Connect with us


Everything you need to know about Couchsurfing

With hotels and Airbnb listings fast filling up for Sinulog, we explore the world of Couchsurfing and set the record straight on its myths and misconceptions.

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?

Couchsurfers on a trip to Gringo Falls, Bacolod after the Masskara Festival 2012 (Contributed Photo)

Couchsurfers on a trip to Gringo Falls, Bacolod after the Masskara Festival 2012 (Contributed Photo)

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…

First ever host Alan Kerroux (far right) with fellow surfers in his apartment in Kota Kinabalu (Contributed Photo)

First ever host Alan Kerroux (far right) with fellow surfers in his apartment in Kota Kinabalu (Contributed Photo)

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

With my first ever surfer Jessica Cheung in Cebu (Contributed Photo)

With my first ever surfer Jessica Cheung in Cebu (Contributed Photo)

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.

Couchsurfers' Sinulog House Party in 2016. (Contributed Photo)

Couchsurfers’ Sinulog House Party in 2016. (Contributed Photo)

A 2017 Sinulog House Party will take place on Sinulog Sunday, January 15. Details here.

How do I start couchsurfing?

  1. Sign up on their website.
  2. Complete your profile.
  3. Check out and join travel plans and meet ups in your area.
  4. If you want to take it a step further, host a Couch Surfer!
  5. 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.
  6. Host your own meet-ups or events, or invite people to join your trips.

Feeling shy? Couchsurfers in Cebu usually meet up Thursday evenings at the Politics Cafe in Escario Central for Trivia Night. They play under the team name Pirates.


Find Your Summer Spirit in Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu

Breathe in the tropical atmosphere, as you find summer joys through sight, sound and taste at Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu. Poolside fun during the day, spent serenely and luxuriantly—a refreshment in hand. While the evenings are for outdoor family movie nights, with the ocean waves rippling in the background.

Summer is all of that, and more! Plan an extraordinary weekend with an array of exciting activities that await your arrival. Discover your #ShangriLaSummerSpirit from 15 July to 30 August.

Tiki Bar at Buko Bar

Epicurean Delights by the Pool

Keep yourself fueled up as you splish and splash with the whole crew. Take a quick break from all that summer jazz with Mediterranean and Polynesian-inspired bites exquisitely crafted for your palate. From rice balls and pastas, ice creams to sliders—indulge in tastes and aromas that transport you to a world of endless, golden summers.

Mediterranean Selections at Acqua

A Whimsical Touch

Make it a colourful summer for the kids! Let them explore their own version of paradise with whimsical floaties, sure to keep them happily afloat. Your little ones can now freely kick and play in the water with fun and fascinating, animal-shaped inflatables.

Pleasant Sundowner Tunes

Bid the sun adieu and embrace the sunset hues with live acoustics at the Main Pool from 4pm to 6:30pm.

Tiki Cocktails at Buko Bar

Champagne Bar at Acqua

A Toast to an Endless Summer!

Unwind and savour the tropical vibe as our expert mixologists craft refreshing Tiki cocktails and serve chilled bottles of exquisite champagne by the pool! With a backdrop of swaying palm trees and stunning ocean views, sip on delightful beverages and toast to unforgettable summer moments in paradise.

Family Outdoor Movie Night

Gather your nearest and dearest for an enchanting evening as we set up a large outdoor screen by the pool under the starry night sky. Cozy up as you enjoy a family-friendly movie that will delight both those who are young and young-at-heart at Treasure Island from 7pm to 9pm.

Surrounded by lush greens, let the experience bring you to a world of joy and laughter, creating cherished memories for you and the family. For more information on Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu, you may contact (032) 2310288. You may also follow them on Facebook and Instagram or visit #FindYourSummerSpirit #FindYourShangriLa

Continue Reading


LONDON IN FULL BLOOM: An Exclusive Look at the recent Chelsea Flower Show

Dame Judy Dench (center in white) with gallery owner, Jerry Sibal, Edwin Josue, writer Eva Gullas and artist James Doran-Webb.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London, one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world, returned in full glory in May 2023, captivating visitors with its stunning displays and landscape designs. Held annually on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, this year’s show proved to be a true feast for the senses, showcasing an array of breathtaking gardens, vibrant floral arrangements, and innovative landscaping. The 3-day event showcased 36 outdoor gardens, including four balcony gardens for small spaces. Inside the giant pavilion, blooms compete with each other, exotic flowers, roses, and many more.

Princess Kate Middleton walking the booths at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judy Dench, who owns several of Webb’s pieces in her garden, with James Doran-Webb and Jerry Sibal discussing the works of James.

One of the flower arrangements competing at the show.

The 2023 Chelsea Flower Show embraced a Nature’s Harmony theme, with a strong focus on sustainability and mental health. The show’s organizers emphasized the importance of sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity conservation, inspiring attendees to create beautiful outdoor spaces while preserving and protecting the environment.

One of the floral gazebo displays recycled chairs and salvaged materials.

Shops at the Chelsea Flower Show are mostly from sustainable materials.

What’s Cebu got to do with the Chelsea Flower Show in London? One person. James Doran Webb (, an Englishman working with driftwood, has been displaying his artworks for several years. James collects cast-off driftwood and shapes them into beautiful animal shapes that find places in some of the most iconic gardens. Leaping horses, owls, reindeer, and the occasional dragon, James Webb’s creations are avidly collected by landscapers to add accent to gardens in all sizes, using cast-off wood, fitting perfectly with the sustainable element—something Mr. Webb has done quite well for the last decade.

The impressive dragon of James Doran-Webb


The Philippine International Flower Festival will be held at the PICC in Manila from January 14 to 18, 2024. Watch out for more info from our website!

Continue Reading


Club Serena: A ‘Serene Luxury’ Experience in the Heart of Cebu’s Diving Mecca

photography by GPA Art and Photography

A three-hour drive, or more, depending on traffic, the fishing town of Moalboal in the southwest of Cebu Island is an extremely popular destination for divers and weekenders who love the white sand and pink sunsets. It is also a favorite place to stay for expats looking for a laid-back life of endless coffees or cocktails.

Thankfully, the big chain resorts haven’t discovered it and places to stay are mostly small family-run resorts. But if pampering is what you are looking for, there is only one hotel to book in Moalboal. Club Serena Resort is a 1.7-hectare beachfront property perched above coral rocks, presenting a unique union of luxurious accommodations and a host of activities to be enjoyed. This hidden gem is reached through a dirt road away from the main highway. Fronting a wide swath of white sand beach, it is an easy walk past several smaller resorts to reach the main town.

Recently renovated by noted architect James Jao, the new Club Serena has 17 rooms, three swimming pools, a restaurant, and a beachfront event space, all designed with modern Filipino aesthetic. On the drawing board are more rooms to be added, an expansion of their modern dive shop, and their popular Kids’ Club program. Their food outlet, Mira, offers all-day dining, favorite among visitors and locals, as well as the growing expat community that has settled in Moalboal. 

Club Serena offers diving courses for adults and kids by their resident operator, Seven Seas Aquanauts Phil. Corp, a PADI 5 accredited diving facility operating since 1988. For a complete list of the courses and their rates, please call (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307.

The resort encourages above-water activities as well, and they have several paddle boards and kayaks available for guests to use.

For rates and more information, visit or email or (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307. You can also visit their Facebook page for updates.

Continue Reading