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Photography: Stephen Capuchino

Through the years Pinoy Big Brother has captured the hearts of the Filipino people and has drawn a huge fan base from all over the country. One of the most highly anticipated reality shows has reached staggering heights, making it one of the most watched programs in television. Viewers can’t get enough of their favorite housemates, because their intriguing backgrounds and bubbly personas.

                                                                    Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

In an exclusive interview with Starstudio.ph, the PBB Otso Batch 3 Teen Big Four ‘Team TBAY’ hopefuls Yen Quirante, Ashley Del Mundo, Tan Roncal and Batit Espiritu, candidly shared their life stories, and how they overcame all of the obstacles that they had to face in life.  

                                                      Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

 

YEN QUIRANTE 

Things never came easy for PBB housemate Yen Quirante. Yen experienced struggles in her hometown in Buhi, Camarines Sur, at such a young age, and revealed her family background was not the most ideal either. 

“Puro lang talaga conflict. Tapos may struggles palagi. Masasabi ko ‘yung family namin, walang bata [na] gustong humiling ng ganitong pamilya,” she uttered somberly. She explained that her mother was adopted and wasn’t accepted by most of her relatives, especially her non-biological sisters.

Her insecurities started to escalate, as she grew up in extreme poverty. “May mga friends talaga ako ‘dun na halos kinaiinggitan ko, kasi lahat sila, meron ‘nung gusto.”  Her family was in such dire straits that they couldn’t even pay for her lunch while she was in school, because her allowance would only amount to Php10 a day.  

There were times, too, when her family did not know where their next meal was going to come from. 

Due to her limited resources, her friends would sometimes pay for her lunch—and in return, she would do their homework. There was also an unforgettable incident when, during a typhoon, their house almost toppled over.  Therefore she and her family had to literally hold on to it. 

                  Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph    

To make things worse, her father died of a heart attack in August 10, 2015, a tragic experience that took a toll on her. 

“Napabayaan ko po ‘yung pag-aaral ko. ‘Tapos medyo gusto ko na pong sumuko, at gusto ko na rin sa kanyang sumunod.” 

In her early teens, she continued on to live a very dark and sad life. “Iyak nalang po ako ng iyak. Na-depress po ako, pero hindi po dumating sa puntong gusto ko na talagang magpakamatay. Kumbaga, naisip ko lang po siya,” she admitted, sadly. 

But she then realized: she had to snap out of her dreary disposition, and had to be strong for her family.  Little did she know that fate had something else planned for the brave young girl. 

JOINING PBB

When she found out that auditions for Pinoy Big Brother were being held in Naga, she didn’t think twice to audition, and eventually got in. When asked if she had always wanted to be in the entertainment industry, the young girl admitted that she had always dreamt of this, but said that she did not expect for things to happen so quickly. “Hindi ko talaga ‘to inaakala, kasi sabi ko kung mag-a-artista man ako, siguro nasa age na ng 30.” 

Yen stated that she had always wanted to focus on her studies, but said that she is still happy that things unfolded the way it did, because this is truly a one in a lifetime experience for her. 

However, things didn’t get any easier for the teen, as her mother recently got diagnosed with tuberculosis. 

Yen disclosed that there were times when she wanted to give up in the PBB house to tend to her mother, but chose to just keep it together and moved forward. “‘Yung pinaka mahirap po is bakit hindi ko man lang siya matulungan sa sakit niya. ‘Yun po ‘yung bumabagabag sa panahon na nalaman ko po ‘yung sakit niya.” She stressed that it isn’t easy trying to stay strong, because all she could think of is she doesn’t want to lose another parent.

 

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

POSITIVE OUTLOOK

Notwithstanding all hurdles, Yen chooses to stay positive and refuses to mope. “Kung mag-iinarte po ako sa isang tabi lang, wala pong mangyayari.” When life gets hard, she just thinks of her mother who needs her, or talks to her two best friends Tayet and Carmina. 

She also mentioned that she is very close to her fellow housemates, Angela, Sheena, Ashley and Kyzha, because she feels their empathy, and they give her advice. Apart from her family and friends, Yen said that she also turns to God for guidance and strength. “Sa lahat ng oras at sa lahat ng bagay na gagawin mo, kelangan mong maniwala at magtiwala sa Diyos.”

