Meet the beauty queens and the married adventurers
After Filipino buddies Richard Hardin and Richard Herrera made the country proud when they won the Asian franchise and fourth season of The Amazing Race Asia, not one but two Filipino teams are competing for the $100,000-cash prize in the reality show’s current installment.
Back after a six-year hiatus in the region, the fifth season premiered on October 13 on cable channel AXN, with a promise to be “the most adrenaline-fueled season ever.”
Eleven teams were chosen after auditions across Asia, with “Pinoy power” strongly represented by beauty queens Parul Shah and Maggie Wilson-Consunji, and husband and wife Eric and Rona Samson-Tai.
Parul Shah [Miss Grand International 2015 3rd runner up] and Maggie Wilson [the country’s bet to Miss World 2007]have been best friends for almost four years. They met each other through pageant training for Miss Philippines where Wilson was Shah’s mentor.
“We didn’t expect to make it [to Amazing Race Asia]because we had friends who also auditioned for the show, but we still hoped we would all the same,” Shah said in a group interview before the program’s premiere.
After the initial thrill, however, the pair of beauty queens had to buckle down and prepare themselves both physically and mentally for the upcoming challenge.
To start with, they watched all 10 seasons of the American, European, and Asian versions of Amazing Race.
“When you watch those seasons you kind of already know what to expect so you don’t go racing blind,” Wilson related. “But all the same, regardless of what surprises they may throw at us, we agreed to attack them head-on, and never back down from anything. That’s the mind-set we needed going into the race.”
With the entire season pre-taped in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur among others, the beauty queens admitted though that despite the tough challenges of the show, the hardest part of the experience was being away with their families for more than a month.
“I have a four-year old son and it was very difficult to explain to him that I will be away for so long. We’re not allowed to communicate with home or with the family—no Internet. That for me at the end of the day was the toughest. There will be nights that I will cry myself to sleep, but then my family of course also served my motivation,” said Wilson who is married to DMCI’s Victor Consunji.
Shah agreed, “My dad’s actually sick so I’d worry and ask myself questions like, ‘What if something happens to him? Will I quit?’ But the best help I got is to hang with Maggie. We knew the challenges will either make our friendship stronger or break it, and I’m glad we’re still here.”
Mr. & Mrs. Adventure
Eric and Rona Tai met online four years ago and acknowledged that marrying someone after meeting them Internet is probably the craziest thing they have ever done.
Eric, also known as “Eruption,” is a former rugby player for the Philippine National Team. He is also a former host of noontime show It’s Showtime. As a sportsman, he maintains a high level of competitiveness and uses his mindset as an edge in Amazing Race Asia; while Rona, a businesswoman who left her career, family and friends to live in the Philippines with Eric, simply hopes her adventure can help inspire others.
For the Tais, their biggest advantage as a team is their solid bond.
“Even though we’re different in a lot of aspects, we have one very strong bond as a common factor which is our religion. We believe that if you put God above all things, everything will fall into place. That’s what brought us together in the first place,” Rona shared.
“You cannot avoid arguing [when in the race]but because we have this relationship that’s rooted in our faith, we find the strength to face every challenge along the way,” Eric agreed.
While both Eric and Rona a fitness enthusiasts, they consider Amazing Race more of a mental competition.
“We practiced with our backpacks filled with books and ran around the neighborhood,” Rona recalled. “But we also went on breakouts like puzzle rooms and even brought a Rubik’s cube with us just to keep our minds alert.”
Eric added, “If it’s not happening up here, everything will break loose. You won’t be able to perform the challenge to the best of your ability if you’re not focused. And if there’s an argument and you’re not so focused, you won’t be able to finish it or do it well.”
The season’s premiere saw the two Filipino teams racing against nine other pairs from Southeast Asia, with the first leg of the competition held in Indonesia.
The Tais ended the first episode at a decent fourth place while Wilson and Shah finished at seventh place. Two teams were also eliminated on Day 1—Lisa and Nicole from Vietnam, and Rei and Keiji from Singapore.
The second episode, meanwhile aired on October 20, and thankfully, both Filipino teams are still very much in the race, with Brandon and Alphaeus from Malaysia eliminated.
This Thursday, the remaining teams, including Wilson and Shah and the Tais, fly to Kuala Lumpur where they will be faced with a roadblock that reshuffles the pack order.
The Amazing Race Asia airs every Thursday at 9 p.m. on AXN.