Sunday, October 3, 2010

Metro Manila screening of “Cape No. 7” triggers recollections of Hengchun Peninsula tour

By Nancy T. Lu

Young Filipino moviegoers’ complaint about the limited screenings of “Cape No. 7” at the just-concluded Taiwan Film Festival at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall’s Shang Cineplex in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, this year triggered recollections of how the success of the Wei Te-sheng movie two years ago fanned tourism in southern Taiwan.

The movie tells of a frustrated singer in a band returning to his sleepy hometown after failing to find career success in Taipei. Aga becomes one of the local recruits of Tomoko, a Japanese model putting together a front act for the concert of a Japanese pop star. Thrown into the story is a mysterious mail package with an address difficult to pinpoint. The love story involving a local girl and a Japanese young man who was forced to leave the island with the retreating forces after Japan’s defeat during World War II comes full circle in the end.

The Hengchun Peninsula for all its natural charm and beauty never before saw anything similar to the influx of tourists two years ago. Tourism truly picked up after the film “Cape No. 7” starring Van Fan (Aga) and Chie Tanaka (Tomoko) hit the movie theater screens in Taiwan in 2008. A reason other than the “Spring Scream” rock music festival at the beautiful Kenting National Park woke up the usually sleepy area in southern Taiwan.

Wave after wave of tourists arrived to soak up the “Cape No. 7” experience. Ever since director Wei Te-sheng’s first full-length motion picture opened in movie theaters throughout Taiwan, the tourist influx was unbelievable, prompting the different sectors of the tourism industry to get their act together to welcome the avalanche of visitors.

The Taiwan Tour Bus even arranged to take people to the movie’s different shooting location sites. The West City Gate, Aga’s home, Uncle Mao’s house, Grandma Tomoko’s residence, Chateau Beach Resort, Paisha beach, Sanhai Fishing Harbor, Wanlitong beach, Fu An Temple, and Checheng Taihsing Temple were among the stops in the whole day itinerary. The sightseeing trip from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. cost NT$1,314 (US$1 = NT$33) per person then.
Half-day options with the Taiwan Tour Bus covered either the morning itinerary or the afternoon route of the whole day trip. Morning sightseeing from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a total of five hours, including lunch at the Chateau Beach Resort, was priced at NT$999 while the afternoon schedule requiring four-and-a half hours from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. cost NT$450.

The “Cape No. 7” tours were offered daily for a limited period only. Call the Pingtung Travel Agency at tel. (08)888-2900 or tel. (08)889-1464 to check on the possibility of going on such a tour today if you plan to travel to southern Taiwan. Visit websites or for more information on other tours around Taiwan. Taiwan Tour Bus service information is given in Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean languages through tel. 0800-011765.

Communities where the location shooting took place put up signs, maps and posters to help outsiders with “Cape No. 7” on their lips find the sites of the different precise scenes in the movie.

Aga’s home and Uncle Mao’s house emerged the visitors’ must-see addresses. In fact, the homestay place used as the rock band singer character’s home in the film began collecting an entrance fee of NT$50 from those seeking to have a first-hand look of Aga’s bedroom.

Finding some of the film’s extras then was not all that difficult. The low-budget movie, which became the talk of Filipino moviegoers in the last week of September this year, relied on amateurs very often. Visitors in the Hengchun Peninsula were warned though at that time: Beware of imposters trying to bask in reflected glory in a place put suddenly in the limelight. Even the local dog out on the street wanted to get into the picture when Chie Tanaka, the leading lady, appeared on a beach to face the media frenzy.

Towns got used to the overnight fame though. Entrepreneurial brains worked to cash in on the “Cape No. 7” fever by packaging whatever they were trying to sell with the movie and its characters for inspiration. The food and beverage department of the Howard Plaza Hotel in Kenting, for example, came up with a very special bread carrying Aga’s name.

Other Taiwan movies featured during the recent Taiwan Film Festival in Metro Manila included Chi Y. Lee’s “Chocolate Rap,” Tseng Wen-chen’s “Fishing Luck,” Chu Yu-ping’s “Kung-Fu Dunk,” Yang Ya-che’s “Orzboyz,” Tong Chan-yu’s “Our Island Our Dreams” and Cheng Yu-chieh’s “Yang Yang.” All screenings were packed. “Cape No. 7” was also presented last year during the film festival made possible by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines.

All photographs shown here were taken by Nancy T. Lu during an unforgettable tour of Hengchun Peninsula in southern Taiwan two years ago.

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