On a lighter note, her family’s demeanor towards her has now lightened up a bit. She noted that some of them have said that they are actually happy for her, and even call her and asks how she is. Her family also advises her to always remain humble and to never forget her humble beginnings. 

“Wag na wag kang makalimot na magpasalamat at humingi ng tawad sa mga ginawa mong mali sa Diyos,” she said with a smile on her face.

 

ASHLEY DEL MUNDO

Ashley del Mundo had always thought that her family was a happy one, until she began to notice that the love between her parents was diminishing. In 2017, her mother and father finally called it quits and separated, an unfortunate circumstance that Ashley did not take lightly. 

“We were all adjusting to the separation. We were all confused because we didn’t know where to stay.” She shared that she could see that her parents were struggling to stay together; however, “They would always fight when I was little, but my mom never made the decision to separate, because we were young.”

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

 

Before joining PBB, Ashley revealed that she couldn’t cope well with all of her family problems, and divulged that she was a very negative and destructive person. 

“Before joining PBB, the whole month before, I was constantly crying. I was a very destructive person, like, super broken and so negative. Home was a very toxic place to be in. If I come home I either get yelled at or get called names by my brother,” she said.

Instead of looking forward to going home, she shared that she would rather hang out with her friends.  It was a confusing time for her, but there was also a streak of hope. 

AUDITION TIME

PBB auditions were also being held in Australia, an opportunity that her brother wanted to grab. Ashley was then forced to accompany him, but decided right then and there to give it a shot as well. The pretty adolescent was surprised when she made it (and because she thought initially that this was a chance to get away from all her family issues). However, the hopeful was also uneasy and worried about leaving school in the middle of the school year. “A part of me wants to go back to Australia and finish my studies.”

When asked she if wanted to live in the Philippines or Australia, Ashley admitted that she would choose Australia because that’s where she grew up. “I grew up there po and I enjoy the life there, of just going to school, studying and seeing my friends.” 

However, the Kapamilya star expressed that despite missing home, she feels grateful that she made it to the Big 4, because she wanted to prove to her family that she can make it. She stated that the whole PBB experience made her realize a lot of things, and it helped that Kuya had told her to face her issues. 

“That whole experience it made me take time to realize what I need to do when I get out of the house, and how I’m going to face my family.” She stressed that PBB knows her situation, and they help her out with her problems. 

 Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

During troubling times, Ashley said that she turns to her best friend back in Australia.  While in the PBB house, Jem and Emjay are there to comfort her, because she doesn’t really feel comfortable opening up to other people. “I feel left out with the girls. I can’t really open to them, so I’m close to Jem and Emjay.”  Apart from her friends, the teen also turns to God: “I pray. My strength and my trust rely on God. So, if anything comes my way that is unexpected or that I wish to come my way, I pray about it.” There are also times when Ashley needs a good cry, and does so just to release all the heavy burdens that are building up inside her.

Notwithstanding all of the hurdles that she had to put up with, the PBB contestant said that she is able to cope with her problems better now compared to before. She added that her family is proud and overwhelmed with her success, and said that they even give her advice. Her parents remind her to be herself, and they remain hands-on by observing what goes on in social media. 

“If they see something negative about me, they want me to change it straight away.” Nevertheless, her mother and father tell her not to get so affected, and to take these things with a grain of salt. Ashley emphasized that she doesn’t read negative things on social media and she doesn’t allow herself to get affected. 

What matters most is that she is in a better place with her family, and everything is turning out for the best. 

 

TAN RONCAL

Born to a Filipina mother and a Dutch father, you could see that Tan Roncal can easily stand out in a crowd with his mestizo features, combined with his spunky persona. He had always considered himself as a happy little boy, but then his parents separated when he was three years old. Growing up in a broken family was something that Tan had to struggle with on a daily basis.  “May mga insecurities po, about sa family kasi hindi kami buo. Tapos ‘yung ibang families, buo po sila. Kapag family day sa school minsan si daddy lang pupunta, minsan si mama lang.”

Although Tan said that his parents still made an effort to be with them, both have moved on with their lives. 

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

Another burden that Tan had to bear was the death of his two siblings.  It can be recalled that one died during childbirth, while the other had a heart problem. 

