart of Poblacion!  This is where our guests can get back (in a safe socially distanced way) to the times when going out and socializing was truly fun.  In these times, it is again possible, delightful and pleasurable to enjoy time out of our homes, of course, always following the proper health protocols,” Rachel shares, underscoring the cafe concept: “to give the experience and the feel of being in nature, like Zambawood [but] in the city.”

Re-painted in white inspired by the black and white houses in Singapore, the old ’70’s home became a blank canvas for Rachel’s many concepts: a multi-functional space on the second floor that may be rented for events, functions and meetings during the day.  At night, it transforms into an intimate dining space for a maximum of ten people, where guests are treated with meals by chefs who collaborate with Zambawood, served by their beloved special needs staff.  Workshops on wellness are also held in this space.  “Examples of topics in the mini workshops are stress and anxieties management, insomnia, gut and digestive issues, which will be followed by sessions of acupuncture to address the issues.  We work with a roster of professional and registered doctors trained in western and eastern medicine.  For the Creative part, we offer art therapy and biography writing, sessions by appointment only,” Rachel says.

The Zambawood Café experience, albeit an urban one, is not far from what one gets in Zambales: easy, unpretentious, happy, against a backdrop of boho-eclectic furnishings and accessories, lending the place a casual vibe, definitely etched in memory for a very long time.

Visit Zambawood Población at 5893 Enriquez St., Población, Makati.  Call 0917.686.0895 for reservations or send them a DM on Instagram @zambawood or Facebook