Jericho is the sole Survivor. But what did he give up to get there?
He won Survivor by deceiving and manipulating along with the rest of his tribe, but Jericho said leaving his faith on the boat was harder than he thought.
When Jericho Malabonga was accepted as a cast member for the second season of Australian Survivor, he thought he would leave his faith on the boat to the island where Channel 10 would dump him.
“In my real life, I do have a Christian faith,” he said in a Channel 10 promo for the reality show. “I have to completely go the opposite and do everything for my personal gain. That could be lying, stealing, cheating, deceiving, manipulating. It’s whatever it takes to be that sole survivor.
“It’s eat or be eaten in this game. And I want to work with the other devils.”
“I have these values that are really my foundations in life, but at the end of the day, Survivor is a game where those values will contest with everything the show is about.”
Jericho’s strategy worked. He was crowned ‘Sole Survivor’ last month, lasting 55 days on the tropical island of Samoa.
Australian Survivor is a reality game show: contestants are grouped into tribes and marooned on an isolated island, where they must fend for themselves. Water, food, fire, shelter is all up to them. Contestants compete in challenges for rewards or immunity from ‘tribal council’, where each night one contestant is voted out by other members of their tribe. In Australia, the title of Sole Survivor comes with a cool $500,000.
The game, which in its international format was produced by Mark Burnett (a Christian producer who is also behind The Bible TV series), is all about strategy and deception. Contestants are pitted against each other, making alliances and breaking them according to what they see as the best way to get them to the final two. Ultimately, a jury of ten contestants vote to determine the winner. So, you should be ruthless … but careful who you cross on the way.
Jericho says he came into the show with a good idea of how he was going to play the game.
“Amongst all the lies and schemes, I do believe that there is something greater beyond the game.”
“I have these values that are really my foundations in life, but at the end of the day, Survivor is a game where those values will contest with everything the show is about. So, I said to myself, I have to suspend those values and play the game.”
What he didn’t expect was to make deep friendships that made it really difficult to scheme against them.
“My plan completely changed. You had to be adaptable.
“It was hard. There were times where I struggled. There were times when I was literally lying down on the bamboo shelter thinking, ‘this is not as easy as I thought.’”
Jericho, who has recently started attending CityLife Church in Melbourne, but still calls C3 Auckland his “home church”, told Eternity that even though he intended to keep his morals off the island, God was with him the whole time.
One thing God always teaches me is that you were somebody before Survivor.
“Amongst all the lies and schemes, I do believe that there is something greater beyond the game.
“When I rocked up to the game, I said to God, ‘how awesome that you even had this plan for me, to come to this show that I’ve always dreamed about. And I know it’s all lies and scheming, but … what do you want me to do?’”
He said that, while he felt he didn’t get an answer to that question, he decided that in his game play he would look for ways to make small differences to people. “Maybe just to be an encourager to someone in their lowest time. I didn’t know what that looked like, but that’s one thing I thought I could do [for God].”
There was no Bible on the island, but Jericho said he kept coming back to Psalm 61 in his mind. “It’s the time that David has fled, and he went to his wilderness. And he was like, ‘God, I thirst for you. I hunger for you.’
“When I got to the island, I was in my real wilderness, like David. And there were times when I really felt alone, because everyone was scattered and no one wanted to be in an alliance. That’s when I was crying to God. I was like, ‘God, I hunger for you. I thirst for you.’ That’s where I drew my strength from.”
Though he is half a million dollars richer, Jericho says nothing much has really changed for him. He says he worked hard to get his job, rising up the ranks from a toilet cleaner on planes to an international flight attendant. “It’s an accomplishment for me, so I won’t be throwing it away because Survivor happened and I won!”
“I’m still the ordinary Jericho. One thing God always teaches me is that you were somebody before Survivor.”