Weeknights until December 2008
Survivor Philippines: The Audition
(May 21 - June 2, 2008)
I've heard sometime back that there will be a Philippine franchise of the hugely popular reality tv show, Survivor. I'm familiar with the show format (as most people talk about it) but admittedly, I haven't seen any episode. I have no tv and in the rare chance I do watch tv, it's only either National Geographic or Discovery. Naturally, I paid no attention to the hype.
A Little Help From my Friends
But friends started calling my attention to it. Remy (of Recreational Outdoor eXchange) texted me saying the show was for me. Ariane (of the All-Female Abs Showdown) even emailed me the url where I can get the information. Other friends started goading me to join...that given my penchant for the outdoors, I was a natural candidate. It was flattering and all, but still, I wasn't interested.
But then, I became aware of 2 things - that as a general rule, I don't say no when an opportunity presents itself. The least I can do is to peek at what's inside and see if there's anything out there. By doing that, I'm always with the flow...the ethereal energetic current that takes you to the proverbial waterfall. Corollarily, if I say no at the outset, the flow is disrupted and chances are, it'll take a longer time for another flow to happen. I know this to be true given the many wonderful yet unexplainable things that have been happening to me. Am I sounding too spacey already? Hey, I say it just like it is. Another factor was that I happen to be here in Quezon City where the audition is taking place...not in Sagada where the spectre of a 12-hour bumpy ride for an audition is a deal breaker. More? That I am at a point where I can be gone for 39 days (the length of the challenge) and not suffer a serious repercussion on my deliverables and commitment.
May 21, 2008
Getting On Board
Reading into that convergence, the metaphorical path being cleared for me was to give it a fair shout - to actually audition and see if anything comes out of it. And that's what I did. May 21, the first of 2 audition dates, I was in front of SM North lining up as early as 7:30am even though the audition wasn't to begin until 10 am. Even at that early time, the line already spanned the length of SM City, at some sections, even going 5 deep. The line got so long as to tangle traffic. Management cut the line after about 4000 people and the rest was pooled at the 5th level parking lot behind SM. That pool later swelled to 6,000 hopefuls. We're talking about 10,000 aspirants on that day alone, all wanting to be the first Pinoy Survivor.
Walks of Life
My small talk with people around me revealed a little of their plight - poor, dead-end jobs, unemployed, bored, broke, wannabe star, etc, all of them looking for a ticket out of their quagmire by being one the 16 chosen ones. While all of them were hopeful, a great number will have to come back to a world they'd like to leave behind. When they asked me why I was there, I couldn't just tell them I was riding an energetic flow. They'd think I'm a fruitcake (hey, maybe I already am!). I humbly said, "suntok sa buwan, pero kailangang kumita" (a long shot, but a guy needs to make a living).
I stood in line 8 long hours (from 7:30 to 3:30) before my interview took place. 2 questions where asked. If I tried to say things they wanted to hear, they'd smell me a mile away...they're not stupid. So I was just chill saying it like it is, not thinking much into it. While most hopefuls were being escorted out after the interview, a numbered plate was pinned to my chest. I guess the interviewer liked whatever I said. I was in. Whoa! After a VTR was taken of me, I was then ushered to another room for the next elimination. Wow...I was getting excited.
In the next interview, it was with the spotlight, a camera rolling, mall audience from above looking down, and with Paolo Bediones himself asking us (10 pax) the questions together with a panel. 2 questions were asked. I wasn't even trying to win (maybe that's the key) and didn't bother talking about my fitness or my mountaineering background. I was already looking for the exit door. Before I knew it, 8 were ushered out leaving just the 2 of us to attend the final elimination round at GMA on Sunday, May 25. We were asked to fill-in a 4 page form about ourselves. They said, "be honest".
As I left SM around 5pm, a long line was still going around the mall edifice. I could imagine it'll be another 8 hours until these guys get called. In the meantime, I was in disbelief that of the 10,000 hopefuls, I managed to make it that far. When the giddy excitement settled down a bit, a frightening thought entered my mind. If I do get in, this could change my life!
May 25, 2008
I was at GMA at 12 noon sharp. I took my place in line with all the others who have successfully passed the audition. It was nice seeing all the other candidates, cheerful and supportive of everyone else. Ha-ha. You wouldn't think we'd soon be selling each other over 30 pieces of silver. But hey, that's the game.
Someone to Watch Over You
These GMA guys are not just smart, they also do their homework. The first thing they said during the interview was that they've already read this blog. They even know I'm TheLoneRider. I guess they have a team of people who scour the internet Googling about the show and checking if the game confidentiality has been betrayed (such as disclosing the place where the shooting will take place, etc.). That's understandable. They even asked me to stop this blog. That's also understandable. But here's where I'm coming from, and at the same time, this is my appeal to GMA (because I know GMA is going to continue monitoring this blog).
