6 facts about our ‘Apprentice Asia’ finalist

Bert B. Sulat Jr.
Let’s get to know Filipino ‘Apprentice Asia’ contender Jonathan Yabut a little better before the show’s much-awaited finale

FOR COUNTRY, FOR THE WIN. A proudly Barong Tagalog-clad Jonathan Yabut (far left) with fellow Pinoy Celina Le Neindre (second from left) and their ‘Apprentice Asia’ finale teammates Nazril Idrus and Samuel Rufus Nallaraj (4th and 5th from left) with Leanne Troop, a cast manager of the show, prior to his charity ball for the finale. All images from the Jonathan Yabut-The Apprentice Asia Official Facebook Fanpage

MANILA, Philippines – Economics graduate from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. Senior product manager at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Philippines. Mansmith Young Market Master awardee. Longtime follower of the US-originating TV show “The Apprentice” and its offshoot editions around the world. One of two Filipino contestants on “The Apprentice Asia.”

Now, the lone Pinoy and one of two “Apprentice Asia” finalists.

This much we know of Jonathan Allen Salazar Yabut, the Manila-born marketing professional who turned 28 last July 1 and who has blazed through the reality show all the way to its grand finale, the second part of which will be aired on Wednesday night, July 31. 

READ: Pinoy makes it to ‘Apprentice Asia’ finals 

Here are a few more interesting facts about the potential apprentice of show host and AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes following an exclusive interview with Rappler.

TO THE LETTER. ‘Apprentice Asia’ boss Tony Fernandes sent this inspiring letter to show finalists Jonathan Yabut and Andrea Loh prior to their final task

1. He could have been a doctor or a lawyer

Yabut’s Aklanon mother is a nurse, as are her siblings. They meant to produce at least one doctor in the family but could not afford the cost of medical school.

So it became Mrs. Yabut’s wish for her young Nate — who at Grade 1 thought of becoming an astronaut — to study medicine. However, a rather painful outpatient experience to remove a cyst from his chest during his college years (he was a Psychology major in UP’s main campus) convinced Nate that a medical career was not for him. 

A competitive debater since high school, Yabut figured that Law would be a better fit, so he shifted to Economics, the popular pre-law course among his co-members in the UP Debate Society. But he wound up undertaking a marketing career thanks to a job offer close to his graduation. (More on that below.)

2. He was an honor student all the way

Both Yabut and his younger brother (their younger sister rounds up the Yabut brood) graduated elementary and high school valedictorians from Colegio San Juan de Letran. Jonathan earned his Economics degree cum laude. 

“We were not a well-to-do family in my youth,” Yabut relates, citing that his daily baon was exact, “down to the last peso” — an allowance with little allowance. “I remember my mother saying that if I wanted to go to a good school, I would have to be a scholar.”

That threat of sorts motivated Nate into a childhood of academic achievement. Yet he could have been a magna cum laude graduate if not for a small difference between the required general weighted average and his final grade. “That was a source of frustration for a while.”

But as his commencement drew near, he got an offer from Globe Telecom for a management trainee post, given that he was in the Top 10 of his senior class. “Once I got that first job and got immersed in its environment, the magna cum laude issue did not matter so much anymore and I opted to go full time into marketing,” he says.

3. He was nursing a heartache before joining the program

It was November 2012 when cable channel AXN began announcing the call for applicants across the region to join “The Apprentice Asia.” At the time, Yabut was already at GSK and had earned his Mansmith award, but was recovering from a month-old breakup that marked the end of an over-a-year romance. 

While he admits that joining the competitive reality show and possibly emerging as its winner would have meant “sweet revenge” over his ex, Yabut instead credits his “Apprentice Asia” experience — no email, no social media, not even writing instruments for all the contestants — for taking him away from his then ongoing reality.

“Being on the show allowed me to be in this bubble that kept me away from my world as I knew it,” Yabut says.

