PART 1. Female castaways of Sonsorol all say that their Survivor Philippines: Palau experience is "memorable"

(From left) Mika Batchelor, Echo Caceres, and Jef Gaitan are three of the remaining castaways of Survivor Philippines: Palau.


Mula sa labing-anim ay sampu na lang ang natitirang castaways sa Survivor Philippines: Palau. Ang sampung castaways na ito ang bumubuo ng merged tribe—ang Sonsorol.

Kasama sa merged tribe na ito ang mga dating taga-Koror na sina Marvin Kiefer, Echo Caceres, Suzuki Sadatsugu, Shaun Rodriguez, Amanda Coolley Van Cooll, at Jef Gaitan; ang mga dating taga-Airai na sina Mika Batchelor, Charles de Vera Fernandez, at Tara Macias; at ang unang castoff na si Justine Ferrer na nakabalik sa laro pagkatapos niyang manalo sa anim na sunud-sunod na face-off challenges. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)

Ilang araw bago ipalabas sa TV ang pag-merge ng Koror at Airai at ang pagbabalik ni Justine sa laro, isang presscon ang ipinatawag ng GMA-7 para sa mga natitirang Koror members—maliban kay Amanda na bumalik na raw sa Alaska—at si Mika ng Airai. Ginanap ang presscon sa Mutya Hall ng Sulo Hotel sa Quezon City last October 2.

MIKA BATCHELOR. Si Mika ay isang chef at restaurant owner sa Palawan. Pamangkin siya ng aktres na si Carmi Martin. "She's the cousin of mom ko. But she's also my ninang," banggit ni Mika tungkol sa kanyang celebrity aunt.

How was her experience like in Survivor Philippines?

"The whole thing is an experience!" sambit niya. "Even before pumunta ako sa isla, everything... You can't just have parang one without the other... It's hard to explain kasi I think the only ones who can really understand are the ones who have been there, like yung mga cast, yung mga crew... I guess yung mga nasa Season 1, they can really relate. You can do enough explaining about it but you really don't know what it feels like unless nandun ka."

What's the hardest part na na-experience niya while she was in Palau?

"Dealing with people that you cannot get away from," sagot ni Mika. "You know, the game, it's very mental. Okay, it's everything, di ba—it's mental, it's physical, you try to stay in the game and play the game. But, for me, I wanna say like 90 percent, it's a mind game."

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Ang tinutukoy ba ni Mika ay si Tara, na nakasagutan niya nang matindi habang nasa Palau sila?

"Specifically Tara," pag-amin niya. "But I mean, of course, there's other people that in real life, you wouldn't really have them as a friend... But when you're in the island, wala kang choice. I mean, you're in the same camp, you're on the same beach, you can't go sa kabilang isla, you can't get away from it. You just have to deal with it."

How did she deal with Tara?

"In the beginning, it was very... parang it hurt me to hear na all my efforts, everything that I'm trying to do for the group, parang she was blaming it on me, na parang, kaya siya walang silbi. At first, I was like, 'Ha, ano?' I was crying because it's like, that's so unfair. After I was able to cry and get it all out, parang, 'Wait lang, ba't ako umiiyak?' That's not right. I need to tell her what I feel or give her a piece of my mind.

"Hindi ko naman siya pinatulan, but I really had to say something, you know? I can't hold it in talaga, I really need to say something, that she was wrong. When she talks, she doesn't have a point, and she just talks. Even when you try to explain something to her, parang hindi pa rin niya nakukuha. So, parang I needed to say what I needed to say, but I knew at the same time that it was waste of time."

Watching her confrontation scene with Tara on TV, how did she feel?

"Siyempre, it brings back emotions and things like that. But it made me realize na wala talagang kuwenta yung sinasabi niya. It was like, 'What is she talking about?'"

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Kumusta na sila ni Tara ngayon?

"Actually, we're okay. And the thing is, you know, when you're on the island, your emotions are heightened. Grabe yung extent niya compared to real life. Because in real life, when you have an issue with someone, it's easy to walk away, or to take a deep breath, or take a break. There, you don't, so you're like really pushed.

"I tried to control myself... I was very controlled. I was trying to nod. Yung hindi talaga siya patulan 'cause I know nothing's gonna come out of it anyway. But I cannot not say anything. I have to always be very vocal about what I feel."

What does she miss most about Palau?

"You know what, I miss the people. As much as when I was there, you get so irritated with them, when you're all together, there's a bond that you guys all have, and there's connection that you all have that nobody else can really relate to. So, it's nice to have that, and parang you're so closed off to the world na, okay, ang dami mong problema, but problema within the game. You know what I mean? It has nothing to do with real life. So, it's very difficult."

