Overseas workers MANUEL IMSON and DADO LOPEGA are friends who work together in a bicycle factory located in a suburb of Taipei. They have left their idyllic seaside village in Kalibo in the southern Philippines for Taipei’s work opportunities and abundant promise. MANUEL and DADO are part of the largest ethnic minority that makes up Taiwan’s diverse migrant workforce—the Filipino Overseas Migrant Workers.
DADO and MANUEL live in a factory dormitory that houses migrant workers. The workers – packed in six to a room – have a government-mandated curfew every night. The end of a long workday barely leaves workers enough time to socialize or take care of personal chores. Missing curfew means deportation. Two days ago, their roommates, in fear of deportation after missing several curfews, have escaped to work illegally.
On Sundays Filipino migrant workers make the long bus trip from industrial areas on the outskirts of the city to Taipei’s "Little Philippines" on Zhongshan North Road. For one day this is not Taipei. As they would in Manila, Filipino immigrants go about their Sunday rituals and routines. The streets chime with people chatting in faraway dialects. They hang-out, gossip, shop and eat, and, more importantly, stand in long lines at shipping offices or "Padala Centers" to send gifts or remit money to their families back home.
The night before, DADO calls home and learns his wife has had a minor car accident. Feeling heavily guilty, DADO goes to Sunday confession and later breaks up his extra-marital affair with Anna. Meanwhile, MANUEL’S considerable romantic exertions to pick up a sexy Filipina, Cecilia, have come to naught. Distraught and homesick, the friends find themselves on a sidewalk bench. They stare out across the street—none of the usual chatter or laughter passes between them, not one word of commiseration.
Movers work across the street. A Taiwanese wife asks the movers to bring the used couch to the dumpster and the movers resist this extra workload. A verbal fight starts. DADO and MANUEL watch a Taiwanese street drama unfolding in front of them.
Finally, the movers and the couple compromise and leave the couch promptly on the sidewalk before they drive off. The creamy leather couch, perfect but for a tiny tea stain on its armrest, draws MANUEL and DADO over. They examine the couch and decide to take it back to their dormitory. Convenient Taipei public transportation are not helpful or possible; having just sent all their funds and gifts back home, the two are unable to afford a delivery service, so instead, they decide to carry the precious couch across town, on foot.
On their absurdist journey, MANUEL and DADO encounter different archetypal characters and come across the many faces of a typical globalizing, industrial city. Often humorous and poignant, rife with miscommunication, both parties attempt to overcome linguistic barriers—using Tagalog, Taiwanese, Mandarin, even broken English with each encounter.
MANUEL and DADO make their way through the snarls and eddies of Taipei traffic, attracting attention that sends them to a police precinct and on the TV news. At the precinct, MANUEL and DADO’S papers prove to be in order. Nobody’s reported a missing couch either. The two men and their couch, are soon back on the road.
MANUEL and DADO carry the couch out of the city and into the industrial hinterland. The adventure never stops; they further encounter a near-suicide attempt and an old man who offers to ferry them and their couch—only to bring them farther from their destination. Once back on track, they decide that following the river is the shortest way to their dormitory.
Lost, exhausted, and defeated, MANUEL and DADO‘s journey comes to a climax at sundown when tension explodes and panic strikes. Two long-time friends fight over the choice between facing deportation if they miss curfew and abandoning the now precious couch. They finally smooth things out by sharing a meal of microwave spaghetti and cold beer from a nearby 7-11 store, star-gazing and reminiscing of home turns into an evening spent on the couch by the riverside. It is well past curfew but for once, they are not concerned. MANUEL and DADO fall asleep to the sounds of the river and dream of their seaside hometown—singing along as the couch floats down the moon-lit river.
The following morning, MANUEL and DADO awake, stunned to discover the couch really is floating in the water, ruined. Uncertain of their future, they hide the couch away and return to work—yet another day of routine and ritual.