[PART I of III]
IN JULY 2009, THERE WAS MUCH ADO in the entertainment scene that stemmed from a statement on TV by OPM legend Freddie Aguilar about Charice, Arnel Pineda and other Filipino talents making a name abroad (although specifically addressing a question about Charice), on being famous by imitating—like monkeys...because we don't hold our own,1 said he—Western singers and their styles.
The issue lasted for about a month and has since died a natural death. At its peak, however, the issue dragged other Filipino singers into the scene. Needless to say, it drew all sorts of reactions especially online, and created a real-world gap between followers of the performers mentioned and those who agreed with Aguilar.
It also added a degree of stigma already attached to talents like Charice and Arnel and their respective fan bases and pouring fire into existing heated rivalry specifically between Charice’s fans and of other female singers older than she and whom she'd often been compared with.
To some extent, the issue above was aggravated by online activities participated in by fans across sectors as a consequence of technologies we currently have.
Our preoccupation with fast information and viral issues, and of the marketing and appreciation of talents we see and hear about, has in fact taken a much different approach to the traditional, even if the so-called “traditional” modes still exist, for example, through sleek local talent-search TV productions instantly available with just a click on the remote and a lot of free viewing time, but with minimal focus on the search for real talents.
These technologies, along with the current "traditional" ones like TV and radio, have also changed the way we interact with or react to issues whether they be real or perceived, and have become the defining influences in our choices.
A trichotomy | Like in most developing countries, our reality is living in a world of wide and rigid differences in terms of preferences and prorities.
For instance, we have, on one hand, premium-rate entertainment services and its selective, privileged market, and, on the other, shows on free TV that, like in murky public markets, dispense what its producers think the masses deserve. There simply isn't room for options.
Between both is the broad middle class sector, many of whom help expand the trichotomy having advanced from near-destitution to affording things on demand (thanks to remittances by relatives abroad) and have become consistent spenders on middle-class pleasures.
Charice, who comes from the masses, has made dream-like success look easy and fluid because of YouTube and her undeniable talent to sing cover songs — the big, difficult ones at that, from as early as 7 years old if we take into account her publicized starting age at joining contests.
It is interesting that, having come from a family of modest means herself, many of her detractors whom she actually represents and whose ideals she lives up to are themselves the first to put her down.
This circumstance may have to do with not just the perpetual rich-vs-poor rationale against a third world background but also with complex factors that have to do with the entertainment industry in general in which marketing and sales rule, packaging matters.
On the other hand, if popular belief is to be pursued, events related to Charice may have to fall back to status conflict because it seemed to have happened to her when she, having been a clear choice in the last singing contest she joined on television five years ago, was edged out through what many believed were unfair systems not once but twice, probably even more, of what may have been her only ticket out of poverty in her early teens.
An example is the recent admission of singer-songwriter Jim Paredes on his blog about his judging a special segment of the contest Charice was in and to whom he and his fellow judges apparently gave high scores. He disclosed that they were asked by the contest staff to reconsider their tallies which appeared to have given Charice the score advantage over all the other contestants.
I, in fact, came across a YouTube video of a segment some years ago in which a wide-grinned and visibly amused head-bobbing Jim Paredes was clapping behind the judges’ table to Charice's song-and-dance performance of I Wanna Dance With Somebody. He may have been referring to that particular special segment in which Charice won.
And then there is the legendary grand finals of the same contest in which Charice, having been called back as a "wildcard" contestant, lost.