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Born to play on The Apprentice Asia

MANILA, Philippines - We were all born to play a part on the world stage. Some could dabble in the arts while others in the sciences. A person can have his 15 minutes of fame or a lifetime of stardom. One could be a follower, a leader or even an apprentice.

Jonathan Allen Yabut of the Philippines is taking his chance to be the first Apprentice Asia as the show premieres on May 22 at 9:05 p.m. on AXN. After all, Jonathan believes, “I was born for it.” Another Filipino, Celina Le Neindre, is also part of the show, which will be hosted and manned by Air Asia big boss Tony Fernandes.         

“I’ve seen all the episodes of the US and (Australian editions),” Jonathan replies when asked if he’s a die-hard fan of the reality show. “Even when I was in college, I’d been really watching it. When I learned about AXN’s The Apprentice Asia, I was watching TV at that time, I jumped and jumped as I was calling my brother, telling him that there’s Apprentice Asia.”

It’s a dream come true for Jonathan, “a very competitive guy” who is in for some tough decision-making and bargaining of ideas. “I like the idea of being pitted against other people,” he shares. “I always feel that Pinoys are like the underdogs in Southeast Asia. In my company, the Philippines is always the best and I want to prove that to the rest and tell them that we are the best in the corporate field, we are the best in marketing. The idea of wanting to win it and becoming the first Apprentice Asia really attracted me. I think I was born for it.”

According to Jonathan, many Apprentice Asia tasks concern marketing and sales, an area he is familiar with as GlaxoSmithKline senior product manager. The contenders will be seen selling products and coming up with advertisements. This requires a tour-de-force performance, figuring out what works best with a small margin of error and disappointment. There’s also a good mix of contestants who are into law, hospitality industry and marketing. It’s a given that all are smart and secure of themselves. Among the contestants, Jonathan sees competition in Celina who is a “very vocal person” and Alexis Lothar Bauduin, who is “someone to look at and watch out for. He is an expat. The way he speaks gives you the idea that he knows what he is doing.”

What is more challenging to Jonathan is that all the actions take place in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, whose cultural and linguistic terrain is different from the Philippines.  

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“If this is Apprentice Philippines, you know where the streets are. If you need to run from Quiapo to Binondo, you know you can,” he says. “Things were happening in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. So, you would think that participants from Malaysia and Singapore had the advantage. I think, in the end, it didn’t play much role. But the idea of being you out of your comfort zone and you can’t speak Chinese or Malaysian, you’re forced or challenged to be more than what you are supposed to do.”

These conditions will definitely push The Apprentice Asia participants to go beyond their limits or go the extra mile which “Tony Fernandes is looking for. If you become the apprentice, you’re bound to interact with different cultures. He is really testing if you are resilient enough to adapt to different situations.” The latter is innate to every Filipino who can bend like a bamboo. “I hope the show shows that for me and Celina,” adds Jonathan. 

What is Jonathan’s game plan to carry out the tasks, survive the dreaded boardroom meeting and handle the contestants’ idiosyncrasies? “I’ve seen a lot of episodes in other series,” he answers. “I think the winning formula is: Don’t expose yourself too much in the first few episodes, in a sense that you don’t ruffle feathers with anyone and don’t burn bridges because in the end, for you to get to the latter part, you need to win tasks. It’s not about who would you drag down in the boardroom. If you lose (tasks), your chance of going home is high. You keep winning the tasks. I felt you need to be a team player from the start. If you get to the latter part of the show, then bring out your guns. Duon mo ipakita talaga (Show what you’ve really got). By that time, your competitors are already exhausted.”

Jonathan, a UP Economics graduate, is destined to play on The Apprentice Asia. It is one game he knows well like the back of his hand — and he is aware, too, that it could be anyone’s ball game. “There was a time and I remember (saying,) ‘Lord, for as long as I only give my best. And I am portrayed who I really am in reality and I let it all up to You. If it’s for me, then it’s for me.”

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