LARA Pearl Alvarez knew that joining The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition would push her to her boundaries.

But never did she imagine that this early in the competition, she’ll be in a sink-or-swim situation.

Alvarez was one of the first three candidates to be sent to The Boardroom, alongside fellow Team Conquest members Alvin Ang and Nazee Sajedi as they defended their positions from the get-go in front of ONE chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong and ONE Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy Niharika Singh.

“During that moment, I felt like I was fighting for my life,” she said. “In my mind, I’m saying I didn’t go all the way here to be eliminated this way.”

It sent a shock to the spine of the single mother as she found herself as one of the first to be on the chopping block in the toughest edition of The Apprentice in history.

But it also served as an eye-opener for Alvarez, knowing that for one to be named as The Apprentice, one must really want the title so bad. “I should have spoken more and made sure that they heard me,” she said, echoing Sityodtong’s sentiments inside The Boardroom.

In hindsight, Alvarez thought that she could’ve been more firm in pushing what she believed in the first business challenge, where the candidates were asked to build a “ONE at Home” essentials kit, a marketing plan, and a product prototype to be pitched to the hosts. After all, she understood the target audience well given her background in mixed martial arts.

But her decision to shy away from the background may have been her undoing, a brutal realization she came to terms when they faced the music in The Boardroom.

“Chatri asked us, ‘Who else thinks that the product is crap?’ And I raised my hand and explained that Roman [Wilson] and I were insisting on putting other items in the box since I also made a research on the Singapore market. Also, on the night before the pitch, I tried to present to the team how I could be presenting on the pitch and they liked it, but the team said that it’s already too late since the pitch is only a few hours away,” she said.

“I knew I had the least contribution, not because I didn’t want to but because I didn’t get the chance. And that’s partly my fault for not insisting.”

Luckily, the challenge was a non-elimination one and Alvarez, alongside Ang and Sajedi, remain alive in the toughest here, living to fight for another day.

Still, Alvarez is intent on learning from these mistakes as she vows to “never let other people out you to the side.”

“It’s not bad to talk about yourself and what you can do so that people would trust your ability. It’s a bit of culture shock because here in my country, you would be branded arrogant if you talk too much about yourself and your achievements, but I realize that in the bigger world where there’s a mix of culture and views, it ‘s important to give facts about yourself so that people wouldn’t underestimate you,” she said. “When Chatri spoke in the boardroom saying that I’m the most experienced martial artist, that’s the only time that my team found out about me.”

And with those lessons at hand, Alvarez vows to not be in this situation again, more motivated than ever to win this high-stakes game of business competitions and physical challenges.

“After that near-elimination, I told myself I wouldn’t be coming back to that chopping block in the next challenge. I had to do much better and speak more. I was more motivated because I already felt how it was to defend yourself before Chatri and Niharika, and it’s not easy to be in that position,” she said.

All of this hard work, after all, is for her baby boy back home.

“Thinking of my son gives me more fire to overcome all my self-doubt and bring out what I’m good at in the next challenge. I just keep on thinking about the possible changes that I can bring to my son and family’s life if I win the competition and that motivates me,” she said, her desire burning more than ever to claim that US$250,000 job offer to work as Sityodtong’s protégé at the ONE Championship Global Headquarters in Singapore for a year.

Truly, Alvarez didn’t come this far just to be given the first boot.

The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition is showing across Asia on AXN, the show’s official Asian broadcast partner, with markets to include Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition is also available on other platforms and TV networks across Asia, including MediaCorp (Singapore), Abema (Japan), KompasTV (Indonesia), Amarin TV (Thailand), LINE TV (Thailand), One Sports (Philippines), and HTV (Vietnam).