Around the World in Eighty Couches

16 01 2012

We’ve heard it all: backpacking Asia, roadtrip around America, hitchhiking Ireland, cruising the Amazon, jeep safari in Africa, sailing the Carribean to trekking the Himalayas one way or another we knew a friend of a friend whose uncle’s neighbour’s daughter’s bestfriend whose dentist’s assistant’s niece did this. But Fleur had something different in mind: to experience Central Asia not by mode of transportation, but through mode of hospitality.

It’s one way to sleep with 20 other people in one room in a hostel, but it’s another thing to walk in to a total stranger’s house and sleep on their couch. We’d do it for friends if they need to crash for the night, right? Why not to strangers?
It’s a bit crazy.

“Fleur is about to lose her couchsurfing virginty as she travels through China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, joining the burgeoning couchsurfing community. Fleur is on a mission to discover what motivates people to intive total strangers to sleep on their sofa and what it is that has made couchsurfing such a global phenomenon. “

As Fleur experiences the global phenomenon of couchsurfing we are introduced to a world where the place is about the peoples’ homes. From mats to cots, on the floor or on a bed that seemed half consumed already by bed bugs to a close encounter of sharing a bed with a couple, a new breed of hospitality is born. When doors are open wide and beds made for Fleur, a sultry ensemble of characters will deliver a story to tell worth reading for.
Maybe in the comfort of your own couch.


Last Train Home

6 03 2010

There are over 130 million migrant workers in China.
They go home only once a year, on Chinese New Year
This is the world’s largest human migration.

Only a handful of movies have the real power of moving a crowd in a theater. It is when emotions are felt, words hit the heart, scenes are full of awe and the characters become the source of compassion to the crowd.

However, this movie is not about Avatar.

In the day and age of 3D and Hollywood mega effects, moviegoers are subjected to unrealistic and manufactured characters that are so detached to real emotions. We follow fictional characters in hopes that we could relate to them, but director Lixin Fan had a different idea for his next film. Following the success of his first documentary film Up the Yangtze , Fan is a genius on this creative film about a migrant family trying to make ends meet while sacrificing the most essential necessity in a home – family ties.

Fifteen years ago, Changhua and Suqin Zhan left their sleepy town to work in the big city to support their family; their children, Qin and Yang were left with their grandmother. Over the years the couple lost their ties with their daughter (Qin) and as she grew up have become curious about independence. The couple, who both worked in factories, feared that their rebellious daughter will follow their footsteps.

Following the documentary the audience is exposed to the lives of the Zhans. The viewer is caught in a world stricken with intense oppression. Battling out financial difficulties and future dilemmas, sacrifices are an everyday challenge to the Zhans and it isn’t long until tears run down your cheek.

As the film succumbs in a story revolving around the Zhans, the documentary also focuses on poverty, chaos, and hardships of other migrant workers in China. Every year millions of people are dealt with a journey home that unlike ‘coming home stories’ are very difficult. Train stations packed, tickets being sold out, cancellations or delays, and people quarrel within jumble. Some do give up in the process, but others will try to get home.

“If the family can’t even spend the New Year together, life would be pointless”

Winner of numerous Film Festival Awards (Best Film from Quebec/Canada) and an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, Last Train Home is a riveting masterpiece that is not to be missed, and when you do, don’t forget to bring a box of tissue.

Destination: China
Director: Lixin Fan
Deat of Release: November 20, 2009

Heaven on Earth is an awfuly big secret

2 09 2009
“I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing”


When Richard lands in Bangkok, all he wanted is to have an adventure – an ultimate adventure. Not the typical tourist destination, not the the typical prepackaged resort, nor the typical backpacker’s route – but a once in a lifetime experience that travelguides just won’t cut it. The problem is, everybody seems to be going to the same place and doing the same thing- until he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle).
Daffy speaks about a paradise that is a myth in the tourist world, a paradise that only a few deserve to know and only a handful could find. Then Daffy hands Richard a map to a supposedly secret island where you will find a beach.

But it isn’t just any beach, it is the ultimate perfect beach.

Now that fate has handed him an adventure he couldn’t surpass, Richard (played by Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio) recruits a French couple; beautiful Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and sweet caring boyfriend Étienne (Guillaume Canet star in Joyeux Noël) to come with him to the island and search for this paradise.

