Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On borrowed horse

Jessica Sanchez

Three days into the most crucial days ever for any reality TV contestant's dream towards achieving fame – no, it's not just any reality TV, it's American Idol for heavens – and the by-word on every TV junkie in this part of the word is "Jessica Sanchez."

Ask any fermale prime time broadcaster who's ever applauded on network news about Sanchez being on the Top 4 and you'll know why this has become even bigger than the Philippine Chief Justice on trial, the rising tension over at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, or the 5-thousand-plus people once called "residents" by pollsters or "voters" by politicians just before their community on reclaimed land burned down last Friday, now sit homeless and helpless, jampacked in a local Manila gym.

In view of the third, Sen. Tito Sotto had the gall to tell CNN that it lied in its series about the Philippines because, he said, we are a land of hope – just look at billionaire Senator Manny Villar, he said as an example, as poor then as any street-wandering Filipino today who has become an expert at preparing pagpag for daily subsistence and sustenance.

Villar has, in essence, risen above the odds and made a name for himself, Sotto said, therefore a prime example out of millions living below poverty line and who can therefore prove that (Villar's story) entitles us to cover up poverty with fancy graphics on tarpaulin. Did MalacaƱang cross its fingers wishing that the ADB delegates for whom the cover-up was intended mistook the tarpaulin for forward-looking "beautification?"

And yes, no doubt, it is some kind of news, Jessica Sanchez on American Idol. It's the kind which we so easily latch on to because it smells like a newly-opened balikbayan box filled with goodies from the latest clear-out sale in California that has landed right on our doorsteps tax-free.

Jessica Sanchez, no doubt, is a good performer, the best of anyone in her age category on TV today. She has the right phrasing, her musicality is sophisticated and her range is exceptional.

And I take it that she is, after all, "a Filipino," although until her slow rise to fame via American Idol Season 11, she was and is an All-American girl in a largely Filipino-dominated community in America. Still, her being in the Top 3 has made Philippine media treat it like that of an all-Filipino/Philippine contingent winning a gold in the Olympics.

I can understand Sanchez' maternal BataeƱo relatives, descendants or witnesses perhaps to the largest surrender of American and Filipino WW II joint forces in Bataan, closely monitoring and rooting for her, and they have all the reason to. Besides them and her relatives from Mexico, from my point of view at least, Sanchez' rightful kababayans are those in Chula Vista, California who she share common aspirations and experiences with.

But by the way even the local entertainers and celebrities – count in the OPM officials and network executives – have been treating news about Sanchez, the fact is she is not panacea to the ailing Philippine music and entertainment industry or the answer to the much sought-after definition of "Filipino international superstardom" and everything else that's attached to it, especially since the Mexicans will pretty much claim her as "theirs" ahead of us, or as "Latina" as Jennifer Lopez.

To her credit, when prompted for reaction on camera, Sanchez is grateful for the support Filipinos from all over have given her. But all credit goes to her and how she has harnessed her God-given talent to the fullest.

At the end of the day, though, if and when she does come out victor on American Idol Season 11 and establish firsts on the show – first female since Jordin Sparks, first woman of mixed-heritage and of Filipino descent – what Jessica Sanchez will and always be is an "American" idol for she knows of no other experience to draw from but as that. If and when she wins, Jessica Sanchez' victory is the aspiration and success of every Fil-Am and Mexican-American in America.

The state of OPM

I cringe at the thought that an organization like OPM, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) whose officials and members have been all over town in support of Jessica Sanchez, will be short of handing her an award post-haste once Sanchez does win; did not the OPM just do the same to another American Idol finalist, David Archuleta, upon his agreeing to record, in record time at that – meaning both the award and the recording – Filipino songs in English last January? For whatever intent or purpose the OPM-Archuleta deal was made, I hope it wasn't because the OPM did it on a whim and overstepped Archuleta's accommodation for that's how it looked like: instead of the guest being accommodated, the host over-indulged.

With Jessica Sanchez being "hot" property in the Philippines, especially so with the help of Philippine media, and the prospect of being the first Latino-Asian-American to be "American Idol," I hope we can do a raincheck on ourselves and not be allowed to be taken by the tides of hope by hanging on to strands we might take as redemption from our own miserable but salvageable state.

Are we in shortage of citizens in our own backyards to look up to and hail as "heroes" that we need to shift our gaze beyond our shores, look into blood traces for relations before we can lift up someone over our shoulders?

With the American Idol season in the U.S. coming to an end (and possibly emerging winner among all reality TV shows in the U.S.), I suppose this time around, Philippine media and the entire entertainment industry would like to be "out there" as things unfold, if they haven't already bought tickets to the party.

How could they have missed all the frenzy 4 years ago with homegrowns Arnel Pineda and Charice Pempengco, and still not completely understand what the buzz around them was at the time? Was it because, as late technology adapters, they were clueless as to how these talents struggled their way into the mainstream American music industry as locals do in our very own entertainment industry?

Is it because, as beneficiaries of technology today, it's so much fun to be trending, albeit even for the most trivial of reasons as a "love team" in spite of the fleeting nature of internet trends bearing no significant long-term impact on society?

Or are we simply riding to fame on a borrowed horse and, in the process, have left the welfare, growth and much-deserved attention of our very own talents behind?

We have become too hopeful on formulas that happened but never saw coming: People Power, YouTube sensations, sudden Twitter trending and such, all the while forcing history to repeat itself on an unsuspecting public.

Media circumstances around this season's American Idol have forced even the highest authorities to issue a statement of support yet let go lightly of an official of government, Ronald Llamas, caught on camera patronizing pirated entertainment to the detriment of his fellowmen eking out a living in the local entertainment industry.

Too much action and inaction

However, the local entertainment industry is partly to blame for its own inaction about piracy. Had its members exerted the same effort they now do in rallying votes for Jessica Sanchez as when Llamas' action on camera could pose a direct contempt on their livelihood, the Philippine entertainment industry would have shown teeth and grit enough to assure its members that Pinoy entertainers can look forward to something brighter, not blighter.

All noise and rallying by (almost the entire) local entertainment industry heading up to the American Idol finals happening in American timezones is like sloganeering without full understanding, as shallow as a product or marketing tagline (see "It's More Fun in The Philippines") but without proper facilities in place to accommodate throngs of people (see "Philippine airports").

Instead, we – rather, those – who operate behind the entertainment, music industries and news media, should look at how they got our industries to the state where music and film piracy raids have become parody, Pacquiao's mother's birthday deserve media coverage and government officials think that the objective of closed-circuit TVs in airports is simply to monitor scuffles between celebrities.

They have made something as a Twitter "trend" the new economy believing this to drive up sales (music? views?) and perhaps the ultimate salvation of the media and entertainment industries. They, news and entertainment personalities, have made being "proudly Pinoy" mean a shot at fame by holding on to the hem of anything that resembles Lapu-lapu's blood in them when the very warm bodies they have have given birth to and attempted to nurture right on our very shores are in dire need of the very support they now pose elsewhere.


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