Harry Potter has been a constant companion for Turlock resident Vincent Sotaso from the time he was a 9-year-old boy living in the Philippines. The book series and later the movies, captured his imagination and spoke to his heart. He has re-read the books and watched the movies hundreds of times. Now, all his knowledge about Harry Potter and the Wizarding World will be put to the test as he competes Sunday on “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses,” airing at 8 p.m. local time on TBS.
The bracket-style competition will feature fans competing for their Hogwarts house in teams of three. Houses go head-to-head in four epic battles answering hundreds of Wizarding World trivia questions with help from the live audience to unveil which house knows the intricately detailed universe like the back of their hand. Winning teams of each round will advance to the grand finale to determine who will take home the Tournament of Houses championship trophy.
Along with the spectacular trophy and ultimate bragging rights, the winning house will be awarded with: a $,1000 shopping spree at the Harry Potter New York store; tickets to the award-winning Broadway production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child;” a trip to the brand-new touring experience, Harry Potter: The Exhibition; a three-day, three-night trip to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort; and an advanced screening of “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.”
Sotaso graduated magna cum laude in 2019 with a degree in Accounting from Stanislaus State. He currently works as a financial analyst for Modesto Irrigation District. The Journal had an opportunity to speak with Sotaso prior to Sunday’s show and learn all about his connection to the Boy Who Lived.
Q. What House are you playing for?
A. I'm on the Ravenclaw Team, the House of wit and learning. We're the ones in the blue sweater!
Q. What is it about that House that appeals to you or matches your personality?
A. Growing up, I've always wanted to attend the best schools in my province in the Philippines which are usually private. The only way I could afford to enroll was to earn scholarships and tuition reductions by excelling academically. And whenever I get a diploma, or a medal or a certificate, I feel that this is what a Ravenclaw would do to reach success - use the value of intelligence, studying and hard work to get closer to your goal!
Q. What was your introduction to the Harry Potter series?
A. When I was around 7, my mother announced that she was going to have to leave the Philippines to work at the United States. That was also the time when I watched the first advertisement for the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” film. We couldn’t afford to see it in theaters at the time, but fast forward to when I was 9, my mom and stepdad who were already in California remembered my fascination with Harry Potter and sent me the first five Harry Potter books. And boy, I remembered getting buried in them because of the magic.
Q. What has the series meant to you? Has that feeling changed over the years?
A. The series has always been an escape to a more fanciful world for me. My childhood in the Philippines was very fun and I'm thankful for every second of it, but we lived in a far-flung area where the crazy weather would always wreak havoc on the electricity. That's why I'm so thankful my parents sent me the books because those became my daily source of entertainment. Whenever I felt a little defeated or had a bad day, Hogwarts literally was just waiting for me, from then and even now.
Q. How many times have you read and/or listened to the books?
A. Funny question because I don't think any diehard Harry Potter super fans such as myself can have a legit estimate for that as I read and re-read them literally all the time! In fact, right now, my tablet is on the Aunt Marge chapter of Prisoner of Azkaban! But as a true Ravenclaw, let's do some logical reasoning here. I probably read the whole series three times a year. It's 2021 right now and I got them at around 2003 so it's been 18 years. So, multiply that by 3 - that's 54 times. And then there's 7 books so yeah, in total I've probably read each book 378 times. Let's round that out to 380 because I did a lot of extra reading when I was invited to participate in Hogwarts Tournament of Houses!
Q. How many times have you watched the series?
A. Doing the math would be a little exhausting but I can tell you that I watch them endless times growing up!
Q. What were your thoughts when you were called upon to play for your house?
A. You know that feeling in the classroom when there's a graded participation and the teacher calls on you and you know the exact right answer when you get asked because you had studied it earnestly all night? Well, it's that! I just remember feeling so proud and ready. I've literally been waiting all my life for this opportunity and this quiz show just gave me the biggest satisfaction of finally sharing and talking non-stop about Harry Potter!
Q. If you could be any character in the book series, who would it be and why?
A. I know that I'm a Ravenclaw through and through, but my answer to this would be Tom Riddle himself aka Lord Voldemort. Don't get me wrong, he was such an evil villain. However, he's also a very powerful wizard and he and I share from a very humble childhood. When I came here to the U.S. to start an entirely new life is similar to how Lord Voldemort suddenly got whisked away into the magical world. In doing so, I wanted to prove myself that I can make it here, just like he did, hence his thirst for more knowledge. With that in mind, if I were Voldemort, I hope I would have used that thirst to introduce positive productivity and change the magical society for the better. If I were him, I would have had both the talent and the right motivation which would have cemented my place in history as a respected wizard instead of a destructive menace.
Q. What was the experience like of playing a trivia game on television?
A. Honestly—and I don’t mean to sound braggy—I wasn't nervous at all. I was just ready. Besides re-reading the books and re-watching the movies, I didn't do any special cramming. It was a very fun and heartwarming experience because I got to meet and hang out with all the other contestants and celebrate our love and knowledge of Harry Potter together.