On top of that, his family was also in dire straits. “At may mga financial problems kami. Yun po ‘yung tumatatak sa akin, so dun po ako naging mas mature at hindi ako naging pasaway.” 

Their financial struggles forced the young boy to grow up and mature faster, in order to help his family. Even if he was just the third from the eldest, he felt that he somewhat had to be the father figure of the family, but clarified that he doesn’t mind tending to his now five siblings because they are all responsible and smart. 

“Ako rin ang nag-aalaga sa mga kapatid ko pag wala si mama. Ok lang po sa akin. Gusto ko ring alagaan ang mga kapatid ko. Yun ‘yung parang purpose ko siguro,” he stressed.


JOINING PBB

Tan was never really keen on joining the showbiz scene, and he said that he was forced to audition for Pinoy Big Brother, because he had his reservations. “Di ko talaga gustong mag-audition. Kasi nahihiya po ako at wala po akong masyadong talent,” he uttered. 

While auditioning, he said could help but feel out of place because his insecurities started to come about.  “Nung nakita ko sa isla yung mga kasama ko, sabi ko, ‘patay ako nito’. Kasi ang popogi nila, ‘tsaka may iba’t ibang talents.”  

But in spite of what he felt, the young hopeful held his head high, chose to stay positive, and made it. “Happy po ako. Kasi nung una ayaw kong mag-audition, tapos ngayon, Big 4 na ako,” he said, smiling. 

DEALING WITH HARDSHIPS

Having gone through so much at such a young age, Tan chose to keep it together and move forward. He emphasized that in order to keep moving up, he shouldn’t waste his time harping on his troubles. “Hindi ko dinadala ‘yung mga problems ko. Ako nalang ‘yung gumagawa ng paraan para mas maging maganda ‘yung family namin.”

The PBB contestant further divulged:   “May technique po ako, hindi ko pinapansin ‘yung mga bagay-bagay. May mga times na inaayos ko ‘yung problem. May times na hindi ko kaya, at binabalewala ko nalang.”  

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

Now that Tan is away from his family and is fulfilling his commitments in the PBB house, he can only think of them and be motivated. “Ginawa kong motivation ‘yung family ko. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, nandito na ako. Ibibigay ko yung best ko.” When asked how he deals with toxic people and negativity he could only reply, “Deadma lang ako. Iwas lang.” 

He however revealed that there is not much conflict in the house because they all get along and help each other: “Di masyadong mabigat yung mga problems sa loob. Close kaming mga housemate.”  Tan added that they all give him advice whenever he needs it, and he can particularly rely on Batit. 

But when there are times when he needs to seek help or advice from someone, he said that he usually talks to his parents or his older sister. “Si mama at yung kapatid ko po, si ate. Sila po yung close ko sa family. About sa bashing po, never mind ko nalang daw po.  Wag po akong mag-pa-stress dun. Minsan nag-pra-pray po ako, pero all the time po blackout (deadma) talaga,” he recounted. 

His said his family is also very proud of what he has accomplished. “Proud na proud sila sa akin. Sobrang saya po kasi na-Big Four po ako.”  

Tan also happily shared that things are better now with him and his family despite his parent’s separation. “Naiintindihan ko na si daddy na may iba na po siyang family, tapos si mama meron na din. Pero there are times na naisip ko na sana magkabalikan sila, pero mukhang imposible na po talaga,” he said jokingly, yet wistfully. 

 

BATIT ESPIRITU

Born into a simple life in Calamba, Laguna, Batit Espiritu never expected to make this far in the competition. 

At a young age, when his family moved to Davao, he started to hang out with friends who were a lot older tha than he was, who weren’t exactly good role models either. “Grade 4 pa lang, natuto na akong manigarilyo at uminom. Kasi bad influence ‘yung barkada ko. Mahilig po akong dumikit-dikit sa mga siga-siga sa school, pero hindi po ako kasali sa gang nila,” he elaborated. 

When the family decided to move to Nueva Ecija, the young boy realized that his life was lot more well-balanced if away from the influence of bad company. “Na-realize ko na yung buhay dun, simple lang at hindi mo talagang maiisipang gumawa ng kung ano-anong bisyo,” he said. 