Mika's dad is British while her mother is a Filipina. She's an only child. Nakatira rin sa Palawan ang dad niya.

"Lumaki ako sa Boracay, but I live now in Coron. I live there for two years na," banggit niya.

Dahil sa pagiging "island girl" ni Mika kaya siguro hindi na siya nahirapang mag-adjust sa Palau.

"Wala masyado. Before talaga, I really need to take a shower before I sleep, yung mga gano'n. And then pagdating dun sa island, parang, 'Okay, never mind.' Pero alam mo, it's so funny, when we were done na, so many of us, yung mga girls, parang ayaw na naming maligo or mag-shave, super tamad. Like, 'You know, it's been two days na hindi pa ako naliligo.' Parang we're so used not doing it!" natatawang kuwento ni Mika.

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"SEXY CHEF" CONTROVERSY. Samantala, sinagot din ni Mika ang kontrobersiya sa kanila ng magkapatid na Rachel at Barni Alejandro, na may-ari ng restaurant na The Sexy Chef. Sa Survivor Philippines: Palau kasi ay "sexy chef" ang tag kay Mika. Hindi nagustuhan ng magkapatid na Alejandro ang pagbansag na "sexy chef" kay Mika kaya nagpadala pa sila ng letter sa iba't ibang entertainment editors upang ipahayag ang kanilang reklamo.

Narito ang bahagi ng letter na ipinadala ni Barni:

"...in The Philippines, The Sexy Chef is known to be the Alejandro sisters—Rachel and Barni. We truly feel that Mika Batchelor should have had the decency and foresight to come up with another name. I would understand if she called herself "a sexy chef"... But to tag yourself with a registered name such as The Sexy Chef is completely illegal, disrespectful, and ignorant. I commend her for having a restaurant in Palawan but that still does not give her the right to ride on our company's name.

"If you visit the Survivor Philippines (Palau) website, you will see Mika's posted provocative FHM pictures.... She can pose nude wherever she wants so long as she does not use The Sexy Chef's name. Rachel and I have been told that we have a sexy image and we believe that being healthy is being sexy. As Ratatouille said, 'Anybody can cook. It doesn't mean that just anybody can be a chef.' Being a chef means being a chief in your own kitchen. A chef commands respect and follows an honor code.

"I write this not out of vanity but to protect our company's reputation. First and foremost, Rachel and I have a duty to our clients. Mika Batchelor, although tagged as "The Sexy Chef," has no affiliation with our company. Having said that, Rachel and I wish for a public apology from her for using our company name without permission."

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Kinuha namin ang reaksiyon ni Mika tungkol sa sulat na ito ni Barni.

"Actually, when I was reading... Kasi after na, may mga reaction na yung mga tao. Parang it was a slap in her face na lang, na kahit wala akong sinabi, it was like other people were reacting na lang to what she is saying. Sa totoo lang, I don't really have much to say about it kasi hindi naman ako ang nagdesisyon na yun yung tag ko, it was like bigay ng GMA. You know, if she has a problem with that, she should go to GMA na lang.

"At first, shocking because... First of all, I didn't even know that there was a company like that. Second, parang how come you're calling me an impostor, e, hindi naman ako yung nag-tag sa sarili ko or anything? At first, you get affected a little bit.

"Yun, parang nag-react na yung mga ibang tao about it. It was like, okay, they kinda defending me, you know, without me having to say anything. I feel like it backfired on her. She was trying to make an issue out of it, and in the end, backfired in her face. That's the thing, I didn't label myself as that, it was GMA. Also, feeling ko lang, maybe she was trying to ride on the exposure," pahayag ni Mika.

JEF GAITAN. Para naman sa 22-year-old model na si Jef, lahat ng nangyari sa kanya sa show at sa Palau ay memorable.

"Lahat po ng about sa camp life. Yung buong Survivor, lahat sila," sabi ni Jef. "Every day, yung mga nangyayari sa akin, surprising for me. Tapos lahat, malaking adjustment parati. Lahat dun, first time ko... First time kong magbukas ng buko, first time kong tumira sa island, mag-live ng provincial life, matulog sa ganung klaseng papag, hindi maligo ng ganun katagal. So lahat yun, unforgettable sa akin talaga."

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Pero ano ang pinaka-nagmarka sa lahat ng experience niya habang nandun sila sa Palau?

"Physically, may nagmarka," sabi niya, na ang tinutukoy ay ang mga marka na naiwan sa kanyang katawan dahil sa insect bites.