“My name is Richard. So what else do you need to know? Stuff about my family, or where I’m from? None of that matters. Not once you cross the ocean and cut yourself loose, looking for something more beautiful, something more exciting and yes, I admit, something more dangerous. So after eighteen hours in the back of an airplane, three dumb movies, two plastic meals, six beers and absolutely no sleep, I finally touch down; in Bangkok. “

But like any paradise it has its price, as beautiful as it may seem it is far from perfect. Shark infested waters, untrustworthy tribe, a dangerous secret – a perfect cocktail for a ride you’ll never forget. Based on the book of the same name by Alex Garland, The Beach is a story of an American backpacker (in the novel he is British) trying to escape reality looking for a thrill and ends up in an adventure he will never forget. Like most backpackers in Thailand he is captivated by its beauty and charm. Every traveler wants to find his own paradise and Richard is determined to find his own in the exotic land of coconut trees and buddhas, and will all of these comes a deception that in escaping reality perilous forces is at hand and only a few brave will conquer the courage to face them.

The Lord of the Flies inspired story depicts a dog-eat-dog world even in paradise. It isn’t easy finding a peace of heaven you can call your own and that essentially, every one of us is looking for an escape. Enjoy the coconut trees, pristine waters, white sand beaches and the beauty of Thailand in this film, in a blink of an eye it may soon be gone from your movie screen.

Aliwan Fiesta

13 08 2009

Orville takes us on a one of a kind festival in Manila where Filipino cultures mix and showcase the best cultural performances of the country

Words and photos by Orville del Rosario

Summer breeze gave me goosebumps as my officemate, Francis, and I walked towards Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex in Manila to watch the Aliwan Fiesta. It was almost at the end of April, halfway out of the summer season, but it felt like summer was just getting started. The heat of the sun was pretty much right on! Good thing the clouds were giving the best shade at the time, hiding the mighty hot sun lights. We could see the towers of Star City as we were getting closer. I was so excited because this would officially be my first photo shoot ever. We were actually trying to enter a photo competition organized by a local AM radio station in the Philippines, the Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC). The theme was the Aliwan Fiesta, from anything taken during the street dancing competition and parade. I got into this because Francis, being a photography enthusiast, encouraged me (a newbie in photography ) to come with him to watch the festival and take some photos. He said that there was a photo competition and we should join. Of course I wanted to join, this was a new experience for me, both in my life and in photography. So we decided that we would come to the Aliwan and take as many photos as we can. We were joined by Ethel, another officemate, and the three of us were on the same team. Like I said, this would be my first time to attend a real photography event and first time to watch the Aliwan Fiesta.

The Aliwan Fiesta is yearly event where different provinces and cities across the country showcase their own festivals; for example the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, Dinagyang Festival of Davao, Panagbenga or the Flower Festival of Baguio City, Kadayawan Festival of Ilo-Ilo, and Karatong Festival of Dulag, Leyte to name a few.

This festival is not just about music and dances, they actually have their own stories to tell – stories that are native to their town or province of origin, like the Karatong Festival from the town of Dulag in the province of Leyte. Karatong is the Waray (a native of and language in Leyte) word for bamboo. During the olden times, way before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the people in Dulag used bamboos to warn the town if there were enemies, such as pirates and tribes, who wanted to invade their lands. They would make loud noises to warn the townsmen of the arrival of the intruders, and would use it also as their weapon in the form of spears to fight against the enemies. With the story they have, they will make it into a series of routines, amazing music and dance moves.

To be in the presence of such diverse and rich cultures, it makes me feel so proud that I am a Filipino. We have different culture, traditions, beliefs, but through these events we become one united nation. Yes, the main purpose of the Aliwan Festival is to showcase the talents of each province or town, and that it is a competition more than anything, but this is also a time where different people, or shall I say “tribes”, from across the seven thousand one hundred and one islands of the Philippine archipelago, meet and be one as a nation. Together, they show to the world how rich our culture is, and how we preserve it, which is through our festivals.

“This festival is not just about music and dances, they actually have their own stories to tell – stories that are native to their town or province of origin”

All the festivals are great and we should be proud of them. On a personal note, the Karatong Festival in particular, is what I am most proud of. Simply because my mom is from Dulag, Leyte, where the Karatong Festival originated. She lived and grew up there, and I am proud to say that she is a native of Dulag, and I am proud to say that I have a blood of a Waray. And I was so thankful to God the He gave me the opportunity to have watched the performance of the Karatong Festival. I was so honored and proud that during the performance, and even got teary eyed. To simply be there and witness all that – not to mention how amazing they were with their performance – is just overwhelming and unbelievable. I was so proud of that moment, that I kept saying to my officemates that my mom is from where the Karatong Festival originated. God, that was so amazing! I am very happy I got to watch their festival.

Orville is a graduate of Electronic and Communications Engineer in the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Currently working as an Associate Software Engineer at an IT company.

If you win a free trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’d say, united kingdom…hehe..I dunno, maybe because I love Harry Potter that much that I wanted to see London and all that…haha. But seriously though, I think the place is cool..with all the castles and stuff and I want to see the stonehenge.