AMAZING RACE ASIA VISITS THE PHILIPPINES
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JOJIE ALCANTARA (Published in SunStar Davao and Manila Bulletin)
Truthfully, I wasn’t an avid fan of the Amazing Race Asia since the first season (okay, I may have rooted on and off for Mark and Rovilson). I have been watching way too many reality TV shows to keep track. However, life has a way of humoring and poking me annoyingly the way Facebook does. When you’re not asking for it, it is given to you on a sizzling hot plate.
Last June, a call came from PR Asia’s head Joyce Ramirez, if I can fly to Legazpi City at short notice. The Amazing Race Asia Season 4 (TARA 4) has chosen Legazpi City in the Philippines as a pit stop and since it will be shown this October yet, I was asked confidentiality about this trip.
I didn’t mind the waiting time from Davao to Legazpi via Manila, two hours of sitting in a cafe for the connecting flight. My first trip to Legazpi, gateway to the picturesque Bicol region, was an eye opener.
I met the fascinating Miss Tessa Prieto-Valdes, who played a valuable one-liner role in TARA’s pit stop at the Eco Park of Misibis Bay Resort, a beautiful location where the production stayed in. It takes a separate article to write about the luxury of my host resort in Cagraray Island. It will take paragraphs just describing the view from my huge villa, where I stayed alone (picture a Jacuzzi at my terrace!).
Dressing up Miss Valdes for the episode was the tall, sociable Edwin Tan, designer to the stars. Her vibrantly colorful outfit was made of abaca, which was Albay’s prime product. I also met longtime Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal, who gamely let me take a portrait of him and pretty wife Geraldine Rosal (who was then incoming Mayor), from Lignon Hill with a spectacular backdrop of Mayon.
We have two Philippine teams, the “Riches”--Richard Hardin (34), basketball player, and Richard Herrera (31), actor; and party girls-slash-models from Australia, Jacinta James (27), also a tattooist, and Lani Pillinger (27). Both Richards had shaved heads when they arrived in Legazpi. I actually mistook them for twins the first time.
According to the Riches, this season was a close fight. It was anybody’s game of mental skills and physique among a diverse cast of personalities from wacky to outrageous. They were all praises for the other teams. The camaraderie among everyone was evident during the shooting break. However, with a very tight running schedule which involved flying to Manila, a 10-hour road trip to Legazpi, taking a jeepney to Cagsawa Ruins to either learn the dance of the Ibalong Festival performers, or going for that slimy, muddy pig… the flurry of activities left them with funny, strong smells that they brought all the way to the open amphitheater, where host Allan Wu and Miss Tessa waited with professional cameramen hiding all around. There I was, invisible and squeezed in between shrubs high on a hill, aiming for a paparazzi shot, since it was strictly ‘no cameras’ allowed during the shoot (they had to fend off locals who were recording from their cellphones while the Riches were ridiculously catching pigs). We waited until the last of the teams came in. No retakes.
The Amazing Race Asia’s Philippines episode airs October 21, 2010 (Thursday) 9PM on AXN, showcasing the immense beauty of Legazpi City, and the perfect volcano it is known for. When people asked me what I was doing there, the easy reply was shooting Mount Mayon from a chopper (thanks to Misibis Aviation). This month, I see my photos in the papers and blogs, and realized I was the only one not writing about it yet!
Will our Philippine team win this time, perhaps? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s start rooting for them.