Where there’s a television set, households from Abra to Batanes are glued to ABS-CBN 2’s reality show "Pinoy Big Brother". And it isn’t just household helpers that are addicted to the show; colegialas from Assumption Convent are watching it. So are lolos and lolas, school teachers, bank employees and housewives.
Pinoy Big Brother first opened August 21, and began showcasing the saga of 12 housemates living in a house specially built for the show on Eugenio Lopez Drive across ABS-CBN’s The Loop, for 100 days.
For seven weeks now, they have been living in the two-bedroom, one-bath house, cooking, eating, singing, dancing, sleeping, talking, cleaning house and swimming in a pool – under the watchful eyes of a guard. Sounds great, except that they have no contact with the outside world – no telephone, cellphone, TV, radio, computers, watches, newspapers, and visitors.
While they can’t have contact with the outside world, the TV viewing public can watch them do their thing. Twenty-six cameras are installed in every nook and cranny of the place, and monitor everything they do and say (through mini microphones they have to wear each single minute for more than nine months). Very selected media persons have been allowed to go inside the PBB house and watch the housemates through one-way glass windows.
The point of this enterprise, according to Pinoy Big Brother director Lauren Diogi, is to show human behavior in an unusual situation such as the 12 find themselves in.
People have been guessing that Lauren is Big Brother who gives the housemates instructions over a mike on the activities of the day, and what they should do and not do. The housemates don’t see Lauren’s face at all, but they listen to every word he says, or else. Neither do television viewers have an idea on who he is.
These guys are not in the exercise for nothing. They have to follow rules, and if they don’t, they are evicted by the votes of the other housemates. As of this writing, four have been evicted. But the one who survives the experience up to the hundredth day receives P1 million in cash, and goods worth P4 million, such as a house and lot, a brand-new Nissan Frontier Titanium 3, and an Inkwell business.
The watching public is shown what the housemates are doing, awake or sleeping, and they text to the studio who should be evicted and should stay. As a matter of fact, Pinoy Big Brother made world record history in texting among the Big Brother shows all over the world.
Pinoy Big Brother is a franchise holder of Big Brother, an internationally known reality television format where a number of contestants avoid being evicted from a ceremonial house. The show is a kind of "real-life soap" invented by John de Mol of the Netherlands in September 1999, and developed by his production company, Endemol. The show’s title comes from George Orwell’s 1949 novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four", a dystopia in which Big Brother is the all-seeing leader. The show, a hit in Europe, has franchises in France, the US, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. There are panregional versions in Africa, Central America, Middle East, the Pacific, and Scandinavia. The Philippines is the 31st country to host Big Brother, and is the second in Asia, Thailand being the first.
Pinoy Big Brother is different from international versions. It has no "strip to bare back necessities," assigns housemates with "daily tasks" and "weekly assignments," and has a confession room which the housemates have to use five minutes everyday to air their sentiments and grievances, but they make their confessions to a priest that they don’t see.
Pinoy Big Brother began with the network plugging the "Gusto mo bang maging BIDA for 100 days," beginning May last year. From 25,000 applicants, 12 were chosen for their having interesting personalities, and who had appealing life stories. Some had sad experiences with their parents, others worked for poor wages. Some have rich parents. The present housemates are a mix of average-looking or beautiful, handsome, sexy, chubby, quiet and talkative people, with ages from 18 to 31. To be sure they would survive the experience, they had to pass psychological and physical tests.
Rico Barrera was six when his parents separated. He had gone into drugs and alcohol, worked as a waiter-cum entertainer in Japan and he has invested his savings in a business.
Jun Bob de la Cruz is from Bulacan, and is considered one of PBB’s interesting characters. He has worked as a Mercury Drug pharmacy assistant, and is now a territory business manager. He ran but lost in an election bid for councilor.
Chiqui "CHX" Alcala finished a computer course, is "very liberated," highly opinionated, naughty and frank, so says PBB promo material.
Cassandra Ponti has a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Santallian Tamayo, in accounting. Both of them have done some commercial modeling.
Uma Khouny, whose father is an Israeli, is said to be a favorite among public viewers. He was last seen as the leading man in the celebrated Sheryn Regis music video.
Sheryll Ann Yutadco has traveled to other countries, enrolled in exclusive schools, owns her car, and several credit cards. She left her parents in favor of a boyfriend who turned out not to be worthy of her affection. Now Sheryll has reconciled with her folks, and says she is happy.
Franzen Macaraeg’s father was a policeman, and his mother, a market vendor. He has a hard time raising his young family; a good thing going for him is that his wife is working.
Jayson Gainza, of Batangas City, worked in a laundry shop in Saudi Arabia.
Jenny Suico is a mestiza from Cavite. She and her live-in partner have a nine-year-old child. Jenny would voluntarily leave the Pinoy Big Brother house to take care of her ailing father. Days after she left, her father died of complications. A sympathetic television viewer gifted her with P100,000.
After Jenny left, Samuel "Sam" Milby took her place.
Rico was the first to be evicted by his housemates, followed by Raquel Reyes, then by JB Magsaysay. A few days ago, Chiqui "CHX" Alcala was evicted for grilling newly-returned Jenny with questions about the outside world – which is forbidden in the PBB house.
While only one person will win the P5-million cash and in-kind prizes, all the participants are given an allowance of P5,000 a week, a motorcycle and other goods. So they don’t go home empty-handed.
Pinoy Big Brother is aired daily on ABS-CBN Channel 2 and from Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays on Studio 23.
The winner will be chosen in December.
If being locked in for 100 days is just too much, just think – in Germany, a Big Brother variation lasts for 365 days.
There will be a future season for celebrity and older housemates. I am tempted to send in my application for an audition, but then that would mean – if I am chosen – I can’t go to my herb garden in Cavite, or play tennis or watch movies on the Internet. Forget it.
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