If the ocean could talk, can you imagine the stories it would tell?
At Kwentong Dagat, a charming beachfront resort in the fishing village of Liwliwa, Zambales, the ocean seems at peace with itself, expressing its contentment through the rhythm of frothy waves gently kissing the shore. The sounds of the sea mingle seamlessly with the melodic rustling of the branches of stately Agoho trees, and from one of the rustic cabins a peal of laughter pierces the air. The resort is a study in serenity and simplicity, a stark contrast to the buzzing of buildings that define the narrative of our daily city grind. At Kwentong Dagat, it is quiet enough to sit with your thoughts, and to understand the stories swirling around in your own head—all you have to do is listen.
DG Traveler catches up with Daryl Co, one of three founders of the enchanting beach resort, to talk about how they fell in love with Zambales, their delightful plant-based menu, and why they believe in inclusivity, welcoming both vegans and non-vegans, young and old alike, and even pets.
What’s the concept and inspiration for Kwentong Dagat? Is there a story behind the name?
Our purpose was to create a space where we could promote a lifestyle that is compassionate towards our environment and all its inhabitants. The name actually came to us randomly when we were trading beach stories; we realized that each of one us has a story or “kwento” that’s connected to the ocean. For some, it’s a barkada or family trip, for others it’s a love story or a heartbreak, while some just need to unwind and feel nature at its fullest so we figured, why not name the resort Kwentong Dagat?
How did you and your co-founders meet? Why did you decide to build a resort together?
Mike, Alex, and I met in a Facebook group called Manila Vegans (this group is a great resource for anyone interested in veganism), and from there we became friends. We’d been going to Liwa for a year already when we saw an opportunity to create a resort. We all agreed that it was going to be vegan, and that it was going to be a place where we ourselves would want to hang out. We wanted to have a place that had soul and purpose.
We started operations in April 2019, but we’re actually still on soft opening. Most of our rooms are still under construction, so we’re currently operating with just four cottages. Our rooms for couples are being built as we speak. (UPDATE: Rooms for 2 and 4 are now available. —DG Traveler team)
Kwentong Dagat is one of the first vegan beach resorts in the country. Why did you zoom in on this specific market?
My partners and I are all vegans, and Kwentong Dagat is basically our ideologies in concrete form. To be honest, we weren’t sure that we had a market but we were seeing a general rise in people wanting to go—or at least trying to go—vegan, so we took a gamble. We did make sure to be inclusive to everyone, so we allow non-vegan food to be cooked in the resort. Our hope is that by opening our doors to non-vegans, we would be able to spread the vegan message through the most peaceful way we know how: FOOD. It seems to be working since most of our guests are non-vegans who try our food and find themselves asking about the benefits of going on a plant-based diet.
Why Zambales in particular? What makes the province special?
As a beachgoer who just wants to chill and relax all day, I really think one of the most beautiful things about Zambales is the landscape. You get to see mountains and beaches alongside each other. The presence of the Agoho trees right beside the ocean is a sight to behold, too. It’s such a wonderful place to be in: it’s both stimulating and relaxing when you hear the waves, watch the sunset or just sit down and listen to the trees sway with the wind.
Of course, if you’re into surfing, Liwliwa is a great place to visit. It’s also one of the more accessible beaches in Luzon so it’s easy to go on random road trips here if you just need a quick getaway.
The aesthetic elements of Kwentong Dagat work so well with its natural surroundings. Can you walk us through the process of designing the resort?
Thank you! We actually drew a lot of inspiration from our travels to Bali and Mexico, and from our slight obsession with tiny houses. We really wanted to create a space that was a fusion of our local and global culture, so we went for a space-saving bahay kubo style that’s both unique to look at and comfortable to stay in.
What are the activities guests can expect?
Guests can look forward to relaxing by the beach with a bottle of ice-cold beer, or playing a game of volleyball or football with their friends. We can also set up a bonfire under the stars upon request. As Liwliwa is a popular surf sport, you can try surfing or skim boarding as well when it’s the right season.
Vegan food plays an important role in the Kwentong Dagat experience. Can you give us an idea of the kind of dishes you serve? What are your personal favorite items on the menu?
We serve vegan versions of your typical homecooked Pinoy food, so the dishes will probably taste quite familiar to you.
Alex is the one who actually makes the food, but we help him out with the prep. The crowd favorites are the tortang talong, Bicol Express, and escabeche. For our tortang talong, we use chickpea flour mixed with water instead of egg. Our Bicol Express is made with soy-based mock meat simmered in spicy coconut milk and a blend of various spices. We have our own version of terong balado as well, which is an Indonesian eggplant and chili dish.
I personally love eating the tortang talong with ketchup and vegan fish sauce—it was also my favorite when I still used to eat eggs. It’s a dish I didn’t think I would be able to eat again after going vegan, so I always feel grateful when it’s served.
Are there any interesting attractions near the resort that you can recommend?
Anghalo Falls is just 10 minutes away from us. It’s open during the rainy season only, so now is actually a great time to visit. There’s also a museum and artist residence 30 minutes away called Casa San Miguel. It’s a must-experience, especially for creative types.
Kwentong Dagat started out with 4 standard cottages, with each cottage accommodating 6 people comfortably with 2 double beds and 1 loft bed. The cottages are air-conditioned, and equipped with a reading lamp, electric fan, and sockets so you can charge your gadgets. You can buy their all-in package for Deal Grocer members, inclusive of cottage for 6, full-board meals, waterfalls tour, and use of surfboard for only ₱7,550. Bathrooms are communal but clean and functional, with sinks, toilet cubicles, and shower stalls.
How to Get There
If you’re traveling by private car drive along North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Take Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and exit at Subic, then turn left when you reach the Olongapo Public Cemetery. You will pass the municipalities of Subic, Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Antonio, and San Narciso. Alternatively, you can find Kwentong Dagat on Google Maps or Waze.
If you’re taking public transportation, head to the Cubao or Pasay terminal. From there, ride a Victory Liner bus that’s bound for Iba or Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Ask to get dropped off at San Felipe Public Market. From the tricycle terminal, ask the drivers in the area to take you to Kwentong Dagat.
Sitio Liwliwa, Brgy. Sto. Niño
San Felipe, Zambales
(0917) 317 6295
Want to discover more Zambales beaches? Check out this article to plan your laid-back seaside vacay.
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This article was last edited on February 18, 2020 by the DG Traveler team.
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