By Gel Santos Relos
Filipinos all over the world were shocked when Jessica Sanchez almost got eliminated last Thursday for getting the lowest number of votes. Surprisingly, American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Tyler used their powers to "save" Jessica in order for the 16-year-old Filipino-Mexican to be able to continue competing in the show.
Hailing from San Diego, Jessica is so talented -- receiving nothing but standing ovation and accolades from the AI judges and studio audience every week. How could she be voted out of the contest?
Already I have been getting text messages, emails, tweets and Facebook messages from kababayans back home with the same questions: Are Fil-Ams not voting for Jessica? Isn’t ABS-CBN The Filipino Channel doing a strong campaign to make Filipinos in America vote for our bet?
Jessica can’t lose, they say. Many of us are optimistic that she will be the first Filipina to win American Idol! What happened?
Immediately, kababayans from all over the world ask: How can they help? Can they vote in whatever way possible to ensure our pamabato’s victory in American idol?
While some kababayans are eager to learn and explore all possible options, others, like our Balitang America LA Correspondent Yong Chavez warn how doing so may do more harm than good.
“I think we should follow AI rule on who can vote (US/territories). Breaking it might create backlash against her and Pinoys,” Yong Chavez said.
American Idol stipulates who can vote in the contest:
-Toll-free Voting: Anyone calling the toll-free numbers from an area code from within the Continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be able to cast their vote(s) for American Idol.
-AT&T Text Voting: Any AT&T wireless subscriber who has the ability to text message and has an area code from within the Continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be able to cast their vote(s) for American Idol.
-Online Voting: Anyone with a Facebook account registered within the Continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be able cast their vote(s) using the online method.
Such pragmatism among our kababayans around the world has been tempered by the desire to make Jessica win the crown within bounds of American Idol rules. As Yong Chavez articulated, we do not wish for Jessica and Filipinos to be put in bad light for rule-breaking or 'cheating'.
“Voting for AI and you're not in (any) US territories is cheating! Ang tawag diyan.. flying voters! Voting on AI na hindi taga Amerika!,” kababayan Pat Punzalan says. And Filipinos get this.
Kababayan Evita Garcia suggests that it is “better to campaign to all friends and relatives in the US, not just to watch Jessica but also to vote for her.”
True enough, many Fil-Ams publicly said “mea culpa,’ admitting that they have been complacent. They believe Jessica is a strong candidate and that many would vote for her. They did not feel the pressure and urgency to vote for her consistently every week. A classic case of a ‘diffused sense of responsibility.'
But last week’s surprise made many Fil-Ams realize how important it is to vote, in order for Jessica to win. They realize that in American Idol, the best and most talented singer does not necessarily win. Winning is based on popularity and number of votes.
Fil-Ams have in fact organized several “American Idol” viewing parties all over the United States and plan to vote quite obsessively together for Jessica within the designated voting time after the show in each time zone.
Other Filipinos have articulated their analyses of why Jessica was almost booted out of the contest. Some point to race. Others say it is because the young female audience who comprise the big voting block of AI prefer to swoon over white, good-looking guys as their "American Idol."
Still some believe Jessica does not look glitzy enough, or that she chooses the wrong songs. She might have proven her singing prowess but failed to connect with people emotionally last week because of her song, Stuttering. Some opined she should share more of her self that the American voting public may identify with.
But then there are those who wonder how we Filipinos treat Jessica’s almost elimination from American Idol like it is a national crisis that requires immediate and serious attention. Others lament how “Pinoy pride” can truly be so misplaced and tied to showbiz and contests and boxing, etc.
I just hope Jessica will still be in American Idol by the time you read this column. Jessica vows to “step up her game.” She is so talented -- she may just be the next American Idol.
But we, Fil-Ams need to do our role in voting for her, as passionately as we believe in her. Yet if she doesn't make it, we know that she has already made it known to the world that her star will continue to shine, even after the curtains of this season's American Idol closes.
Good luck, Jessica!