Appeal to GMA
The fact that they (GMA) have read my blog and found that I have not disclosed any information betraying the confidentiality of the game should account for something. In fact, this blog is not doing anything different from what GMA itself is doing - building up the frenzied hype about the show for increased viewership without giving the program away. Right now, based on my user comments alone, people have already said they'll start watching Survivor. Even Pinoy friends from as far away as France, USA and Switzerland said they'll now watch Survivor. That should account for much. To a network besieged by a Goliath (ka pamilya?), every acquired viewer counts. Without this blog, site-user interest about the show wanes and consequently, we (me and GMA) both lose. So, how about it GMA? I continue this blog and you get free advertising to a market segment not necessarily reached by your advertising peso.
The interview still focused on the personality. They simply wanted to know more about this person...what he thinks, what makes him tick, etc. I was defintely being sized up. Whatever they were looking for in the interview, they didn't say, nor was it obvious. I didn't care anyway. I would have answered the questions the same way. Maybe it lasted from 10 - 15 minutes. At the end, they said if I don't hear from them within 2 days, that I should not quit my day job. Fair enough.
I thought this interview/elimination round would decide who the 16 hopefuls will be. I was wrong. From the looks of it, there will be more tests to come. How many, they didn't say. They're keeping their cards very close to their chests.
May 26, 2008
I got a call from GMA saying that what I'll hear is now confidential - no one should know. They congratulated me for making it on the lastest elimination round and was told to report at GMA building at 7 am on May 27, Tuesday, to bring an ID and a swim wear. Apparently, they've just finished with the last participant and was now free to call the few who made it.
I should have been excited. I guess I was, but the fact that I'm closer to the selection just made my speculation of the changed life just closer to happening. It was an emotional roller coaster ride. One moment I'd be elated getting closer to be one of the 16. The next moment, I'd be sad thinking the life that I loved so much will be altered...no, make that radically changed. The next moment I was entertaining delusions of celebrity, book deals, endorsements, making my rounds on the talk shows, etc. It was insane.
May 27, 2008 Tuesday
I was at GMA 7 am sharp. Already, there were Survivor applicants waiting at the lobby. By 7:30, nearly everyone was there. It was a much different landscape from the previous eliminination rounds. You'd really get the sense that so much filtration has already taken place.
From a nationwide audition of 43,700 hopefuls from Baguio, Iloilo, Manila, Davao and Cebu, we were now reduced to 120 hand-picked individuals. If I thought I kicked-ass in the last auditions, here, at this level, everybody kicked-ass. If I thought I had the 'it' factor, here, everyone had the 'it' as well. No bad seat. Everyone was a looker. They had the body, the looks and the attitude. It was difficult to find an edge. For the first time, I was no longer at my comfort level. I felt a subtle sense of competitiveness surging from within me. Loose thoughts permeated...."I should have made a few more reps in my sets"...."I should have done a longer cardio"..."should have stayed off that dessert"...should have...should have, etc. As I was mindful of what was happening, I tried staying present. I couldn't feed into it. No, that's not what I was here for. I had to keep reverting back into the flow. Not long after, I was chill again, making conversation with the ladies (contrary to the no-talk policy of the organizers).
We were ushered into the GMA building where we filled-in more forms about ourselves and more importantly (for GMA), we were asked to sign the confidentiality agreement. The network lawyer gave a talk about the legal ramification of the confidentiality agreement we just signed. Essentially, if we leaked any information detrimental to the show, they'll squeeze our balls with a vise grip. Understandably, they were adamantly emphatic about the show's secrecy as competing networks have been proven to be launching a smear campaign against them.
Noticeably, we were no longer treated like huddled masses, unlike the long line-ups at the initial audition venues. We were made to feel important...the chosen 120 out of 30,000. Lunch was catered and we held the meeting at an air-conditioned hall with all the GMA Survivor staff, from Neil Gumban, the program manager, Paolo, the host and all the support crew.
Half the people went ahead to a secret location for the swim test. While they were gone, Paolo showed his consumate hosting skill to the remaining half who stayed in the building (me included), by keeping us entertained about the show. I never knew how good a host he is until this episode. It's one thing to keep talking and not run out of things to talk about, but it's another thing to make it interesting. Paolo did both. I am particularly interested in being a host myself, so as he was talking, I was breaking his act into its anatomy. He shared personal information (to show he's made of flesh too), cracked a few jokes (humor), let us in on a few tips (empathy), digressed into showbiz talk (prolific), gave us a good heads-up on the big picture (product knowledge), and enjoined us in a Q&A session (interactivity).
The bus finally arrived to pick us up. We still didn't know where the swimming will take place. I thought it would be at Celebrity Sports Plaza since it was the closest. No. We went all the way to Manila...to an obscure swimming pool.. It made sense. At Celebrity, word would quickly spread around and the game would be given away. The stealth was perfect.
