Rovilson Fernandez grew up playing in a creek with his three brothers in California.
“There were no videogames back then. We lived next to a creek, that creek was our videogame, it was our life,” the 42-year-old host recalls his childhood with fondness in an interview.
“We’d come home with holes in our jeans and dirt in our fingernails because we played in the dirt all the time,” he continues of his younger days. “We brought home animals with broken wings. So I’ve always been partial to the environment, I love the environment.”
Rovilson, who is now based in Manila, the Philippines, was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote his latest show The Eco Traveller that’s airing on GoAsean, an Asean-centric travel channel on Astro. The show recently celebrated its first year anniversary.
Many may know Rovilson from his days as a contestant on The Amazing Race Asia back in 2007. Along with best friend Marc Nelson, Rovilson came in third on the reality series. Since then, the two have teamed up as hosts on talk show The Duke and last year’s reality talent series Asia’s Got Talent.
As a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ambassador, Rovilsons says he also learned about the importance of caring for Mother Nature from a young age in school. As such, the passionate environmentalist who rocks a bald head, couldn’t have been more suited for the role as the host of The Eco Traveller.
In the 10-episode series, he explores natural attractions all over the Philippines, whether it’s diving into the depths of Boracay’s crystal clear waters or scaling the heights of the Cordillera mountain region, making environmentally-friendly decisions throughout his travels.
“Some of the most amazing, emotionally-impactful events happen when you go see the ocean or a sunset for the first time,” he says.
The show has already earned international recognition – a Silver Award for TV Programs under the Nature/Wildlife category and a Bronze Award for TV Programs under the Travel/Tourism category at the 37th Annual Telly Awards USA 2016.
1. How did you come to be a part of The Eco Traveller?
Marc and I wanted to do a show to promote sustainable tourism and eco-friendly destinations around Asia. We’ve been trying to get this project started for the last four to five years.
When GoAsean came to us and asked us for ideas, we pitched five shows. Four of them, we thought were absolutely winners, and the fifth one, we just threw it in there. I doubted they would pick it.
And it happened that they passed on the four and greenlit The Eco Traveller. And we’re like, “Really? Cool.” That was the one we really wanted in our hearts but we didn’t think it was viable for most networks because it was about eco-tourism, it was a topic that most people didn’t want to touch.
2. What eco-friendly habits do you practise in your everyday life?
Number one, I don’t use shampoo. I’m saving at least 50 gallons (of water) a day right? I ride my bike, which is made of bamboo, as much as possible. I ride to the gym, to run errands, to places within 15km. When I shop, I always carry an eco bag with me. I change all my lightbulbs to LED. I open windows as much as possible. I’m not perfect. There are times when I have to take the car but there are little conscious things that I can do that add up positively.
3. You’re inherently a shy guy yet you’re a TV host. How does that work?
Living in California, I’m a product of movies, TV, Hollywood and all that. So I thought it’d be a fun thing to do. For me, to hold a microphone in front of thousands of people live and then broadcast to millions, it’s just an insane thing, I have to pinch myself.
Right before I go on stage, I am hyperventilating, I want to throw up, I want to cancel the gig. But the minute I step on stage and the lights are on my face and I hear the director say “action!”, I zone out.
It’s like a superhero thing. One minute I’m mild-mannered Bruce Banner and the next I’m the Hulk. I love it. When I finally calm down and finish a gig, my heart is pounding and I’m breaking out in sweat. It’s like I ran a marathon.
4. You co-host shows with Marc Nelson a lot. Does work get in the way of your friendship? Do you guys ever fight?
We don’t fight. We’re actually complete opposites of each other, and as they say opposites attract. He has hair, I don’t. He has abs, I don’t have abs. He likes to plan ahead, I lose my luggage all the time. That’s why we gel.
I’m so thankful that we get along and we get to do these monumental things together. We’re doing it as friends, I don’t even say he’s my co-host or my colleague.
This was the first time we didn’t do a project together and he was the first guy to congratulate me. He’s that kind of guy. Work never gets in the way. There’s never any kind of professional rivalry. Although he does get all the shampoo ads and I’m kind of pissed at that (laughs).
5. You’ve been to Malaysia before. What are your favourite places to visit here?
I’ve been to Malaysia many times but it’s always just been Kuala Lumpur for work. It’s wonderful to go from super modern city to colonial houses. It’s nice to have a blend of modern technology and old world culture. I really enjoy places like that.
Also, I’ve seen the Petronas Twin Towers a million times but everytime I see it, it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time.