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So You Think You Can Join
"Kapamilya Deal or No Deal," Part II

See also "Filipino Librarian Wins 165K on 'Kapamilya Deal or No Deal' and "So You Think You Can Join 'Kapamilya Deal or No Deal,' Part I."

It did not occur to me to check what bloggers had written, if any, about their experience on "Kapamilya Deal or No Deal" (KDOND) until after I had taped for the show. Some of those I found were written by would-be contestants (1 2 3 4) and others by mock game or taping participants (1 2 3 4), but it's interesting that there were only two who blogged about their experience as studio players. Earl's series of posts (1 2 3 4) is interesting because it shows that the process of selection has changed since the show's first season in 2006. Joseph's lone post, meanwhile, illustrates just how long it can take from a prospective contestant's first day at ABS-CBN (24 September 2008) to the airing of the episode (23 December 2008).

But it is quite significant, in my opinion, that so many dream of being on the show. And I don't think it's just because they're fans of Kris Aquino like my mom. One blogger refers to her dream of being a contestant as "lingering." But this is nothing compared to the hundreds of comments left on "How to Join Kapamilya Deal or No Deal." Many of the commenters (867 now) express their desire to be on the show, why they need money and leave their email addresses and cell phone numbers without seeming to realize that no one from KDOND is reading their comments because the blog is not connected to KDOND in any way. But I will reserve my own commentary for Part III of this series. The following are the remaining stages in becoming a contestant.

3 Taking the exams and getting interviewed

Before going to the studio, we in Batch 2 were asked to line up according to gender. And though I already suspected that there was a significant gender imbalance, it was not until we took our seats inside the studio, which was much smaller than it looks on TV, that it became clear that at least 70 percent of the batch was female. This disparity worked to the advantage of the men once the process of elimination began.

After everyone was seated, Jimmy Capulong, the talent coordinator, took the stage and began a funny introduction not only to the show, but also the process of selection we were about to undergo. Randy Dellosa, better known as the psychiatrist on "Pinoy Big Brother," then came out to administer two sets of "psychological exams." I put the phrase in quotes because I am not convinced that our answers to the yes-or-no questions asked in each set were, in fact, intended to measure our psychological makeup. I doubt if our answers were the basis for the decision to retain some and send others home. I have my theories as to how people were chosen, but since there is no way of ascertaining their accuracy, I will just keep them to myself =)

After answering the first set of questions, we passed our papers and Capulong went on stage once again while we waited for the results. Only 43 from Batch 2 were left to tackle the second set of questions, which we answered along with 50 people from Batch 1. Our numbers were then trimmed to 13 from Batch 2 and 21 from Batch 1. (Further proof that the exams were not the sole basis for selection was that the gender imbalance was gone!) By then it was almost 2 pm, and Batch 2 was finally given the chance to have lunch. But before we left, I began to feel once again that perhaps I could make it further when two of us in Batch 2—both based in North America—were called by name and asked to stand with absolutely no explanations given.

When we returned, we learned that interviews were taking place, and that we had been distributed to three or four interviewers. I was the last to be interviewed in my group of five (along with the other person from North America), and everyone else before me said afterward that they had been told that they would be sent a text message the following week. I don't know if any of them were telling the truth, but after my interview, I was definitely given the impression that I had made it to the next round. I had no idea who I was talking to, but later learned that she was Rancy Recato, the show's executive producer.

What was the interview like? It reminded me of some of my very first job interviews, where we were first asked to answer dozens of questions in writing and then, when we got to the interviewer, were basically asked to repeat what we had already written down. Later on, I figured that writing down my answers was supposed to help me talk to the interviewer, who had no intention of reading what I wrote but was more concerned about my ability to communicate effectively. This, I believe, is what happened at the KDOND interview. They wanted to see whether the prospective contestant would be able to talk sense once s/he was on the show.

4 Playing the mock game

Just a few hours after my interview, I got a text message saying that I was scheduled to play the mock game on 5 January 2009, 1 pm, and that I should bring ten family members or friends. The last requirement posed some difficulty for me because I was still hoping to surprise my mom with the news that I had made it to the show, and did not want to ask my parents or any of my relatives to join me in the mock game. So I ended up asking friends—who did not have work that day (the first working day of 2009!), did not work regular hours (e.g., consultant, business owner) or could afford to be absent from work—to come with me. I did, however, tell my brother about the mock game, and finally convinced him to go to ABS-CBN for the mock game.

Thinking that bringing ten "kapamilya" was not an absolute requirement for the mock game, that I could fill the remaining slots with my other family members if I made it to the show, I only brought five friends plus my brother. It was not until I got to listen to mock games being played with ten or more very noisy family members and friends that it occurred to me that I was at a decided disadvantage with my six companions, who even if they could make as much noise as humanly possible, would still be no match for the ten or more people screaming at the top of their lungs that the others brought. This caused me to have second thoughts about whether I could make it to the taping because we had been told that it was not only the player who was going to be evaluated at the mock game, but also the companions who would be appearing with them.

True enough, one of the first questions I was asked after I played the mock game concerned my rather meager posse. It was then that I explained that I was saving the remaining slots for my other family members, especially my mom, whom I was planning to surprise. This seemed to satisfy those present and Pia Fernando, the assistant producer, began making plans for my brother to make sure my parents were out of the house when the ABS-CBN crew arrived to shoot my VTR the following day. And so, of course, I canceled everything I was supposed to do the next day... and they never came. It was much later that I remembered that I had been told that someone would call me that night if someone was coming the following day...

Note: The mock game is played in the studio, but there are no cameras, lights, 26K, Banker or Kris Aquino. And yet, player and posse are supposed to pretend that they're at the actual taping. It was while I was listening to the other players that I realized it wasn't really just about having lots of energy, I was going to have to act! I was so good, it seems, that my brother supposedly asked, while listening backstage, "kapatid ko ba yun?" (is that my brother?).

Tip: The one time when being on time is a gross disadvantage is at the mock game. We arrived at 1 pm as instructed, but since just about everyone else arrived before me, we ended up being scheduled 11th of 12 for the mock game. In practical terms, this meant we waited five hours to play. So, if you ever make it to this stage, make sure you arrive at least an hour before the announced time so you can start sooner. By the way, the long wait is not unusual. As an American Idol contestant once said, tapings are almost always "hurry up... and wait."

5 Recording the VTR

I did not hear from the people at KDOND for almost two weeks. By then I had given up on appearing on the show. Maybe they changed their minds, I told my brother and the friends who went with me to the mock game. And then I got a call on January 17, twelve days after I was expecting it, informing me that the ABS-CBN crew was going to my house the following day. It was then I decided that it was time to tell my dad that I had made it this far, and that he should make plans to entertain my mom until the crew had left.

I cleaned up my room, looked for all the family pictures that I thought might be of interest to them, and even tried to locate everything in my mom's scattered collection of Kris Aquino magazine covers and CDs. The crew, however, did not seem to be interested in my mom's collection, perhaps they had seen more impressive ones. They were more interested in the fact that I was a librarian, that I studied in Toronto, that my mom was a cancer survivor, and even that my dad was a retired general.

Note: The VTR is what's shown at the start of the show, and serves to tell the viewing audience who the player is, why s/he's playing and where s/he'll spend the money.

Tip: Think about what you're going to say once you learn they're coming because there won't be time to do so when they arrive. Then again, if I had been able to really decide what I wanted to say, it might not have come across as genuine. So I guess what I'm saying is that you should plan what you want to share, but don't memorize it =)

To be continued...

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