Monday, August 05, 2013

You’re hired! Filipino wins ‘Apprentice Asia’

(Published Aug. 2, PDI-News)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“You can never be too small to dream big.”

Jonathan Allen Yabut, the winner of the first season of “The Apprentice Asia,” posted this comment on his Facebook page Thursday morning, hours after his victory was announced in the final episode of the reality show that aired on cable channel AXN.
Yabut, an Economics graduate of the University of the Philippines, bested 11 other contestants from different Asian countries.

Jonathan Yabut and Celina Le Neindre (Photo by Riz
“The Apprentice Asia” is based on the American reality show featuring US mogul Donald Trump who searches for an appropriate apprentice, “firing” hopefuls who perform poorly at the tasks he assigns.

The 27-year-old product manager won a yearlong apprenticeship under AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes, the show’s “Donald Trump.”

“Looking forward [to] my first day with the big boss, Mr. Tony Fernandes,” Yabut said in the same post. “Got 14 days to go before my first day and I’m so excited!”

In the season finale, Fernandes chose Yabut over Andrea Loh Ern-Yu, a Singaporean lawyer.

Mark Lankester, CEO of Tune Hotels and one of the show’s advisers, praised Yabut for his conduct during a charity auction organized for AirAsia Foundation, which was shown in the same episode.

“This man is slick,” Lankester said. “This is a very different Jonathan … very, very impressive. This man is in it to win it.”
During the final deliberation, Fernandes said that choosing between the last two contenders was difficult.

“But on the balance of everything that has been put in front of me, seeing you perform, hearing your passion … Jonathan Yabut, you’re hired,” Fernandes said.

“The win is for the Philippines,” Yabut told the Inquirer in a phone interview yesterday. “This is for the Filipinos. It means that however humble your beginnings may be, you can aspire to be better.”

He is likewise proud to have been pitted against tough contenders. “I think that aside from Andrea, both Sam (Nallaraj, from India) and Alex (Bauduin, from China) could’ve been [my last competitor]. They were very deserving,” Yabut said.
Other Filipino participant

The other Filipino participant, Celina Le Neindre, was eliminated in the seventh episode. But Yabut was grateful for her presence, even when they competed with each other during certain tasks.

“Celina is the epitome of beauty and brains,” he said. “She’s very strong, she’s a go-getter. Her being a Davaoeño came into play. She’s a very strong and creative person.”
Le Neindre, a commercial model-turned-food and beverage consultant, was ecstatic about Yabut’s victory.

“I’m absolutely proud, not just because he’s Filipino,” she told the Inquirer in a separate phone interview. “I’m proud of his accomplishments. I share [the victory]. It’s unique to be able to contribute to the success of Filipinos. It’s amazing… he always credited me for the hard work I did.”

Jonathan Yabut (Photo by Riz Pulumbarit)
Yabut, the 2012 recipient of the Mansmith Young Market Masters Award, will be receiving a salary of $100,000 and will move to Kuala Lumpur in two weeks to start the apprenticeship under the aviation tycoon. He and the other “Apprentice Asia” contestants are currently working on publicity campaigns for AirAsia and Tune Hotels.

The first season of “The Apprentice Asia,” an original production of Sony Pictures Television, ran for 11 episodes. Both Le Neindre and Yabut were thankful to have been chosen to participate.

“It’s transformed me in many ways,” Le Neindre said. “I’ve learned so much. I think I’m a better-rounded person now. I have more drive and passion. I’m definitely going in that direction. It was a good opportunity to dream big.”

“It’s been 11 weeks of tasks,” Yabut said of the “tough” competition. “I was asked, would I do it again? No! It’s like 10 stressful years of corporate challenges compressed in 11 weeks.”

Yabut is very much appreciative of the experience and the show’s Asian viewers: “I think it’s nice that [apart from singing tilts], there’s a show like ‘Apprentice Asia’ and audiences have the social maturity to watch such an inspiring and different show.”

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