The new season of “Pinoy Big Brother” just started, and one of the current cast members in the Philippines version of the hit reality TV show is Hilo native Andre Brouillette.
Brouillette, a 21-year-old Waiakea High School alum, was in Japan studying the language when he was discovered by an agency representing actors and models.
“After one month in Japan, I got scouted by somebody who said, ‘Come into the agency. We’ll sign you up, and try see if you can do modeling and acting,’” Brouillette said in a promotional video for the show. “And I said, ‘Why not?’ You know, you only live once.
“… Soon enough, I started doing some commercials. And actually, that’s how I came out here to the Philippines the first time. I got a job, a short film, to come here to Manila for one week. And after filming that short film here in Manila, it made me realize that eventually I want to move back out here to try pursue acting. You know, I’m half Filipino, so not only (for) acting, but to connect to my culture, connect to my roots.
“My parents, they were really sad about me moving. Sad, but happy that I’m pursuing my dreams.”
Brouillette’s father, Daniel, is a tour guide and U.S. Marine Corps veteran originally from Colorado. His mother, Elvie, who’s originally from Barangay Sapang in Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines, designs and makes jewelry she sells at Hilo Farmers Market.
She said the last time she talked to her son was on New Year’s Day, the day before he entered the “Pinoy Big Brother” house in Manila.
“I miss him every day,” Elvie Brouillette said. “When he went to the Philippines in October, we’d chat every other day. He’d call me or text, my husband, also. He’d tell me everything that’s going on. He’d tell me about everyday life in Philippines.
“Andre is a very good man. He’s a very understanding, friendly, loving person.”
Elvie Brouillette said Andre and his sister, Liana, who’s a year younger than her brother, love the camera — and the camera loves them back.
“Him and my daughter, same,” she laughed. “They like to model.”
The concept of the Orwellian-titled program could be described as a cross between jury duty and “Lord of the Flies,” sans the homicide of the latter. Live TV cameras are placed in a closed setting with contestants called “housemates,” selected by the show’s producers, sequestered from the outside world without phones or internet contact with families and friends. Alliances are made and broken as housemates vie in contests created by the show’s producers to become head of household, a temporary designation that confers its holder with the best room and other perks, and try to avoid eviction by vote of others.
Andre Brouillette’s good looks, ready smile and outgoing nature would appear to be in his favor. His admittedly limited command of the Tagalog language, however, would seem to be a disadvantage. He said he learned Japanese language on a conversational level in about a year. He won’t have that luxury in the “Pinoy Big Brother” house, where evictions occur on a weekly basis.
“I love meeting new people,” Brouillette said. “I want to speak the language, learn the language, connect with my roots.”
According to Brouillette, when he first moved to Manila, there was “a lot of culture shock” — which was cushioned by his affinity for Filipino food.
“I love chicken adobo. I love sinigang,” he said, referring to a sour, savory soup made with vegetables and meat, often pork, and flavored with tamarind and fish sauce. Brouillette said he’s connected with the people he meets in the Philippines, describing them as “really down to earth.”
“I love the personality of the people. People are really easy to talk to, very helping and encouraging. I like the Philippines. I love the Philippines. And I’m glad I’m here.”
If Brouillette connects with his housemates, he could be a part of the televised social experiment for more than two months. His mother is hoping he wins their support.
“(This) week is the voting, the eviction,” Elvie Brouillette said last week. “I want Andre to go to at least the top four.”
Daily episodes of “Pinoy Big Brother,” a half-hour in length, are uploaded to YouTube, where they can be viewed online, worldwide.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.