Nearly a year back, on Sept 12th 2015, I flew to Manila to join the Amazing Food Challenge, Fun the Philippines Season 3. You have no idea how petrified I was at the time. Most people think that I am an extrovert, but at heart, I am not. I sit in the middle of being an extrovert and introvert. As a little girl, I would shyly hide behind her mother’s skirt at other children’s birthday parties.
Deciding to join a reality TV show was definitely not the path in life I had ever anticipated but, what’s life if you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone and grow?
In Episode 1, I was incredibly ashamed at my choices and behavior. Few people realize that it took months for me to deal with my mistakes. I had frequent flashbacks that made me cringe, panic and feel really awful. As more than one friend put it bluntly, “You were clearly positioned as the Evil One in Episode 1.”
So what happened in Episode 1?
Callie fell off her bike, I flew past her on my shaky bike and I didn’t stop to help her. Then, to make matters worse, I genuinely forgot to mention this to anyone when I arrived at the next station. (I have a terrible working memory – a friend used to joke that if I had a child, I would accidentally leave my baby behind in a mall. Fortunately, I have spared my son, Dillon from this experience!). Fortunately, Callie and I talked that evening about what had transpired. I apologized and asked her to forgive me. She was generous enough to do so, and we are still friends one year on. Thank you, Callie.
Then, in the first cooking challenge in Banaue, our team didn’t share any of our kaffir lime leaves with Tri. Poor Tri. Our host, Aaron, was delighted! He whooped with excitement! He kept reminding us that it was a competition and one small thing like sharing a prized ingredient would make or break us at the judges table. We fell for it and I felt really awful. Hanson, my team mate, finally fessed up to Tri that it was his decision, not mine. At the time, I was the deliverer of the message and got the flak for it! Thankfully, Tri’s still a terrific buddy.
After that experience, both Hanson and I told the rest of the teams that if anyone wanted anything from our cooking station, all they had to do was ask and we would share. For the rest of the show, we shared ingredients whenever we were asked. We also shared one of our cooking fires with Tri & Callie. And Fauzan was also kind enough to share ingredients with us when we didn’t have enough.
Looking back, I still have no idea how I made it to the finals with such professionals and excellent chefs surrounding me. If there is one thing that I believe in though, it is prayer. While I seldom talk about my faith or religion, I prayed and meditated often each day that I was there. I gave gratitude for simple little things too. Fortunately, my partner was also a believer in God and Christ and so, before every cooking and adventure challenge, we prayed. What did we pray for?
We prayed to cook well, to see what we needed to see and clear challenges quickly. After all the mishaps and injuries on the first adventure challenge (quite a few of the challengers were injured going down the mountain on the bikes), we prayed for everyone’s safety and well-being. And lastly, we prayed that the judges would make the right and fair decision each time.
Every time we were up for elimination, (three times in a row, no kidding!), I tried to stay as centered as I could, I prayed and left the rest in God’s hands. Often I focused on the beauty of the present, which was easy because we often cooked outdoors with gorgeous views.
Joining the show challenged me psychologically and emotionally more than anything else. Despite the very public mistakes I made in Episode 1, I am glad that I went to the Philippines, learned fast and grew from it. I am also deeply grateful for Callie and Tri’s forgiveness and their continuing friendship.
I also feel very blessed that despite crashing into a bush in the final challenge, and getting abrasions, I had angels looking out for me. There were abrasions on my eyelid and to the right of that eye. The other branch hit my throat and left a wound that bled. Both sets of branches didn’t pierce through my eye or my throat! We were filming in far-flung, magical Batanes at the time – I can’t imagine what would have happened if I needed proper medical assistance.
Looking back, I still can’t believe we traveled in buses and planes with 140 people and grabbed sleep anywhere we could. The most unforgettable sleeping spot? Finding a patch of floor at 3am at Ninoy Aquino Airport that was just far away enough from the toilet. I grabbed it for three hours of blissful sleep, lying down completely horizontally (vs. trying to sleep on over-night buses). When I woke up, four other members of the crew were huddled around me! :) Yes, we were that tired!
#1. It’s okay to make mistakes. Just learn fast and humbly ask for forgiveness from those whom you have wronged. Thank you Callie and thank you Tri.
#2. Forgive yourself. It’s also important that instead of beating yourself up for mistakes, forgive yourself and let go. Learn from it. I have finally stopped getting flashbacks about Episode 1. :)
#3. Never be afraid to ask for feedback. One of the reasons why Hanson and I survived to the finals is that we always asked for feedback from the judges, we humbly took their opinions, we analyzed what we were doing wrong and we kept working at getting better.
#4. Have faith and stay positive no matter what. Throughout the cooking and adventure challenges, I likened myself to Nemo, in “Finding Nemo”. Despite the odds and the little flipper, things turned out more than okay for him in the end.
#5. Set clear intentions, goals and a high bar. In my first few challenges, I just wanted to scrape through. Hilarious right, that meant I kept ending up facing the judges in elimination. After Hanson and I finally set a goal to win, we finally won our first challenge – rowing to collect our giant Tuna! We had common clarity and developed a strategy to row smoothly as a team to get that fish! Woo Hoo! (Oh and winning that challenge felt AWESOME!)
#6. Share what you have in life, no matter what, no matter the circumstances. Just be kind. This belief was once again tested behind the scenes in the final Batanes challenge where I had to compete against Hanson. At the time, we thought he had missed out on a critical ingredient for dish and I repeatedly asked the script-writers for permission to share it with him (or do a barter/exchange of ingredients).
#7. Celebrate other’s success. Blessed to have met and selected my team partner, "Handsome Hanson". Grateful that the better cook won! Had a blast dancing and celebrating his win with him in Batanes. Can’t wait to eat at his restaurant in Surabaya!
In closing, I am so grateful for the friends, the laughter, the hugs and the fun (despite the lack of sleep) we had together. Everyone made the whole experience completely AMAZING! Thank you Asian Food Channel for taking a risk by including me on the show, the unbelievable crew, script-writers, reps from Department of Tourism, our gracious Chefs & Judges, Host, Aaron and of course, the Challengers. Miss you all heaps!
Thank you for reading my blog.