Weeknights until December 2008
June 2 - July 21, 2008
Survivor Philippines: Making the Grade as a Castaway
June 2, 2008 Monday
It was already close to midnight when my cell rang. It was from GMA. I was congratulated for making it as one of the Castaways! Wow...one of the 16? (later turned out to be 18 Castaways) Whoa!!! GMA added a flattering remark I couldn't forget - that as one of the 16, I bested the 40,000 who auditioned for the part after layers upon layers of sifting through the candidates. Conceptually, I could comprehend it. But to actually be it? I can't explain enough what kind of a ego-boost it was. The feeling was exhilarating and extremely flattering. I was told to start working on my birth certificate, NBI clearance and passport. I was ga-ga. I knew that call would radically change my life. I was told what I needed to work on.
June 3, 2008 Tuesday
The following day after I got the call, I was already lining up for my NBI clearance. That same day, I took the midnight bus to Sagada to give up my house, discontinue my internet subscription and find storage for my personal stuff. A friend was kind enough to travel with me for assistance through that harrowing 12-hour bumpy ride. No time was wasted. I settled my arrears (as I had been out of Sagada for over 3 months already), started packing all my stuff and stored it at my UPM friend's place, also in Sagada. By the time we were done, it was late and I was exhausted.
At 4 am the following day, we woke up to catch the first bus trip out of Sagada for Manila. Yes, that was my shortest stay in Sagada - less than a day. After another 12 hours on the road, I arrived Manila. I quickly took a shower and was just in time for the art show opening of rock icon and painter, Romeo Lee.
June 6, 2008 Friday
I was at GMA 12 noon as scheduled. In order for the contenders not to see each other (I don't know what for), we were blind-folded as we were led inside the van enroute SM North The Block for a full physical exam at Healthway. The technicians and care givers were given strict instructions not to let us see who else made it. Someone was with me at all times, playing traffic so I don't see who the other guy is (not that I cared).
The exam started off with my eyes and ears. Then I was told to drop my pants, lie down in a fetal position while the doctor donned her latex gloves...yeah, you guessed it. Later, I was led to another room where they gave me shots - Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Anti-Tetanus. Blood was taken from me as well. I was again led to another room where I was given some containers for my stool and urine samples. Lastly, they hooked me up with wires while I was put on a threadmill that went progressively fast. After 16 minutes and being at my 103% efficiency, the machine slowed down. After catching my breath and changing into dry clothes, I was on my way home. They said they'll just call again and that I should make myself available since testing and training will be more frequent after that week.
June 10, 2008 Tuesday
At 9pm, I got a call from GMA for another psychological interview for Thursday, June 12 at 10 am. Hmmm....shouldn't they have done this BEFORE they chose me as one the 16 castaways? I was assured I was already in, but they wanted to know more about me.
All this time, friends and relatives who already caught wind about Survivor couldn't resist trying to win my confidence to let them in on the real deal about the game. "Promise....I won't tell anyone...it's just between you and me...really, promise!!!! So, are you in? Where will you be shipped?", yeah, I heard it too many times. I'd give my safe answer, "...really sorry, but I can't talk about it. I'm continuing to write my blog and if GMA gives me the green light to go public with it, it'll be posted on my site...I'll let you know". They were understanding. As tempting as it was to talk about the blow by blow, I had too much respect for the game and the GMA staff who probably don't get enough sleep over the project, to betray the confidence. Besides, my excitement was already overshadowed by the overwhelming changes that kept racing inside my head. I was already beginning to miss whatever remaining moment I had living this normal life. When Survivor hits the scene, life won't be the same again - at least in the near term.
June 12, 2008 Thursday
I was in GMA at 10am sharp. Ivan made me sign a lot of documents, most of which were covered except for the area where I affix my signature. He said it had to be that way since the documents revealed the location of the 'secret' island. Some documents, he read it to me before covering. Of course I was uncomfortable with the whole idea. I didn't really know what I was signing. But the other choice was to walk away. Essentially, there was no option to say no or negotiate.
