If the Chinese Navy ever invaded the Kalayaan municipality in the Spratly Islands and captured all of its 223 Filipino inhabitants, I am uncertain if the resulting campaign by the global Filipino community to save them would come close to the current massive united effort being mounted to save Jessica Sanchez from elimination in the American Idol finals.
I have never seen anything like it. For the last several days, I have been bombarded by emails from everyone I know- and even from those I don’t know – asking me to please, pretty please, remember to vote on Wednesday night, April 18, from 10PM to 12 midnight (Pacific Time) for Jessica Sanchez. And to vote not just once, but as many times as possible. And not just by phone, land line or cell, but also by Facebook or Twitter. Vote early and often and it’s legal.
Even though I have voted for Jessica Sanchez in my Facebook page for the past several weeks, I was initially annoyed that the same global concern for saving a fellow Filipino was not expressed for Dondon Lanuza, an overseas Filipino worker in death row in Saudi Arabia for killing a Saudi in self-defense. Lanuza has been pleading on the Internet for 12 years for Filipinos to save him by raising funds to pay the “diyya” blood money demanded by the aggrieved Saudi family to secure his release.
Somehow “Save Dondon Lanuza!” just does not have the same ring of urgency that “Save Jessica Sanchez!” possesses even though, in Lanuza’s case, the effort would be literally saving a life. Fortunately, with the help of Loida Nicolas-Lewis, national chair of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), enough funds may have been raised to spare Lanuza’s head from being permanently separated from his body.
The push for Filipinos to vote for Jessica eclipses all past support for Fil-Ams who have made it to the American Idol finals including Jasmine Trias, Camille Velasco, Thia Megia, Ramielle Manubay, Sway Penala or Melinda Lira.
Filipino Idol fans agreed with the vocal assessment of the three AI judges – Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steve Tyler – that Jessica is one of the best singers to perform inAmerican Idol ever. They were confident that Jessica would make it to the top three finalists and that her most serious competition would come from Joshua Ledet, an African American male, and Elise Testone, an Italian American female. So confident, in fact, that many forgot to vote.
So when the millions of votes were counted and announced on Thursday night, April 12, the results came as a total shock. Rather than showing Sanchez, Ledet and Testone at the very top, they were all bunched together at the very bottom, with only young, less talented white singers remaining in the top 4. “Expect the Unexpected!” was flashed on the screen and it was right on the money.
Host Ryan Seacrest then announced, as tension mounted, that Ledet was safe. When Seacrest announced that Testone was also safe, it meant that Sanchez was the week’s lowest vote-getter and was out. WTF! I screamed.
As the audience whistled its disapproval, Sanchez tearfully sang her swan song, the standard routine for the eliminated singer. Less than a minute after she started singing, the AI judges walked up to the stage as Jennifer Lopez took the mike from Jessica and announced that they had unanimously voted to use their one and only save of the season on her. “We are saving Jessica without any doubt,” Jackson declared. “This girl is one of the best singers in America ever!”
Before the evening was over, I received dozens of angry emails condemning the white American teen viewers who only voted for their favorite white singers, singers they could relate to and they could not relate to a 16 year old Fil-Am. Others thoughtfully analyzed why Jessica received the lowest number of votes.
Former Miss International Aurora Pijuan wrote that American Idol is not a talent contest but one based on popularity where the voters are American teens. “Jessica comes across as demure and conservative, not exactly someone they will hoot for,” she wrote. “Packaging has to appeal to this profile. Not all songs are equal. Though judges appreciate her performance, this contest is decided by mainstream audience who may not care much about nuances. She may have to choose a more “baduy” song and be a bit outrageous to appeal to the voters. Entertainment, like politics, is after all a buyers’ market.”
The Washington DC-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) called on Filipinos all over the world to vote for Jessica Sanchez. In her email, Grace Valera, MHC Executive Director, wrote: “Dear Kababayan, family, friends, friends of friends. . . Our dear JESSICA SANCHEZ almost got eliminated from AMERICAN IDOL tonight had the Judges not saved her… Kababayans, please vote for her every Wednesday night…right after the show…all of your cell phones, landline, online Facebook.”
Nony E. Abrajano of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) emailed everyone he has ever known in every organization he has ever joined to “please take time to give this girl our votes. It is all right to VOTE as many times as you can. She needs all our votes.”
Former San Francisco Consul General Rowena Mendoza Sanchez emailed from Manila to advise that even Filipinos in the Philippines can vote by logging on to http://www.americanidol.com/vote/ or to http://bit.ly/jessicasanchez. But fans can only vote during the two hour window after 10 PM on Wednesday, April 18, Pacific Time (around 1 PM Thursday April 19 Manila time).
I must confess that I have voted in the past for some Filipino contestants simply because of their ethnicity to provide America with visible Filipino role models. But I am proudly voting for Jessica this time because she is a deserving, supremely talented singer who happens to be a Filipino-American. I agree with the judges – she’s the best.
If tens of millions of Filipinos all over the world vote for Jessica Sanchez this week, and every week until she is proclaimed this year’s American Idol, it will disprove a canard that Filipinos can never unite on any issue. If we can show the power of our unity on this pop culture issue, perhaps it can inspire us to unify on larger, more significant issues.
If that happens, watch out world.