‘Survivor’ favorite meets fans in Cebu

HIT television show Survivor celebrated its 500th episode by premiering Survivor: Game Changers last Thursday (Wednesday night in the US).

It’s supposed to star previous Survivor contestants who have changed the game. But one of the most outspoken contestants in the show’s history, Eliza Orlins, believe there have been a few miscast.

“Some of the people don’t belong in that show,” Orlins told SunStar Cebu.

She did not name them but for sure, she’d be rooting for some contestants she believes deserve to be called game-changers: fellow Survivor: Micronesia castaways Ozzy Lusth and Cirie Fields, Aubry Bracco, Andrea Boehlke and two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine.

Survivor fans in Cebu held a viewing party for the 34-year-old Orlins last Thursday at Alejandro’s Crispy Pata. But Orlins was scheduled to meet her father that day. Instead, she joined the Cebu Trivia Night in the same venue the night before and teamed up with her fans. Orlins, a public defender, helped the team win second place.

Two of her Cebuano fans, Ryan Taborada and Roger Ramos, knew of Orlins’ affinity for trivia so they invited her to Cebu as early as November.
“Eliza (@eorlins), we’d love if you come over here in Cebu, Philippines,” tweeted Ramos last Nov. 17.

On Nov. 22, Taborada learned that Orlins plays trivia, so he tweeted: “Eliza plays trivia! If she comes to Cebu, we’ll create an entirely new team with her.”

And then Orlins, of Survivor: Vanuatu and Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites fame, visited the Philippines for a Sabbatical.

She met up with some friends in Boracay last Feb. 20, then traveled solo to Palawan—from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Philippines. My sister said it is one of the most beautiful places she’s ever been,” said the public defender from New York.

After spending three weeks in the Philippines, Orlins agreed with her sister.

“The clear blue skies, crystal waters and white sand beaches,” Orlins enumerated the best things about the Philippines. And don’t even get her started on the food: “I love the food here. I can eat adobo chicken every day.”

“In Boracay, the vendor became familiar with us because we get taho (tofu pudding) every morning. And I couldn’t get enough of buko shake. I also love kangkong (river spinach), chicken inasal, turon… And I’ve been buying mangoes on the side. And I’ve eaten a ton of seafood,” Orlins shared.

When Ramos, Taborada and other fans noticed from her social media posts that she was in the Philippines, they just knew Orlins had to drop by Cebu.

“@eorlins, if you drop by Cebu on March 9th, (Ramos) and I will organize a viewing party for you. Please come visit!” Taborada tweeted. And just like that, Orlins booked a flight to Cebu.

“Fans tweeted and (messaged me on) Instagram to come to Cebu. So I thought, I better take a look at that,” said Orlins.

She also heard that Cebu is the best place to go snorkeling and diving.

Just like Ramos and Taborada, Orlins was a Survivor fan.

In the game of Survivor, contestants are marooned in a deserted place and they have to find their own food and make their own shelter. Orlins finished fourth in Vanuatu in 2004 and 10th in Micronesia in 2008.

Despite the difficulty in surviving Survivor, Orlins said she would do it again.

“It was the best experience. I was a fan of the show for so many years. It was a dream come true,” she said.

In fact, when she was 16 years old, her AOL profile stated that she was a future Survivor season nine contestant, which as a teenager, she calculated to be the first season she would be eligible to join the show. True enough, the Micronesia leg was the ninth season of the franchise.

She endured life with a limited supply of food, no blankets, no toothbrush or toilet paper.

“Eventually you get used to the smell of the women. But the men...” Orlins didn’t have to finish her sentence to indicate the stench of the opposite sex. Rancid smell or not, Orlins and her fellow contestants cuddled every night. She said she’d rather take in the stench as long as there is warmth.

“Everything about (Survivor) is the worst. You are cold and starving. It’s awful. And to top it off, everybody’s trying to vote you off.”

In fact, Orlins said Survivor is more difficult than having to defend someone she knows is guilty of a crime.

“Defending someone who is guilty is not hard at all. There’s no comparison,” said Orlins who explained that rich people who commit crimes can afford the most prolific lawyers. So why should the less fortunate have less when it comes to legal representation?

“It doesn’t matter if he’s guilty or not,” said Orlins, whose clients are mostly minorities—blacks and Hispanics.

Aside from the experience, another great thing that she took away from the Survivor is the gift of lifelong friendships. It’s been 13 years since Vanuatu but Orlins said she still keeps in touch with fellow castaways Julie Berry and Leann Slaby. She’s also still friends with Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth, whom she met in Micronesia.

Orlins graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University with degrees in Political Science and International Relations, which is linked to her love for traveling. She has been to 65 countries. She also lived in two countries, having lived and traveled between New York and Hong Kong when she was younger because of her father Steve Orlins’ work. He is currently the president of the National Committee on US-China Relations.

Orlins then went on to study law and graduate cum laude from Fordham University.

When asked if her intelligence could be the reason for her frequent eyerolls on Survivor, Orlins said “maybe.” She was known for her over-the-top facial expressions while on Survivor. Fans and other contestants even coined the term “pulling an Eliza” for her expressions.

Orlins’ famous line: “It’s just a f**king stick!” is among the most memorable Survivor moments. She uttered this line when castmate Jason Siska tried to save her from being eliminated using a stick Siska believed was an immunity idol. CBS, Survivor’s home network, called it the second all-time greatest survivor moment.

Malcolm Freberg, who is a contestant in the current show as well as Survivor: Philippines and Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites (both filmed in the Caramoan Islands in the Philipines), named that moment one of his favorites. So did John Carroll of Survivor: Marquesas.

Orlins also shared a video on her Instagram account, which website Just Jared shared, of her being surrounded by Cebuano Survivor fans yelling their favorite moment: “It’s just a f**king stick!”

She may be smart, but Orlins said that’s not a guarantee to win the game. Another Survivor filmed in the Philippines was Survivor: Cagayan, dubbed Brawn vs. Brain vs. Beauty. Brawn eventually won with two members, Tony Vlachos and Yung Hwang, facing off in the finals. Vlachos won that season, but he was the second to be voted off this season.

“You can be smart, but if you don’t have the social component to connect and communicate with people, you’re not going to go a long way,” said Orlins.

She arrived in Cebu last Tuesday and was met at the airport by Taborada and Ramos. It was the first time they met, but they could have been lifelong friends.

“We immediately welcomed her and started chitchatting on our way to her hotel,” shared Ramos. They also hosted a dinner for Orlins at Circa 1900.

The next day, Orlins, accompanied by Taborada, met with SunStar Cebu for this interview. She enjoyed some lechon, dinuguan and budbod with sikwate and mango slices.

“So this is the famous Cebu lechon. Delicious,” said Orlins, who already detailed how much she loves the food here.

She went back to the US yesterday but left behind some incredible memories for her fans and for herself.
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