The amazing girls of Race Asia

You can never tell when it’s over — or you have won — until you cross the finish line or reach the final pit stop. This is what Joe Jer Tee and Zabrina Fernandez of Team Malaysia were thinking when The Amazing Race Asia host Allan Wu declared them first winners of the TV reality series. Their victory made them richer by $100,000.

To top it all, Joe Jer and Zabrina also made history as the first all-female team to win the race in the show’s regional and US editions. Coming in second were Sandy Sydney and Francesca von Etzdorf of Hong Kong, while another Malaysian team — made up of Andrew Tan and Syeon Park — placed third and arrived last in Baku National Park, Malaysia, the show’s last pit stop.

Aubrey Miles, Jacqueline Yu, Ernie and Jeena Lopez represented the Philippines in the show.

Contestants went to eight countries, 15 cities and traveled over 36,000 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur, the starting point of the race. They defied time and endured challenges in every place they visited.

"All of them are very strong," says Joe Jer. "We were just having fun all throughout the race. But our plan was not to get eliminated first."

It was a winning strategy that put them always on the race and secured a slot in the Final Three. But the two ladies were not spared from being at the tail end of the competition. Good thing it was non-elimination day when it happened.

Joe Jer and Zabrina’s team was not the one to beat at the onset of the game. This is because they don’t have that athlete’s spunk. Many thought the young men (Sahil Shroff and Prashant Raj Sachdev) from India would be "it." Even the Juwono brothers (Marsio and Mardy) of Indonesia, who are plump and healthy, took the lead in the early rounds of the competition and placed fourth overall.

Joe Jer says the most difficult part of the race was its last leg when they battled it out with Sandy and Francesca and Syeon and Andrew.

After piecing the puzzle together on the sand of Mina A’ Salam Beach in Dubai, the three teams returned to Menara, Kuala Lumpur and flew to Kuching, Malaysia. There, they had to locate the cat statue and fix a bench. Syeon, Andrew, Sandy and Francesca owned this round, leaving would-be winners Joe Jer and Zabrina behind.

Then they went to Sarawak Cultural Village to find the next clue. There, each member of the team was challenged to hit three pineapples through a blowpipe and finish the treetop obstacle at the Permai Rainforest Resort. Wrong judgment on road directions made Syeon and Andrew lose track and lag behind the others.

The Hong Kong and Malaysian teams hit the Damai Beach and took flagged speedboats to Baku National Park. It was a close fight but Joe Jer and Zabrina reached first the mangrove boardwalks leading to the final pit stop.

"Syeon and Andrew are our closest rivals," says Joe Jer. "They are smart just like all other contestants. They are also determined."

With what the two Malaysian ladies went through in the race, Joe Jer has this to say, "We deserve to win. (How has life changed after winning?) It’s the same. But people do recognize us."

As soon as they get the fat pay check, Joe Jer and Zabrina will travel some more. Like all winners of the previous Amazing Race seasons, they might revisit the countries and cities they "played" in, with no rush and challenges this time around.

"You have to be in control," says Joe Jer in surviving any race. "Zabrina and I are very nice to each other. We are like family," clarifies Joe Jer on the friendship they have shown on the small screen.

"We came as good friends," says Joe Jer in their (hers and Zabrina’s) Amazing Race experience. "Then we became best friends in the end."

Theirs is a friendship that promises to last a lifetime.

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