And Baby Deen #2 is going to be a…

… girl or boy.

Sorry, bitin ba?

I’m not sure yet, but we’ll get the doctor’s request for an ultrasound today, and we may know Baby Deen #2’s gender by tomorrow! Keep posted on what gender Nathan’s sibling is going to have, and what name will finally be given to this future hero(ine) of God!

Update: Cathy and I opted to postpone the ultrasound so we’ll find out Baby Deen #2’s gender on my birthday. :D

Memory boxes and my awesome wife

Sometimes, I can’t believe there actually is a woman who loves me for me.

Last night, I went through Cathy’s and my ‘memory boxes.’ A memory box is a box that, well, houses your precious memories, and Cathy and I each have one. In these boxes we have stored cards, knick knacks, and keepsakes from all our years together.

I had such a rush of emotions going through the boxes. Reading the cards with the terrible poetry and the mushy sentiment. Reading through the lines during that four-month period of separation when I left DLS-CSB to work at MyPhilippines, when we almost broke up but didn’t. Reading and reminiscing, grateful to God for His Hand that kept us together.

I can’t believe it’s been almost nine years. I met Cathy June 1998. We became a couple September 12, 1998, and wed December 7, 2002. Next year, we’ll actually celebrate ten years of knowing each other.

Ten years. Only by God’s grace.

I remember there were people who felt it would never work. Like that guidance counselor whose reaction to Cathy’s telling her that she and I were a couple was nothing short of offensive shock. Like those family members who perhaps somehow hoped I’d end up with someone different, or that Cathy married a pure Chinese man. Like those people whose fairytale lives are marred somewhat by the thought that a person like me could actually attract someone like Cathy.

Then I remember the good times. And the not-so-good times. And it boils down to three values, all of which show themselves prominent in our memory boxes.

The first is we communicate. Our cards aren’t empty. They are full of stories, of emotions, of our life together, the direction where we headed and where we continued to go. We spoke of what we wanted, what we didn’t want, and the desire to communicate because we knew this would make our relationship open and strong.

The second is we grow. You can see the growth in our cards. My earlier communications had the occasional expletive and sexual innuendo; you could see the change I am so grateful to Cathy for bringing me to a relationship with Jesus, and grateful for her prayers everyday.

The third is we trust. I am human, and flawed, and Cathy knows that. Nevertheless, she continued to trust that I would remain faithful to her – and I continue to do so. Through the years, I may have stumbled on pornography, self-stimulation, and doing things behind Cathy’s back, including bingeing on chips and soda. Each time, I came back to admit these faults to her, and she’s forgiven me.

The biggest hurdle was when I entered a costly venture that, all summed up, virtually wiped out our nest eggs. Any lesser woman would have left her husband by then. Not Cathy. She trusted God to provide, and trusted I would bounce back. A godly woman who stands by their not-so-perfect husband sends a message of love and positivity out to the world, saying “I promised this man for richer and poorer, better or worse, and I’m standing by it.

Looking through my memory box, I am in awe of God’s goodness. Sure, there may not be millions in the bank, and day-to-day living can be stressful more often than not, but everyday, I wake up to the three biggest blessings of all: a godly woman for a wife, a beautiful family, and a brand-new day I can use to make good memories for myself and others. And that’s what counts.

Baby Name Finalists

Cathy and I discussed our baby name shortlist (which included some of your suggestions), and these are the finalists:

Girl

  • Catharine Jean (Pure + God is Gracious); potential nicknames include Cat, Catharine, and ang walang kamatayang CJ)
  • Chloe Jo (Young and Blossoming + God’s Gracious Gift); potential nicknames include Chloe, Jo, and ang walang kamatayang CJ)
  • Caitlin Faith (Pure Soul + Loyal); potential nicknames include Cate, Catie, Cat, Caitlin, and Faith)
  • Charlize (Beautiful Star); potential nicknames include Charlize, Charlie, Lizzie, and Liz)

Boy

  • Nicklaus/Nicholas/Nikolai John (Victorious + God is Good); potential nicknames include Nick, Nicky, Nicko, and ang walang kamatayang NJ)
  • Nicholas Jon (Victorious + God’s Gift, because Jon is a derivative of Jonathan, not John) potential nicknames include Nick, Nicky, Nicko, and ang walang kamatayang NJ)
  • Noah (Rest); only one potential nickname here: Noah

What do you think? Vote in the Comments box (or until I can install a poll box)!

I’m a porn star!

gannswhat.gifCan you believe it? James Deen is a porn star!

Leave it to my wife to find a 20-year-old adult actor with a big wang, equally big sideburns, and friends named Chico Wang, Johnny B. Goode, and Brian Surewood. The only thing this actor has in common with me is that we share the same name.

But come on! I came first (pun not intended)! I’m 29 years old! I should get dibs on the name James Deen. Just because the guy’s in better shape than I am, and hung like a horse doesn’t mean… doesn’t mean…

Oh what the heck. People know me as Ganns Deen anyway. I am so glad I gave ‘James Deen’ up after leaving the education industry.