4. He nearly quit the show, but for a different reason

Among the memorable takeaways “The Apprentice Asia” viewers might have about the show include the first contestant to be eliminated, Indonesia’s Hendy Setiono, who opted to put his neck on the line rather than blame others for his team’s loss; and the show’s lone Thai contender, Dussadee Oeawpanich, who quit because she could not stand the bickering among her fellow female entrants.

Yabut divulges that he, too, contemplated leaving the program, notwithstanding the arduous application process and the fact that he bested some 30,000 other applicants to end up among the show’s 12 contestants.

“I was stressed due to lack of sleep and with all the spicy food,” he recalls. “There were so many clashing personalities among us contestants given that we hail from different countries and backgrounds. I thought, ‘I’ve achieved a lot in my life. I don’t need this’.” 

Soon enough, he pulled himself together, motivated by the well-wishes he received prior to his early February departure for Kuala Lumpur — the show’s and Fernandes’ home base — and during his limited, 15-minutes-per-week long-distance calls to loved ones.

“Hanzo (Malaysian Ng Kian Tat) was my roommate. After he got fired during the second episode, I had the bedroom to myself, and I posted encouraging Post-its that I got from my GSK colleagues and others on the bathroom mirror.”

5. He says he made it to “The Apprentice Asia” finale through a combination of preparation, strategy and sheer luck

Not only was Yabut a fully acquainted viewer of the many “Apprentice” editions from across the globe, he also has the edge of being a proficient strategist, one honed through many inter-school and inter-Asia debate tournaments.

Right before flying to Malaysia for the February to April 2013 taping of the show, he viewed various interviews with Fernandes posted on YouTube — checking for key words that the AirAsia boss favored the most. 

Yet, Yabut points out, he was also lucky. “There were at least two or 3 episodes where I could have been fired,” he cites.

6. His suit had one other small but powerful item during the tasks and board room deliberations

Aside from the Philippine flag that he frequently pinned to his suit lapel (“Bought it from Kultura in SM Megamall on the way to Clark Airport, before flying to Malaysia”), Yabut also had another significant item from back home during the shoot: a rosary from his mother.

“I can say that being on the show has strengthened my faith all the more,” Yabut shares. “In fact, during the final boardroom deliberation, I was clutching the rosary in my pocket so hard that I broke off a bead.”

Here is the trailer for part one of ‘The Apprentice Asia’s’ grand finale: 

Bonus fact: He has a good rationale for selecting fellow Pinoy Celina Le Neindre last as his final task teammate.

READ: Filipina contestant ‘fired’ from ‘The Apprentice Asia’

As shown in the show’s penultimate episode last July 24, Yabut and his fellow “Apprentice” finalist, Singaporean Andrea Loh, had to organize a charity ball in the name of AirAsia Foundation, and they had 3 past contenders each to choose from among 6 returnees. 

Following a toss-coin win, Yabut got to pick first, and wound up picking India’s Samuel Rufus Nallaraj, Malaysia’s Nazril “Nash” Idrus and, finally, kababayan Le Neindre. Loh went on to pick the China-based Alexis Lothar Bauduin, India’s Ningku Lachungpa and, the sole remaining pick, Indonesian Dian Krishna Mukti.

“I knew that Andrea had had a bit of rivalry with Celina, so I knew she was not going to pick her as a teammate,” Yabut explains of the finale team-ups. “And I wanted to make sure that Sam and Alexis, who had won tasks together, would not be together in Team Andrea, so I picked Sam first.

“Then I picked Nash, because he is the ultimate KL boy, and given that his wife is an actress — the Anne Curtis of Malaysia — he knew the politicians and celebrities who would attend our charity ball. I knew all 4 of us could work well together.”

Was Yabut right in picking his final-task teammates? Is his charity ball going to be more successful than Loh’s? Is he going to say the right things — and with passion — at his final boardroom moment?

Most of all, will he be the one to whom Fernandes would say, “You’re hired”?

READ: Can a Pinoy win ‘The Apprentice Asia’?

Tune in for what could well be Jonathan Yabut’s finest hour. – Rappler.com


‘The Apprentice Asia’s’ final episode airs Wednesday, July 31, 9pm on AXN. 

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