Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Philippines in The Apprentice Asia

By Chester Cabalza

I am beginning to like this reality talent game show as it draws near its final episode this week. I never thought that my toddler kids would also find interest to the search for the best manager in Asia!  

This is not because a Filipino contestant Jonathan Yabut, an economics graduate from the University of the Philippines, made it to the Top 2. It’s just so happened that two of my bets including Singaporean litigator, Andrea Loh, settled in the coveted final two slots.

Host Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes even made the show spicier, making this Asian version dubbed as “the world’s toughest job interview,” something trendsetting.  His impressive and decisive comments and analyses every boardroom tensions in the show proved his strong presence and solomonic judgments to fire or hire aspiring young apprentices from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Diskarte and the Filipino contenders

In an interview by GMA News to Jonathan Yabut, a 27-year-old senior product manager in a pharmaceutical company, he credited his success in the stressful yet awesome reality show to his Filipino style of doing things – diskarte. It’s true that when he further elaborated this ambiguous concept there’s no exact translation of it. This is a uniquely Filipino attitude or philosophy to survive and solve any given situation or problem. 

In the show, Jonathan’s eloquent tongue in English language and uncompromising confidence in managing various challenges exuded his positive outlook and high intellect. Although, there are times in some episodes where his weaknesses apparently shown obvious, still he can refute intellectually his gaffes and stand up confident all throughout. 

Another Filipino apprentice is Celina Le Neindre, a food and beverage consultant and an alumna of Philippine School of Culinary Arts. Fired in week seven of the show after her team Apex lost to team Maverick. She turned out to be the weakest at that time when strategist Alexis Lothar Bauduin of China accused her of insincerity of handling people. However, this former model and a beauty and brain consultant is oozing with graceful self-assurance, she said in describing herself in one interview by Rappler.com.

Boardroom tensions

I like the boardroom tensions as it shakes and moves host, advisers, and apprentices to spark debates and switch on to Solomonic judgments. This is one reality show I’ve kept on following produced in Asia were everybody has to be critical and frank with one another. It is sometimes unusual for Asian contestants and viewers. Or perhaps it is needed as a required format in the reality show.

It can also become a boredom room since the host himself can literally slash and burn apprentices using his control freak remarks and power tripping bossy position to fire contestants (but that’s how the show works!)

I certainly deem that the boardroom is quite mysterious and heart-breaking for some because you do not know the thread of your fate in the show. This also happens to most of us working in the hierarchy of bureaucracy and corporate world where board members have to deliberate people and policies; and officials or employees are scared when one becomes an item in the deliberation.  

Surely, the boardroom is the heart of the show. It brings out the best and worst of the person or it will make or break apprentices based on their performances during various tasks. I like some episodes in which epic judgments are presided and decided. And as a viewer I sometimes tend to agree or disagree with Mr Fernandes!

In week one, I agree with the host that both teams Apex and Maverick lack any form of strategy to accomplish the task of selling fish at a wet market. This can be understood simply because it is the first episode of the show and apprentices usually were still in the ‘getting to know’ stage. All of them were boxed in understanding the dynamics of the show resulting in spying on the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Some stood up grandstanding of their leadership and managerial skills while others remained low-profile as a strategic move.

Jumping to episode six, there were high pressures in the hotel services. An apprentice micro-managed a fellow team member, there’s a few minor hiccups with slow check-ins, room service order done incorrectly, a diamond VIP member waited for almost an hour to check-in, and so on.
Apprentices underwent house-keeping and room service. Draining and tiring! One must have grace in pressure particularly when trooped by irate customers.

Episodes eight and nine were cheesy but fiery. Apprentices created a pitch and skit to produce a live commercial for a branded car. Winning Apex team produced a commercial with an unforgettable tagline, “You qualify. Beetle up.” While the other team thought of a cheesy and forgettable concept. Then, the ninth episode truly was intense particularly when Mr Fernandes and his trusted associates provided him some inputs to decide whom to fire. The apprentices had undergone their toughest job interviews. One of the strongest candidates, Alexis Lothar Bauduin was sacked out of his motivations and the host has had doubts on him whether the contestant from China who even spoke Mandarin Chinese would use the show as his stepping stone for greener pastures.

Who will be hired?

Although, I sometimes thought of myself wearing the shoes of a successful manager, however, as a professor of national security, there are concepts used in business and economics which it copied from the military, such as strategy. The words of the week every episode are informative and entertaining, especially on how to properly use managerial skills to risky and challenging situations.

The ninth pulsating episode leveled up the winning streaks of Mr Yabut and Ms Lao. In the tenth and last episode, who will be fired or hired? I bet for the Filipino apprentice! Keep up the good work! Go Team Philippines!

Congratulations to Jonathan Yabut of the Philippines! You made our country proud and keep on inspiring millions of young Asians as the first Asian apprentice!

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