How to get your SSS card (or die trying)

Today, Cathy and I took a day off from work to process our application for our digitized Social Security System (SSS) cards; we also intended to secure registration for our Revo and get CTCs from the local barangay hall. Later in the day, if there was time, passport photo shots for us and Nathan. That was the plan.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the SSS now requires the card to claim maternity leave benefits and/or salary loans, among other “benefits.” We had no choice – we had to take time to get these cards, to claim something from the government that takes away a significant chunk of our income every month.

If you’re ready to hear the horror story that unfolded and ate up our day, read on. Continue reading “How to get your SSS card (or die trying)”

Saving Philippine Idol (Part 2)

My hits went through the roof yesterday after I posted my thoughts about free phone calls for voting for Philippine Idol. It was a pleasant surprise, and I received both positive and negative comments, on-blog and through email, about my thoughts on saving Philippine Idol. Well, such is a democracy, and I’m just pleased that we can get people to at least thinking about ways of saving the show, because it is a darn good show, and it deserves to be saved.

Philippine Idol deserves a Season Two.

I am no marketing genius, nor am I some word-of-mouth guru, but I believe I speak for a significant number of people who watch the show locally and are aghast with how it’s been performing so far. In this day and age, especially with the Internet playing a significant role, to not consider working with the fans is virtual suicide. ABS-CBN and GMA7 all know, to an extent, what kind of power the fans wield, and what kind of power word-of-mouth can do for an artist’s career.

Given that we know of certain legal entanglements that prohibit Philippine Idol candidates from singing anywhere else save for the show – even if eliminated, I imagine – until after the show’s winner is crowned, if you will, here are some other low-budget, high-profile suggestions that can raise WOM for Philippine Idol:

  • Join the media circus – and not just on ABC-5. Sam Milby was the big winner of the first edition of Pinoy Big Brother, not Nene Whateverherfamilynamewas. Why so? He looked good and he was allowed to run the gamut of media mileage, doing endorsements and TV shows even before the winner was announced. In the USA, eliminated contestants figured in talk show appearances throughout the week after their elimination, and not even on Fox. Constantine Maroulis performed on SIX talk shows after his ejection from American Idol. A contestant doing the rounds of TV and print (and not just the Philippine Daily Inquirer) boosts a person’s image – and that of the show.
  • Tie in with the fansites. Why shun the Internet? IfABC-5 were really serious about creating buzz for the show, especially amongst the AB and upper C markets (who have the mighty peso to spend for their candidates, since right now, there is no other way to vote), they should channel their candidates towards Philippine Idol fansites. Philippine Idol Updates, for instance, did an interview with Jhonalene Sison – the Voltes V Anime Girl – that got the girl with the strange green hair a lot more mileage than, say, Christian Masaga. Do the Google search. So tie in with the fans. Allow email interviews. Visit PinoyExchange.com and other forums to get an idea of what the fans think.
  • Make official profile pages for the candidates on MySpace and Friendster. You want to create fans? Create MySpace and Friendster pages for the candidates! In a world where musicians are dying to acquire fans, MySpace and Friendster allow free opportunities for the avid fan to get closer to the artist. Imagine how many fans feel closer to Drae Ybanez and Jan Nieto, whose Friendster profiles are pretty easy to find? I’ll tell you – A LOT. Maybe not enough to save Drae, but we’ll see whose career lasts longer between Drae and other singers – either on Idol or on other reality shows – who have more money to send votes in but less fans.
  • Stick with a time slot, and don’t mix sports and music! American Idol and the Philippine Basketball Association don’t mix. The fans are different, the social classes are different, they’re completely different programs with completely different programming needs. Separate the two because they don’t work. So enough with the shifting (and oftentimes unpredictable) time slots, and give people a set schedule they can work with. In the US, it’s Wednesday for performance night and Thursday for results; here, that may just work (because more people are home on weekdays). If you want to go with a weekend, I think a Saturday 7-9 (already an hour too long – American Idol is tightly edited to fit an hour) performance night is good, with a results night at 930PM the next day. Yes, it’s late, but I think people would rather stay up and be ready for the show, rather than tune in at 830PM and sit through interminable hours of basketball. It’s nothing against the PBA, but again, they’re two different programs with little in common.
  • Finally, something really radical, but a real possibility, if ABC-5 refuses to allow free phone calls: Two-hour windows for voting. If you won’t allow free phone calls, consider the possibility of two-hour voting, just like in American Idol. That way, time becomes the great equalizer. Those with money (and those without) will all scramble to get their votes in during the two-hour window, and increases the chances of those with more fans to get their votes in, versus those with less fans who have the luxury of texting the whole 24 hours.

Saving Philippine Idol

Last night, Ryan Agoncillo announced on Philippine Idol that no Idol contestant would be voted off for the week, owing to technical issues on the part of Sun Cellular and Smart Telecommunications, resulting in votes unsent to Sun and confirmation messages not received by voters on Smart. Ideally, that results in two expulsions next week.