Pero dugtong ni Jef, "Ang pinaka-nagmarka is yung part na nalunod ako sa isang challenge [fishball reward challenge]... Hindi naman nalunod, muntikan na kasi kinapos po ako ng hininga. And then, nag-ask ako ng help from one of the divers do'n. Sobrang helpless na ako nung time na 'yon. And then, yung camp life nung lumipat ako sa Koror. Yun yung pinaka-fun-fun part ng camp life."

Hindi ba siya masaya noong nasa Airai siya?

"Hindi naman!" natatawa niyang sabi. "Happy naman, but not as fun as nandun na ako sa Koror."

What made it fun?

"Kasi nun sa Koror, halos lahat kasi kami mga young pa, e. So, nagdya-jive kami. Lahat puro kulitan. Lahat magaganda yung aura and hindi siya stressful. Nung nasa Airai po kasi, medyo yun yung lagi kaming, 'Oy, konti lang kainin natin, magtipid tayo, then tomorrow magaling tayo [sa challenges]...' Parang meron kaming discipline, para kaming nagte-train sa military dahil tomorrow you have to go to the war.

"Pero sa Koror, parang, 'Okay, laidback tayo lahat, and tomorrow may challenge. Bahala na, basta lahat tayo enjoy...' Sa amin kasi, manalo, manalo. Basta we do our best when we get there. Pero habang wala pa yung challenge, i-enjoy natin yung time na nasa camp tayo," paliwanag ni Jef.

Ano yung pinakamahirap na nagawa niya sa Survivor na hindi niya akalaing magagawa niya?

"Siguro yung nagkaroon ako ng skin allergies—from niknik [sandfly]. Yun yung pinaka-nagpahirap ng life ko dun sa Palau. Sobrang kati, tapos buong body ko... Natatakot na po ako na maging sugat siya, scar siya, tapos maging mark siya forever... Kasi yung camp life, naging easy siya with the help of my tribemates. Nakikita ko silang gano'n. So ako rin, natsa-challenge na rin, nagiging competitive na rin ako."

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Ano naman yung pinakamahirap na challenge para sa kanya?

"Yung nasa pole [kawayan], kasi mainit. Tapos wala akong masyadong patience... mahirap yung position ko. Tapos, pinagpapawisan ako. Before pa po ako nag-join ng Survivor, alam ko pong pinaka-mahihirapan ako sa endurance," sabi ni Jef.

ECHO CACERES. Si Echo naman ay dating call center agent mula sa Bicol. Gaya ng ibang castaways, memorable din kay Echo ang lahat ng naranasan niya sa Palau. Pero may isang pangyayari raw na namumukod-tangi para sa kanya.

"Actually, lahat, bawat oras, lahat ng mga ginagawa, lahat ng challenges, very fresh na fresh pa sa isip ko ngayon. So, I would consider everything was memorable talaga.

"Pero yung pinaka, siguro nung na-allergy ako ng crabs dahil sa naniwala ako sa kasabihang mind over matter lang. Pero hindi pala, lalo na pag allergy ang pinag-uusapan. So I was really afraid that time, kasi akala ko dun na magtatapos, di ba? Kapagka pinull-out ka sa camp, di mo alam ko kailan ka makakabalik. Puwedeng yun na, puwedeng dun na lang. Hindi ko hahayaang maging gano'n," sabi ni Echo.

May allergy pa ba siya hanggang nayon?

"Hindi ko nga alam, e. Hindi na ako kumain ng crabs. Ang ipinagtataka ko lang, hindi naman kami mayaman, e, pero may allergy ako!" natatawa niyang sabi.

Bago nag-merge ay naging sunud-sunod ang panalo ng Koror, na kinabibilangan ni Echo. Ano sa tingin niya ang naging sikreto ng Koror at palagi silang nananalo sa challenges?

"Well, actually, siguro yung secret ng Koror kung bakit sunud-sunod yung panalo namin is yung determination naming manalo talaga. Like kapag may challenge, hindi kami nag-iisip na matatalo kami—we're gonna win, we're gonna win. Mamamasyal lang kami. Like pag may challenge, ipapasa lang namin yung Immunity idol. It worked. Kapag you believe, mangyayari daw talaga."

Sino ang itinuturing na pinakamahigpit niyang kalaban sa Survivor Philippines: Palau?

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"Actually, lahat naman sila matitindi. Lahat kami may iba't ibang karakter, may kanya-kanyang ipinapakita. Pero if ever man, I think si Justine. Kasi, alam natin simula pa sa [Isla] Purgatoryo. But we're very good friends," sabi ni Echo.

