How Jonathan Yabut won ‘Apprentice Asia’

Carol RH Malasig
Yabut broke barriers for Filipinos worldwide by becoming the first Asian Apprentice

WINNING MIND, WINNING HEART. Like a true and proud Filipino, 'The Apprentice Asia' winner Jonathan Yabut puts his whole being into his work and his other dreams. Photo by Kai Magsanoc/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – On August 15, Jonathan Yabut will start working for Air Asia, earning a 7-figure salary and reporting directly to the CEO, Tony Fernandes.

READ: Filipino Jonathan Yabut wins ‘Apprentice Asia’

“I’m speechless. I can’t imagine the idea of winning something that you’ve always dreamt of,” Jonathan tells this writer in our Rappler studio interview on August 8.

WATCH! Apprentice Asia: A Filipino victory

From his humble beginnings to becoming a senior product manager at GlaxoSmithKline to becoming Fernandes’ new chief of staff, Jonathan has indeed come a long way.

READ: 6 facts about our ‘Apprentice Asia’ finalist

Despite his achievements, Jonathan promises to keep his feet on the ground. He maintains that his win is not just for him but for all Filipinos worldwide.

Here are some interesting things we learned about Jonathan during our interview:

1. He is a “jologs” guy at heart

Jonathan still loves to eat fish balls and hang out with his friends, not necessarily in expensive places. He is very thankful for his humble beginnings that keep him grounded.

Jonathan loves shopping for affordable finds, admitting that he bought his suits for “The Apprentice Asia” in Divisoria and a local department store “at 3 thousand pesos per set.”

2. He’s not all-business

In “The Apprentice Asia,” Jonathan is depicted as a strict and straightforward guy, but he says this is only one side of his personality. He actually loves cracking jokes and cooking for his friends.

3. His secret in winning? Energy

They say showing up is half the battle in most contests; in “The Apprentice Asia,” you have to show up and you’ve got to have game. For you to actually deliver the task, you have to have lots of energy.

Jonathan says he always kept granola bars and sachets of an energy drink from the Philippines in his pocket. He took them inside bathroom stalls before or in-between tasks, away from the eyes of the other aspirants.

This, he says, kept him going even during the most tiring tasks. 

4. He is super proud to be Filipino

When Twitter user Kiks asks Jonathan to complete the sentence, “I am Filipino because_____,” Jonathan quickly replies,

“I am Filipino because I am palaban. I have the only race in the world that has the concept of madiskarte and the Filipino will always be proud of who they are no matter how many times they have fallen.”

5. He knows it’s not about being the smartest

Jonathan says winning “The Apprentice Asia” is not about being the smartest or even being the best speaker in the group. At the end of the day, it all comes down to passion and grit as well as the overwhelming belief that no matter how big the obstacle is, he is going to get through.

Filipinos abroad are reaching out to him, telling him how proud they are of him for raising the bar and for breaking the stereotype of the Filipino worker. Blue collar, white collar — it doesn’t matter.

“I’ve always wanted (to see the) day when people can look up to us, see us as professionals…I’m very thankful that inspiration is sparking this flame for every Filipino, not just here but abroad (too),” he says.

Even before his first day at his new job, Jonathan already has bright ideas for Air Asia. Looking at the big picture, Jonathan says he would like to help Tony Fernandes not just in “building up” the businesses he already has, but also in starting a kitchen empire.

READ: Lessons from Apprentice Asia’s Jonathan Yabut

Jonathan admits his love for cooking and says it would be another dream come true to have his own food business — this will mean that he will never have to work a day in his life. “For me, if you love your job, it will never feel like it’s a job. It will only feel like you’re having fun,” he says.

READ: Q-and-A with the first Asian Apprentice

Jonathan may have achieved a dream by winning “The Apprentice Asia,” but this go-getter is not about to stop achieving the rest of his dreams — he starts by working for Asia’s top CEO.

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