What concerns me most about their demands is looking for a guarantor who's willing to sign his name on the dotted line, pledging that he will pay GMA 3X the production cost of Survivor if I decide not to return to the Philippines. I can understand their concern, and it's an effective deterrent, but who's going to put his balls on the line for that?
I was then taken to a room with the network psychologist, DocSam (as he wanted to be called), where I was to be interviewed in more detail. The objective was
- to determine my mental fitness (that I can handle the physical and mental demands of the game)
- to determine my mental soundness (that I won't wake up in the middle of the night and slaughter the cast and crew...ha-ha)
- to determine what dirt I may have in my past. I can speculate that if there's too much dirt, it might embarrass the network if I become the survivor and that damaging information leaks out. I'm also speculating that if there's dirt but not too much dirt, they'll plan ahead to manage 'damage control'.
Later, Neil, the program manager, and one of his staff briefed me on the do's and don'ts...
- reasons for being disqualified (if the castaway can't keep his mouth shut about game confidentiality, falsification of information, failing the physical tests, etc.)
- video/photo shoot schedule before leaving the country
- documentation requirements (pictures, passport, NBI clearance, Birth Certificate, Cedula, medical history from the family physician, etc.
June 21, 2008 Thursday
I thought a Survivor staff would show up at my place with a video cam and I start giving him a quick tour around the house...and that's it. At 8:30 am, they came in 2 vans. It was a full production crew - more than 10 people, a director (not sure if he was Mory Aquino), the Survivor segment producer, camera men, lights people, etc. Wow! I was feeling 'showbiz'. It took a while to set up things up before we were 'rolling'.
On-Cam Interview and Home Tour
There were 3 segments. After the shoot, there was an on-cam interview by the segment producer...what made you join? if you win, what will you do with the money?, etc. That was followed by a tour of the house where a hometype videocam was used (they wanted the tour to be 'raw'). From my closet, they chose my set of clothes for the island, making sure no loud brand was visible. Before they left, they just said, "We'll call you for the next step."
By prioritizing on Survivor, I had to walk away from a few attractive offers and opportunities. A wellness adventure tour operator wanted me to be trip leader on off-the-beaten-path destinations. I would have to backpack again in search of these idyllic places, create an itinerary and eventually lead a group of high-end clientele. I had to gracefully decline. That's tough since that kind of adventure is up my alley.
I was also accepted to be one of the 100 alumni to pose ala oblation for a coffee table book in celebration of UP's 100th anniversary. The shoot was scheduled at a time I'd be away on Survivor island. Ah...my one chance to be part of UP's 100th birthday gone.
When TribalAdventures.com hit #1 in Google's search engine ranking (keyword: outdoor adventure travel Philippines), the owner offered me a piece of the pie in his travel tour company. Again, I couldn't spread myself thin. I had to decline as well.
Securing the Certificates, Clearances, Documents
If there's anything I would consider hardship in complying with the requirements of Survivor, it's securing various documents from different government agencies. The slow and inefficient bureaucratic process means long lines under the heat, humidity and congestion. Sometimes I'd be in packed and poorly ventilated room where breathing becomes a chalenge. it was difficult to see where the line was moving. Example? I had to secure a document that took me to the Pasig Municipal Hall. From there, I was directed to go to Kapitolyo (another ride away). From Kapitolyo, I was told to go to San Juan. From there, I had to go back to Kapitolyo, then to the Municipal Hall again and then back to Kapitolyo - for one set of documents!
July 3, 2008 Thursday
I was at GMA again where I signed the official contract as a castaway. I was given a list of things I can bring, an FAQ list and a dvd showing survival skills performed by JEST (Jungle Environmental Survival Training) members from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. I was also briefed on the do's and don'ts while on the island.
