With Sinulog right around the corner, hotels and Airbnb listings are rapidly getting filled with travelers from all over the country and the world who are coming to Cebu to celebrate the festival.
Ideally, booking accommodations should have been done half a year ago (we’re not exaggerating), but in the spirit of YOLO and last-minute plans, there’s no reason one couldn’t find a place to stay in the Queen City—one option being Couchsurfing. While gaining popularity in recent years, the idea remains shrouded with a lot of myths and misconceptions.
Zee Lifestyle turns to travel guide and Couchsurfer host extraordinaire Mayan Benedicto to set the record straight and promote a concept that not only will get you a place to stay any time of the year, but make friends while you’re at it, too!
What is couchsurfing?
It is a travel community aimed to connect people to share travel and cultural experiences together. Yes, you get to “surf” couches. In other words, stay in a member’s home… or not. You can opt to just meet up with people over coffee, a drink, a meal or a tour around! Every major city in the world usually has a solid community and hosts regular meet-ups to entertain traveling guests in town, or to simply catch up with local members. The goal is to have a more local experience through meeting locals or visiting non-touristy areas.
My experiences in over five years now have brought me nothing short of fond memories and introduced me to lifetime friends.It excited me – getting to know people from all over the world and learn more about them and their countries. Every time I introduce couchsurfing to others, there are usually a lot of questions, which is totally different from when I first heard this concept. But, hey, you might now be asking questions yourself! Let’s give this a shot if I can answer most of them…
Is it actually safe?
Totally! There’s a reference system in which people leave positive or negative notes based on their experiences with the person so you can have an idea on what the person is like. The more references the better. But fewer references don’t always mean a bad thing either. Maybe he’s just starting out! And much like how you should be in any situation unknown to an extent, be vigilant and know how to review profiles. Interact online as well and you can get the feel of the person. Follow your gut!
I came to Cebu several times and they were all great. The people make you feel very welcome. They invited me to different parties and I attended two Sinulog festivals, all of which were great and had super positive vibes! – DIEGO BORTOLAMEOTTI
But isn’t it a dating site?
Oh, hell no! A lot of people are now using this site as a way to meet with other people to date, especially foreigners. Big no-no. It’s highly discouraged and frowned upon. There are other sites and apps for that, so shoo. This is a site for like-minded people in terms of travel. Sure, love can form in these connections but it shouldn’t be the goal!
I think CS is a great way to meet new friends, particularly when you are new to a place. I moved to Cebu and was able to meet some of the most interesting and fun people I’d ever met from all over the world. – – NATHAN MARK
Is it really free?
This part is a bit tricky. It’s a yes and a no. It’s a yes because money should never be involved in the exchange. If you are offered to stay in a home, you shouldn’t be charged at all! You can, however, gift something in return for the favor–bring something from your home country as a gift, treat your host out to dinner or even better, cook for your host! It’s really up to you. Spend time with your host and don’t just take advantage of a free couch! Totally defeats the purpose of it all.
I love to travel, but due to work and commitments i can’t travel as much as I want. Hosting travelers from around the world is like bringing the world to your home. Hearing their experiences, challenges and marvelous adventures make me feel that I’ve traveled. Meeting travelers from all over here in Cebu also makes me appreciate my city more, even as a local. – DR. XAVIER SOLIS
Can I join events?
Of course! Couchsurfing events are never exclusive. We’re open to introducing more people to it all the time. It’s a great way to encourage people to go out, explore and learn.
A 2017 Sinulog House Party will take place on Sinulog Sunday, January 15. Details here.
How do I start couchsurfing?
- Sign up on their website.
- Complete your profile.
- Check out and join travel plans and meet ups in your area.
- If you want to take it a step further, host a Couch Surfer!
- Surf when you travel by sending out requests to local hosts of your destination. Be as personal as possible. Don’t be generic so you have better chances of being accepted.
- Host your own meet-ups or events, or invite people to join your trips.
This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights
Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one
by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo
Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how.
After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.
No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.
So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of.
Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say?
For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand
Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…
What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.
The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.
Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.
Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection.
Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!
Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.
For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)
Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise
LOST IN PARADISE
Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.
by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder
Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.
The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.
Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”
The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.
The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.
In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!
For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)
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