This was the first time we would don our swimming attire (read: show off our bodies). It was easy to gauge who got this far by sheer body and looks. The ones who did really had the bulk, shape and toning - it was obvious. The ones who didn't, I was wondering what they were putting on the table...brilliance? wit? humor? personality? I was more wary of them. Being a ham and confident of my body, I strutted around in my Speedo, flexing my abs like a peacock brandishing its plumes. I wasn't taking a backseat for anyone. The women are a funny thing. They could radically morph detrimentally or positively from casual wear to swim wear. The ones with the body but looked like plain vanilla on street clothes stood out like goddesses once they were in swimwear. There were others who looked great in street clothes (read: having a beautiful face), but once they were on the skimpy but without the body to match, they just shrunk in stature when the parading went on. Insecurity, uncertainty and confidence were written on the applicants' faces.
The first test was a lap race on the 25m pool. Again it was obvious who the swimmers were. They propelled themselves like a torpedo while some had to stop a few times to catch wind before they reached the end. 2nd test was threading for 30 secs. It's funny to note that some applicants who wrote swimming as a hobby had to be rescued by the lifeguard. Others had to be tossed the life-saver. Third and final test was making as many laps on the pool within 7 minutes. Again, it was a piece of cake for the swimmers, but for the rest, it was a dismal failure their good looks could not save them from. I can swim but I'm no competitive swimmer. Nonetheless, I bulldozed anyone in front of me. The zen took a backseat to my fiercely competitive outbursts, taking no prisoners. I even surprised myself...the sleeper has awaken. I didn't fall too far from the best.
When all was done and we were readying to board the bus, Paolo, in a surprising gesture, took to my side and whispered, "I guess you now have to stop your blogging". I said that I already have, out of respect for the game. He shook my hand and added, "...by the way, I read your blogs....I like it." I told him I was flattered.
They reiterated that there would be another 15 minute final interview on Friday, May 30. After that, the executive decision would be made. We would all get a call on Saturday to be informed if we made it to the final 32 or not. It's 32 - 16 castaways and 16 reserves.
Upon reaching home, I was in disbelief for having made it that far. I could no longer dismiss the possibility that I'm as close as I had ever been to making it to the final 16. To think that that number was filtered from a staggering 30,000 was extremely flattering. That would radically change my life. My here-and-now was simply the last vestige of a normal life...a life that I have learned to come to terms with, and a life that I have chosen to live above everything else. I have often told friends that with my minimalist approach to life, trimming down my needs to spartan levels and embracing life at the edge where I live a life of nomadic mobility had become a realization...all that is now threatened by what I've taken myself into. I often quoted myself as open to change. Now I face my litmus test.
At the outset, I didn't bother about a strategy. How? I haven't even watched an episode. Besides, I just wanted to wing it as I went along. However, like a revelation, I was taken back to the lessons of Burning Man. It seems that in times of uncertainty, I have Burning Man to always fall back on. When Burning Man was in its infancy, surviving for 7 days in the desert was an individual imperative. He needed to do anything and everything to sustain himself in the desert. However, with the passing years, the event, like gaining maturity in the process, the thinking shifted from the survival of the individual to the survival of the tribe. The person's undertaking is not only for himself but for the collective whole. This revelation to me was intense and powerful. I have found my strategy for Survivor.
May 30, 2008 Friday
I was at GMA headquarters at 4:30 sharp and took my place in the line with the other aspirants. When my turn came, I was again in front of a panel plus 2 psychologists. They were there to appraise mental soundness. I was given 4 numbers to remember. Then a series of what seem like benign questions. They were angling on my resolve to see the show through - that I won't quit. I made it clear to them that quitting was not an option and that I go the whole 9 yards in everything I do...no half measures. The interview was quick. Whatever they wanted to know, they already got. I was told that I will be informed by phone on Sunday (no longer Saturday) if I'm one of the lucky 32.
I was in high spirits to intensify my workout. If I was going to be one of the 16 castaways, I wanted to look ripped and be on top of my game. My workout became daily usually pushing myself to exhaustion. I loved it. Motivation was high. My fitness training in the past has been a great jumping board to kick things up a higher notch.
June 1, 2008 Sunday
No call came on Saturday. Hmmm...this suspense is a killer. Sunday comes and it wasn't until late in the evening when I received a call from GMA. This is it! I crossed my fingers and braced myself. The message was, they were still deliberating and haven't made a decision yet. They called as a matter of courtesy because they promised us they'll call Sunday. Now...this suspense is really killing me. Until I hear something definite from them, my life continues to be on hold.
June 2, 2008 Monday
It was already close to midnight when my cell rang. It was JR. What he had to say changed my life.
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