GMA aired concerned about my name appearing on a newspaper as one of the 16 castaways. While there was heavy speculation in the blog scene about who the 16 castaways are, it never hit the newspapers until now. I assured them that I have always maintained my silence about Survivor. Also, I explained that it still helps the program to fuel speculation like that since it creates hype for the show. GMA added that it would be nice and dandy if that were the case, but most bloggers were simply out there to discredit the show.
Lurking the Blog Sites
I never bothered about the ongoing speculation about the show. But now, I was curious. I did a search on Google about Survivor Philippines. It was then I began to appreciate the enormity of this event. People were just going crazy over who the castaways were. Given my blog posting, I was already keyed-in as a likely castaway but remained unconfirmed, of course. Not surprisingly, there were already comments on what my real name is, comments that I may have already been disqualified, where I auditioned, etc. Admittedly, it was initially amusing, but it got old after a while.
Too Open for Comfort
A new dilemma dawned on me. If I should make it as the sole survivor, my TheLoneRider site may be deluged by lurkers, fans (if I may be allowed to assume so), gossipers...essentially, all kinds. So far, my site users are largely friends or at least like-minded individuals - I'm comfortable with that. But a critical mass outside my comfort demographic? That's new ground and largely unsettling.
July 4, 2008 Friday
One of GMA's requirements was for the castaways to produce a guarantor - someone with a cedula who is willing to guarantee that I will return to the Philippines and not 'jump the boat' to live elsewhere. Having lived abroad and returned here to the Philippines as a choice made me a non-risk. The guarantor was to pay GMA 3X the production cost if I should not return. Personally, I thought it was a joke. First, who in the Phiippines really has that kind of money? Second, would I even know them? Third, even if I know them, would they agree to sign that kind of thing? Nonetheless, I still had to comply. I asked a UP Mountaineers batchmate, Orenz, if he would vouch for me. Fortunately, he agreed, under a vow of confidentiality.
July 5, 2008 Saturday
I met Orenz at GMA where he signed the document as guarantor. After he left, I was interviewed by the resident doctor to discuss my medical tests. Everything turned out ok. However, she added that my blood pressure was 110/70 which meant I should watch it. I was surprised. I thought 110/70 was normal.
July 7-8, 2008 Monday
Jungle Survival Training in Subic
I've always wanted to learn jungle survival techniques even before Survivor. I tried to live with the Aetas of Bataan hoping they would share with me their traditional hunting and foraging skills, but they've already adapted to the modern ways of doing things. With the latest typhoon, Frank, killing 3 mountaineers as they were crossing a swelled-up river, the jungle survival imperative became ever more compelling. Perhaps it's Survivor being the last straw that compelled me to pack up and head up to the Aeta village in Subic Bay to finally learn those precious lessons. Details can be found here (it's a story all its own).
I was supposed to stay in the jungle for 2 nights, but I received a phone call from GMA instructing me to take a blood test on Wednesday to determine my Cardio-Pulmonary (CP) soundness. Apparently, with the medical results, one castaway was found to have a heart condition that was unknown to him/her. That prompted GMA to do the prudent thing and get all the castaways tested for CP soundness. I had to cut short my jungle tour by 1 night.
July 9, 2008 Wednesday
Cardio-Pulmonary Blood Test
I had to fast since midnight the night before. At 6am, I was at Best's Diagnostic medical lab, hoping I'd be ahead of the rest. There's usually a long line. Blood was taken from me to test for the following: sodium, potassium, lipid, BUN, FBS and creatine (P785, reimbursable). I got the result at 3pm the same day.
July 10, 2008 Thursday
Working On the Cardio-Pulmonary Clearance
I was at GMA to get the following documents: my x-ray plate, Healthway medical results and a referral letter from the GMA medical doctor requesting a CP clearance. Together with my blood test result, I presented all those to Healthway's cardiologist. After an interview and a blood pressure check, I got the clearance - my green bill of health (P1000 reimbursable). I immediately texted the result to GMA. There were no more tests. I was finally key-ed in.