With hard work and determination, Batit said that he started to do well in school and noticed that he enjoyed honing his skills. “Dance performer, choir, varsity ng badminton, marami akong nasalihan at dun po na-develop yung skills ko,” he shared. 

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

He proudly stated that he was able to finish high school, then moved back to Davao to continue his college education. 

During his college years his older brother would shoulder the expenses, but that unfortunately came to a halt because he had to prioritize his family. “Hindi po siya natuloy, dahil sa financial problem ng kuya ko. Mas kailangan niya po yung pera, kasi pamilyado na po ‘yung kuya ko,” he uttered somberly. 

This did not stop Batit from being productive, as he chose to find other ways of making ends meet. But of course, there were times when he felt distraught about not being able to pursue his education. “Tumutulong ako sa kuya ko at sa business niya. Pero dumating rin sa isip ko na nanghihinayang ako na hindi ako nag-enrol nun. Sayang po diba, sana second year college na po ako. Pero at the same time, siyempre, the show must go on. Make the most of what you have,” he retorted. 


THE PBB CHAPTER 

But little did Batit know that an unexpected blessing was about to come his way, that would change his life forever. 

When he found out that auditions for Pinoy Big Brother were being held in Davao, he decided to give it a shot. Being the resourceful person that he is, he decided to apply for a job as a server in a restaurant while waiting for the results. “Nagpe-pray lang po ako. At the same time, gumagawa ako ng ibang paraan if ever hindi makapasok. Kaya ako nag-apply ng work,” he explained. He was already going through some training sessions for the job, when he received word that he made it as one of the contestants for the show, “Tuwang-tuwa po ako, kasi kumbaga, as a normal person na naghahangad ng ganitong opportunity, dumating po sa akin!” 


COPING WITH LIFE AND INSECURITIES

In spite of all the blessings that he has acquired, Batit admitted that there are times when he doesn’t think highly of himself and would start to compare himself to others. “Pagdating sa itsura at saka status sa buhay ko. At Iniisip ko dati, tungkol sa audition na ‘binigay ko ba lahat?’” he said. 

However, he continued on by saying that he would stay positive and surrendered his faith to God. “Sabi ko, ‘Lord, sana wag Niyo po akong pabayaan, eto lang yung pangarap ko. Pinaghirapan ko ‘to, Lord.’ Tapos ‘yun po, naawa ‘yung Diyos sa akin, so dumating yung opportunity.”

As he continues to make a mark in the entertainment industry, the PBB housemate underscored that he doesn’t take anything for granted, and always tries to remain in his element. He also stressed that everything he is working hard for is not just for him but for his family. “Sa mga opportunities na dumadating sa akin talagang gina-grab ko po, hindi binibitawan, at binibigay ko yung best ko. I think of my family po every time may ginagawa ako. Para sa kanila yung ginagawa ko.” 

Batit is also happy that things aren’t so difficult inside the PBB house. “Solid talaga ‘yung samahan namin dun sa bahay.” He stressed that he is close to everyone, and said their bonding moments and close ties give him strength. 

Exclusive Photo from Starstudio.ph

Apart from his housemates, Batit is thankful that he has his family and his girlfriend, whom he considers as his pillars of strength. 

However, he said that as much as possible he doesn’t want to burden other people with his problems, so he tries to figure out a way to handle situations on his own. “Problema ko to, dapat ayusin ko ’to nang matiwasay. Ako ‘yung tipong tao pag may problemang dumating, hindi nadadala agad or magiging down,” he says. 

But at the end of the day, just like the other contestants, Batit still remembers what his loved ones tell him, which is to stay humble and to respect others. 

These inspiring stories show that no matter how difficult life is, you can always achieve whatever you want to be, as long as you gather the strength to carry on. Tibay-tibay lang!

 

Art Director: Alfred Amado

Make-Up for Yen Quirante and Tan Roncal: Bubbles Dayata

Make-Up for Ashley Del Mundo and Batit Espiritu: Pia Reyes

Hair for Yen Quirante and Tan Roncal: Dominic Mangat

Hair for Ashley Del Mundo and Batit Espiritu: Suzette Del Castillo

Stylist: Aaron Mangsat

Stylist Associate: Maui Segismar

Stylist Associate: Dhea Encarguez Ondes

Stylist Associate: Billy Chee