Last night, the finale party of The Amazing Race Asia Season 5 took place in Singapore.
Attended by the 11 teams of racers and host Allan Wu, as well as their families, partners, sponsors (Wonderful Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia, Grab and Great Eastern), lucky contest winners, and members of the media, the event had taken place at Ion Sky @ Ion Orchard from 8pm.
Mingling with the racers and other guests
The Ion Sky bar had been small, but quite cosy, with plenty of opportunities to mingle with other guests and to take photos with the racers, as well as delicious canapés and beverages being served throughout the night.
As is expected too, the party somewhat seemed to have taken on an airport theme, with tickets being issued in the shape of boarding passes and official invitations in the form of passports. I had thought that this was very apt, to match the theme of the actual show.
It was interesting to have the chance to mix with the teams that I had been watching on television for all of these past weeks, as well as to have photos taken with some of my favourites.
Racers summing up their experiences
As the show screening time of 9pm drew nearer, the host for the night, Melody Chen – who had participated in the inaugural season of the Amazing Race Asia in 2006, chatted to the 11 teams of racers and asked them fun questions, such as summing up their Amazing Race Asia Season 5 experience… in a single word.
For some of the racers, this had been pretty straightforward, with Singapore’s Keiji Umehara immediately saying “amazing” – to the laughter of many others in the room. But for others, the task had been more emotional – such as for Vietnam’s Lisa & Nicole, who had been eliminated 20 minutes after the start line in a shocking twist in the very first episode of the race.
But the best comment had to probably come from Singapore’s Jerald Justin Ko and Mike Darren Tan (JK & Mike). They took turns to say, “Should’ve… turned… left” in a direct reference to their nail-biting elimination from the race, when they had headed straight instead of turning left, allowing Malaysian beauty queens Yvonne Lee & Chloe Chen to overtake them to the pit-stop at the last minute. It was so funny… and just like how JK & Mike had been providing The Amazing Race Asia Season 5’s audiences with humour and comic relief throughout the episodes – with their words and actions.
As well, Melody also chatted with The Amazing Race Asia show host Allan Wu himself, who had readily admitted that if he had another opportunity, he would love to have the experience of being part of the show, all over again. So perhaps we may see a sixth season, sooner than expected, then?
Three teams of finalists introduced on stage
The three teams of finalists were also introduced on stage – these were Filipino beauty queens Maggie Wilson and Parul Shah, Chloe & Yvonne, as well as married couple from the Philippines, Eric Tai and Rona Samson.
All three teams had been grateful to have made it to the top three. Said Eric, “We went through everything that the race could throw at us, we prevailed and we feel lucky to be here in the top three.”
The atmosphere at the party grew more tense as 9pm drew nearer. Everyone was waiting with bated breath for the winners to finally be unveiled… and for the racers themselves, the results finally being out would also be a relief because that would mean that they would not have to keep the secret any longer.
Watching the screening
Then the screening started. There were two big screen set ups for the audience to catch the show in comfort. Watching the finale together with 11 teams of racers, and so many other fans of the show, was definitely an experience. Throughout the screening, I could hear whoops and comments coming from the teams, whenever their faces showed up on the huge screen – and it was quite entertaining that they had been “egging” each other on, during the screening.
The finale itself was gripping, keeping audiences on the edge of their seat from the beginning to the end. The three teams had constantly exchanged positions in completing the various challenges, with many twists along the way. There were no runaway leaders at all, or any indication of who was going to triumph.
Parul & Maggie win the prize
In the end though, Filipino beauty queens Maggie and Parul clinched the title of winners, claiming the USD100,000 cash prize in the process.
Said Parul, 28, “It was such a relief to win, because the money can help my family, especially my dad, who suffered a stroke. He taught me to never give up in life and I did this to prove that no matter what life throws at you, never give up.”
Throughout the race, Parul had harboured hopes of winning the money to help her sick father. She and Maggie had stayed in the middle of the pack during the race, but gained serious momentum in the final two legs.
Added Maggie, 27, “We played the game really well and climbed the ladder ever so slowly. We didn’t want to come in first in any of the legs because we didn’t want to have a target on our backs.”
Chatting to the two beauty queens subsequently after the results announcement, I found out that they were pleased that they were able to break the stereotypical impression of beauty queens – of being delicate and fragile and unable to tough it out – with their competition win.
Parul had also shared at the event that beauty pageants in the Philippines are 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical and that many beauty queens there train like athletes. She said, “Pageants in the Philippines are high stress environments. This helped us in the race – so we were able to stay calm.”
Added Maggie, “We were also fit physically, mentally and emotionally, through our beauty pageant training; that had helped us to get to where we are now.”
Coming in second had been Malaysians Chloe & Yvonne, and in third place was Filipino couple Eric & Rona.
Said Chloe, 27, “I’m still really happy that we came this far. It’s an achievement in itself to come in second, and I told Yvonne that I didn’t ever want to hear Allan say, I’m sorry but you have been eliminated from the race. And we did not!”
She added, “We were a bit intimidated at the beginning by the other teams… the ‘Muscle Brothers’ (Alex & Will from Malaysia) were so fit.. but we soon realised that this race is all about communication and partnership rather than how strong or fit you are.”
At the finale party, Parul & Maggie were also officially presented with their winner’s cheque. And after that, the atmosphere completely exploded, with numerous photo and selfies being taken, and the 11 teams of racers going wild. Their camaraderie and bond was definitely apparent at this stage. After all they had all been through so much together.
One interesting memory that I have of the finale party though, was when I was in the lift on the way back down, together with JK & Mike and a few of the other racing teams, including the winners Maggie & Parul. Ever the comedian, JK had playfully introduced me as the ‘blogger’ to the others, and jokingly egged me on to ask the beauty queens some questions, whipping out his phone in the process! This was also a nice way to end off a wonderful night at the party.
AXN fans had tuned into the show every Thursday night
Throughout the run of the show, AXN fans had tuned in every Thursday night to watch the latest drama unfolding on television as the 11 teams competed in a series of physical and mental challenges against diverse geographic backdrops.
And connecting fans to the racers, AXN had hosted Facebook Live sessions immediately after each episode for fans to ask questions and post messages to the eliminated teams. The 18 Facebook Live sessions reached 9.5 million fans and garnered 2.7 million views.
Said Virginia Lim, Senior Vice President and Head of Content, Production and Marketing at AXN, “the Amazing Race Asia Season 5 was designed for maximum fan engagement so we focused on creating a digital narrative with real time race interaction and on-location clips that were exclusively available online. We produced over 60 short webisodes around six themes, and the social response has exceeded our expectations.”