While it looks simple enough, this whole process took the entire day. I was thinking how fortunate I was to be able to comply to all these requirements. If I had a day job, I would be constrained to resign.
July 14-15, 2008 Monday - Tuesday
Fishing and Coconuting in Calatagan
As part of the survival training program I set out to do, I still had to learn how to fish and deal with coconuts. Someone was able to make arrangements to hook me up with a local from Calatagan, Batangas who'll take me under his wing. This is a story all its own again, and can be read here.
July 16, 2008 Wednesday
Early September shortly after coming back from the island, billboard and tv campaigns will be aggressively launched. The photo shoot for all that will have to be done today though. It wasn't easy getting to GMA. Typhoon Helen was pouring down flooding some sections and snarling traffic.
I was at GMA promptly at 9am with the required clothing - swimwear and island wear. There was even a makeup artist who softened my lines...ha-ha...feeling star. Lots of profile shots were taken, all sporting the survival look - with my top on, top removed, wet and wild, etc.
On the next set was the video shoot. They dressed up the set well, looking realistically like a jungle - mist and all. With my top off and abs flexed (they didn't have to tell me that...he-he), I pranced around with a machete and a torch. In the end, I was told to remark with utmost confidence, the lines, "Survivor Ako" (I am a Survivor).
The whole shoot took 3 hours. By that time, I was hungry and ready to work on my laptop to finish my web deadlines for the day.
July 17, 2008 Thursday
Up until now, I still haven't seen any episode of Survivor. So far, not knowing enough about the game hasn't cost me anything yet but it's gross negligence if I'm ever voted out for sheer ignorance of basic survival tactics that become apparent by watching the show.
With that, I was off to Quiapo to get me a season series of Survivor...any season. I thought it would be that easy, but Survivor was nowhere in sight. I practically scoured all the street vendors, stalls and runners, but nothing. Just as I was about to leave, one guy pointed out where I might be able to get one. I followed his directions and there I was, holding a box set of Survivor Fiji. Yes! For the remainder of the day, I was busy finishing the entire season, mindful of whatever tip I might find useful.
By the time I finished the box set (all 8 dvds), I began to appreciate the show. Pardon my french, but Survivor is one big mind-fuck! It was chess in a sense that you play several pieces strategically (the castaways) and think several moves in advance. It was also poker because you had to bluff and mislead the other castaways into your game plan. Altogether, it was a game designed to bring out the worst in you - the cheating, the lying, the deceit, the duplicity, etc. It was all about stepping on everyone else to get ahead - the quintessence of a Judas-game. I was impressed. What a truly fascinating game!
July 21, 2008 Monday
Ship Out Date
This is it. We ship out today to that secret destination together with all the other yet-to-be-identified castaways. As instructed through a phone call last night, I was at the GMA area at 9:30am and headed straight to a van with the #5 mark. I was not to talk to anyone specially to any castaway. It was the start of being with all the castaways without any form of communication - it proved to be difficult and created a sense of isolation being with a crowd but not speak to any of them.
It was at the airport when we were finally handed our boarding pass that we learned about our final destination: Phuket, Thailand!
On September 9, 2008, GMA released the identities of the 18 Castaways by way of billboard blitz, tv plugs, newspapers and online blogs all over the country.
Related Survivor Philippines Blogs:
- Survivor Philippines: The Audition May 21, 2008
- Survivor Philippines: Making the Grade as a Castaway Jun 2, 2008
- Survivor Philippines: Interview with John Lapuz on Showbiz Central Oct 6, 2008
- Survivor Philippines: After the Vote-Out Oct 19, 2008
- Quantum of Solace Nov 3, 2008
- QTV Moms Nov 4, 2008
- QTV QuickFire Nov 9, 2008
- Survivor Philippines: Quotes May - Dec, 2008
Related Survivor Philippines External Links:
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»» next Showbiz story: Interview with John Lapuz on Showbiz Central
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