For Lara Pearl Alvarez, the opportunity to compete on the The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition could not have come at a better time.
The 24-year-old native of Baguio City in the Philippines was a single mother struggling to support herself and her 10-month old son Marcuz David (abandoned by her father when Alvarez was two months pregnant in May 2019) when she successfully applied in February 2020. While The Apprentice experience was a challenging one, it has improved Alvarez’s self-confidence and outlook.
“I wasn’t familiar with the show and I didn’t watch any episodes of The Apprentice before my application,” Alvarez explained to MMA Crossfire from her gym at Team Lakay in the Philippines. “I just told the trainer that they are looking for applicants from all over the world and Chatri who is the judge or host for the show is looking for someone who is a fighter and who has the qualities in business. I actually didn’t know about The Apprentice or any of those reality shows. I just applied.”
It did help that Alvarez had a martial arts background.
“I started to train in martial arts when I was in high school but different disciplines,” Alvarez detailed. “So I started with Arnis (the national martial art of the Philippines) when I was in in high school, then I started with Taekwondo and then Wushu and I trained MMA more or less with Team Lakay here in The Philippines. That was in 2018 but I stopped because I had to work. I was trying to juggle work and going to the gym but I was only able to do it for a month.
I had to set aside my MMA dream because I had to work first and save and later on I would go back to MMA, but along the way I became a single mom.
“I never thought I would be back for training so when I applied for that show it was just three months postpartum because I gave birth to my son in November 2019 and I applied in February 2020. I wasn’t planning to go back to martial arts, but because of this opportunity, I will go back to martial arts once again.”
The Apprentice builds on the original American series with 16 candidates who compete in various physical and business challenges supported by celebrity entrepreneurs and athletes.
The winner is awarded a $250,000 USD contract as ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong’s intern for one year.
In the trailer, Alvarez can be seen emotionally explaining her reason for competing to Sityodtong.
“I clearly remember (that part of the trailer) where I was explaining myself because Chatri was asking why I was there,” Alvarez recalled. “Why did I even apply for the show? I said I am doing this for my son. I am doing this for our future. Because I don’t have that opportunity here in my hometown. This is six hours from the national capital region and there are limited opportunities here.
“That’s why I took the chance to go for that show and at that time I was one month away from my son, he was just 10 months old that time.” Alvarez added. “It’s really difficult to explain how I felt at that time as I felt so bad that I had to leave him. My inspiration is I am going to fight for him, I am going to fight for our future together.”
Alvarez and her countrymen Louie Sangalang (whom she bumped into at the airport) hope to make the Philippines proud, just like an inspiration of hers, the one and only eight-division world champion Manny Pacquaio.
“He is the inspiration of many marital artists here in our country,” Alvarez said. “His story is one of the things that inspired me also. Even before this show, when I started marital arts because he was able overcome the struggles and trials in his life to become a world champion and now a legend when it comes to boxing and sports.”
Another inspiration of Alvarez manifested itself at the show when she came face-to-face with UFC Hall-of-Famer Georges St-Pierre, one of the celebrity athletes on the show.
“I was so excited to meet GSP actually because I admired him as a fighter when I started MMA,” Alvarez said. “So GSP is my idol and when I saw on the announcement that he was apart of the show, I was super excited to meet him. And when I got to meet him it was like a dream, because he’s here in front of me, we can speak to him, he gave us advice and coached us in one of the physical challenges and that is an experience I will cherish for a lifetime.”
We will have to tune in to see how Alvarez did on the show, which premieres on March 18 on AXN, the official Asian broadcast partner. In addition to AXN, other platforms and networks onboard in the countries of Singapore (MediaCorp) , Indonesia (KompasTV), Philippines (TV5 Network), Taiwan, Thailand (Amarin TV and LINE TV), Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam (HTV), and Japan (Abema) will see the show.
For China, ONE has an agreement wit ByteDance to steam the show on their Douyin, Xigua, and Toutiao platforms beginning on Saturday, March 20.
But for now, Alvarez summed up some thoughts on what she learned from show.
“It was an inspiring and challenging experience,” Alvarez said thoughtfully. “There were things I did which I didn’t expect that I could do. I also had realizations about myself too. Apparently, my single motherhood has affected me a lot when it comes to my confidence and how I see myself but through that show, I was able to get to know myself more and build my confidence and being a part of a multi-cultural show, I was able to learn from different people about their culture and business because they are all aspiring entrepreneurs.
“My skillset was expanded through that show because we got to go through challenges that made us creative when it came to business. But on an emotional aspect it as also challenging because it was my first time away from my family for so long and at that time when I was having video calls with my son he no longer recognizes me so that is something that is challenging to me.
“And also the level of competition between these candidates is so high because everybody wants to win, everybody wants to get that spot. It was all exchanging yet a lot of learnings I got from the show, most especially from the CEO Mr. Chatri Sityodtong.”
Finally, Alvarez who quickly named ONE women’s atomweight champion and Apprentice guest athlete Angela Lee as a dream opponent, has some advice for young women or anyone who may be struggling to realize their dreams.
“I can just say for everyone that you just have to fight for your dreams, believe in yourself.”
“When I became a single mom, I almost gave up on my dreams,” Alvarez said earnestly. “I was thinking I should just do my best as the mother and give everything to my son and guide him and let him reach his own dreams. But when I got a chance for this show, it’s here I realized as mothers or young women we should not give up on our dreams, whatever the struggles that we are going through.
“Also I experienced a life of poverty when I was young,” Alvarez continued. “I was born in a poor family. We are farmers here in the (Cordillera) mountains but that did not stop me from reaching my dreams and fighting. I had to go through scholarships when I was in high school and college just to finish my studies. I was training and going to school and stuffing and selling anything. I believe there is no substitute for hard work.
“I can’t even imagine what I would be doing now. I didn’t think about that actually.”
“At that time I was working as an accountant for a hotel and the hospitality industry was so bad during this pandemic and I started my own business for supplying fruits and vegetables to hotels here in our hometown, but that also went bankrupt because of this pandemic,” Alvarez said.
“I really had nothing to fall back on, so life would still be hard for me any my son.”
Will fortune favour Alvarez on The Apprentice?
The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition premieres on March 18 on the AXN TV Network.