Pero bakit si Justine ang una nilang ibinoto sa unang Tribal Council ng Koror. Nakaapekto ba sa pagboto nila ang pagiging transsexual ni Justine?

"In my own opinion, since tapos naman na yung episode na 'yon, I voted her out kasi sinabihan ako ni Louie [Ang] about their thought kung ano yung dahilan kung bakit siya. May fault ako sa kanya kasi trinaydor ko siya, e. I promised a good alliance sa kanya. Yung point ko kasi, kesa ako yung pag-initan, di ba? Laro 'yon. Sige, susunod ako sa inyo. Gano'n na lang. I voted her out kasi yun ang desisyon ng tribo.

"At the same time, yung ibinigay nilang rason sa akin, 'operada' daw [si Justine]. So, wala akong idea kung anong klaseng... kung may tahi siya. Di ba, pag sinabing operada, may tahi. Paano kung may challenges na mas malakas, kawawa naman kung mapunit yung tahi. Yun yung imagination ko, honestly! Even though I voted her out, hindi ako nakonsensiya kasi parang concerned ako sa kanya," paliwanag ni Echo.

Sino yung pinaka-close sa kanya sa mga castaway?

"I really love Suzuki, kasi nga, gusto ng tao na sobrang napapatawa ako. Kasi sa buhay ko, sobrang lahat na lang problema," aniya.

Kumusta na sila ni Suzuki?

"Close kami, super close. Kasi I would rather be with a person na napapatawa ako para mawala yung stress ko. Kahit papaano maalis yung problema ko."

Sa pamilya ni Echo, pito silang magkakapatid at siya ang panganay. Kaya siya rin ang nagsisilbing breadwinner sa kanila.

"Ako na halos yung nagsusuporta sa kanila ngayon since ako yung capable," sabi niya. "Yung tatay ko, sobrang sipag niya, kaya lang agriculture yung business niya. Binabagyo nang binabagyo. Yung tatay ko, magtatanim, babagyuhin lang. Puro investment, walang kita. So, medyo tulala siya, hindi niya alam ang gagawin. So, hindi na rin maka-move, like gusto niyang magtanim, siyempre mag-i-invest ka pa rin, wala namang mauutangan kasi baon na sa utang. So, sabi ko, ako yung pinaka-capable tumulong, gagalaw na ako. Hindi nila ako pinu-force."

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Third year na siya sa Business Administration major in marketing sa Brentwood International School sa Naga nang magdesisyon siyang subukan ang kapalaran niya sa Manila.

"Sa hirap ng buhay, hindi kaya ng pamilya ko na tustusan ako, even though I'm a working student, 'tsaka kailangan din nila. At alam kong capable na akong magtrabaho... Raket, kahit boxing, inaano ko 'yan basta magkapera lang."

Madalas din daw sumali sa mga beauty contest noon si Echo.

"Oo, raket. Kumbaga, para magkapera. Kahit ano na lang, konting makeup-makeup lang, chorva-chorva, pera!" bulalas niya.

Saan na siya nanalo?

"Sa amin, Bb. Salvacion [sa Sto. Domingo, Albay]. Sa school, lahat 'yan titleholder! Sabi daw pag naniniwala ka, di ba, 'saka you believe in yourself. And then Ms. Brentwood International, sa school po namin when I was in college. Tapos naghu-hosting-hosting din ako, like bikini competitions, mga ganyan. Ako yung nag-host, pero naka-bikini rin ako."

May balak din ba siyang sumali sa Binibining Pilipinas?

"Actually, to be honest, gusto ko, kaya lang wala akong height," sabi ni Echo. "So, frustrated ako sa mga high heels. 5'2" lang ako. Dinadaya ko na lang sa tayo."

May balak ba siyang mag-artista?

"Kung susuwertehin, bakit po hindi?" sagot ni Echo.

Sino ang hinahangaan niyang artista?

"Actually, sobrang hinahangaan ko talaga right now is si Jennylyn Mercado. Kasi sinubaybayan ko siya from StarStruck, sobrang humanga ako sa kanya. Kasi right now, I would consider na ang taas na po ng naabot niya," sabi ni Echo.

May boyfriend ba siya ngayon?

"Single na single ako, naghahanap nga, e!" tawa niya.

Wala ba siyang nahanap sa Palau?

"Madaming guwapo sa kanila, kaya lang in love ako sa three million, e! Baka mawala yung focus ko. Malay mo ngayon, di ba?"

CLICK HERE for Part 2.


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