This is not the first time Philippine Idol has allowed this to happen; just three weeks ago, Typhoon Milenyo spared Drae Ybanez and Stef Lazaro from being voted off that particular week. Technical problems aside, Philippine Idol is hobbling on wounded legs, and, I’m sure, rapidly losing followers week after week.

Among the many issues undoubtedly facing the local incarnation of the famous Fremantle franchise are:

  • Dwindling ratings. After decent first-week ratings, Philippine Idol’s ratings are arguably questionable. With word-of-mouth on Internet forums and visits to fansites decreasing, as evidenced by lower unique visitors, Philippine Idol is certainly losing whatever first-mover advantage it had. Shifting time slots (performance nights from Saturdays to Sundays, and result nights from Sundays to Mondays, placing the show at the mercy of the Philippine Basketball Association’s unpredictable time slot) do not help the show. Indicators of the show’s struggle are the advertisements – most are ads of ABC-5, San Miguel products, and Smart Telecommunications.
  • Credibility issues. The recent voting off of Reymond Sajor and Drae Ybanez, two of the strongest male competitors, the almost inexplicable longevity of at least three Idol contestants of questionable talent, and the bottom finishes of Pow Chavez, Gian Magdangal, and Mau Marcelo, three of the judges’ preferred choices and arguably among the best of the 12, are denting the show’s credibility as a breeding ground for true, lasting talent.
  • Unfair voting channels. While the Philippines is a democracy, all channels for voting are paid channels, unlike in the United States, where phone calls are toll-free. Allegations of massive vote-buying by family and friends of the more affluent candidates are rampant. While this is certainly not illegal, it may call into question the fairness and true democratic nature of the competition (i.e., a contestant with legions of fans who cannot afford to vote will lose out to a contestant whose few family and friends can afford to send the text messages and buy the phone cards).

So what avenues are available to ABC-5 and Philippine Idol? This fan humbly suggests that the organizers of the show take into account the full extent of the Fremantle franchise. This may still be a business, as far as ABC-5 honchos are concerned, but the American Idol franchise allows one aspect of the democratic process that ABC-5 should consider: FREE PHONE CALLS.

Forgive me for making it sound so ridiculously simple, but allowing free phone calls can democratize the process in favor of the candidate with the most fans, which is what you want. You want the fans who will buy the albums, attend the concerts, and support the career of the winning candidate. More than anything, you’re fighting for the credibility of the franchise, and unfortunately, the moneyed candidates are not of the same caliber as the ones who have neither the money nor the bloc with the necessarily financial capacity to carry them to victory.

If a moneyed candidate of inferior quality wins (and allegations are rampant for at least three of the candidates), you can expect that candidate’s career to expectedly flounder. A candidate who wins on the sheer basis of money and not popularity can expect a short and embarrassing career.

Allowing free phone calls bridges the gap and can increase ratings. People will vote. People will watch, because now, they have a better chance to participate and directly influence the vote. As it is, people are wondering why the inferior candidates are not being voted out. Might it be not because the Filipino people are not making the choice, but they are trying to, and cannot, because their sheer numbers cannot defeat the almighty peso power of those whose financial resources are deep?

How can Gian Magdangal, for instance, a candidate touted as a frontrunner since the beginning, and with an obvious fan base, if one scours the Internet forums, online discussions, and search engine results, continue to languish at the bottom? How can Mau Marcelo, an obvious top choice, place in the bottom three with Gian and Reymond Sajor; for the same reason, how can Pow Chavez, a woman supported by, among others, Kris Aquino, land in the bottom four?

For the sake of the argument, can we not say the number of people voting are not the issue here, but the number of votes that these people can manage to send?

Above all, Philippine Idol is a popularity contest, and popularity should not be gauged by sheer voting ability alone. Admittedly, the other reality singing competitions also have no free voting implements, but Philippine Idol should be different because it aims to reach to a different target market altogether. We’re looking for a star who will reach across social barriers and classes. If the masses are not given the opportunity to participate in the selection of such, would it really be accurate and fair to call the winner of this competition the Philippine Idol?

Update: In the interest of not rocking the boat, I’ve deleted the section that augustman found offensive. It’s not that I do not doubt my sources; it’s just that it takes away from the essence of this post, which is to encourage ABC-5 to think about free phone calls for voting purposes.

I’m home, I’m home!

I’m typing this entry from my desk overlooking the Makati skyline. Across the street is a relatively decrepit building, on one floor of which a woman is removing laundry from a clothesline. Cars are driving by, and behind me, my good friend Lean is working on email.

There’s nothing on my desk, save for the temporary laptop on which I’m writing this entry, my mobile phone, which is charging on the bye, and a plastic bag containing a bag of chips and a VST Bossa Nova CD.

There are 113 messages waiting for me to open, a ton of material for me to write, two new copywriters (and two other new Zimmies in the company) for me with whom to make my acquaintance, and a dozen new developments into which to sink my teeth.

It’s the first day of my return to DirectWithHotels, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.