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.

I love the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan!

So Cathy and I stayed at the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan, one of the three most respected hotels in Palawan, and certainly one of the coziest hotels in Palawan. Our arrival at this comfortable hotel in Palawan was only the beginning, thanks to this Palawan hotel‘s friendly airport transfers (thanks, Joel!).

We started our Puerto Princesa adventure with airport transfers from the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan. Here is Cathy all set for the ride!

Here I am ready for the trip to the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan!

The rotonda of the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan. Behind me is their swimming pool. The red and yellow flap on the upper right hand corner is the edge of a giant umbrella this Palawan hotel was setting up in celebration of their 7th year anniversary.

The coffee shop at the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan. It was cool, definitely cozy, and very comfortable. The first day, I ordered their Squid Lagoon – absolutely fantastic, the softest squid in the most delicious tomato sauce. Mmmmm.

Behind me is the dining table and receiving area of our suite at the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan. Wanted to do a picture like Pam.

A cozy nook in our suite at the Fleuris Hotel in Palawan. Perfect for book reading, conversation with others at the dining table, or reflection.

This column separated the sleeping area from the other areas of our Palawan hotel suite. It was really comfortable at the Fleuris Hotel, I kid you not.

The King bed at our suite in this Palawan hotel was wonderfully comfortable.

A shot of the receiving area and dining area at our suite at this Palawan hotel.

The staff at the Fleuris hotel in Palawan was so warm and accommodating. Bench, in particular, was very polite and treated us with so much respect and candor. Both Cathy and I were very happy with the service, the accommodations, and oi vey, the location! This hotel in Palawan is only five minutes away from Rizal Avenue, the heart of Puerto Princesa, and accessible to Jollibee, Chowking, Shakey’s, and NCCC, the city’s major supermarket.

We’d go back in a heartbeat, and definitely, we’d stay at the Fleuris hotel in Palawan!

Click here to read more about our trip, and click here to see the full batch of photos! :)

We’re back from Palawan!

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Listening to: Somehow You Are by Avalon

We returned last Saturday from Palawan. We stayed for three days and two nights at the Hotel Fleuris, a beautiful hotel in Palawan, and visited so many places. I’ll upload photos and the blow-by-blow at The Deens Online.

Meanwhile, why not visit LIVEtheLIVE’s exclusive Jaime Jamgochian email interview?

How’ve you guys been?

Why stolen Philippine license plates can be a real pain

Listening to: My Wish by Rascal Flatts

So I’m back from a one-day hiatus to file my papers for a duplication of license plates since my original set was stolen. Suffice it to say that, well, government has improved, but only in baby steps.

My day started out at around 830AM by getting a Community Tax Certificate at the local barangay hall. This didn’t take long, although declaring my real income (as opposed to most people’s declaring a false, lower salary) in September 2006 as opposed to early 2006, resulted in a disproportionate amount of money paid over to the government.

I then drove to the Land Transportation Office (LTO)’s main office and parked inside at around 9AM. I then secured myself an affidavit of loss at a notary public near the LTO offices. Since the car was in Cathy’s name, the affidavit was in her name, but with mine as representative. Cost: Php150.

After that, I returned to the LTO main office, where I was sent on a tour of their offices in search of this signature and that signature. I respected the process, though, and saw why we had to do what we had to do (Smoke Belching unit on the 3rd floor of the building, to see if my license plate was confiscated for smoke belching; Plate Retention Unit to see if my license plate was confiscated for some other offense, like illegal parking).

After all the papers were processed, at around 10AM (Cost Php98.00), I thought I was done, but it turns out that I needed Cathy’s signature on the affidavit of loss. I had to drive back home to secure her signature. Oi vey. Got back to the LTO by 1130AM in time for the gentleman at window 19 to approve it and send me to the LTO Manila East branch in Sta. Mesa to begin processing of the license plate duplication because that’s where Toyota got my license plates made in the first place. From East Avenue to Sta. Mesa. You can imagine.

I drove through at Burger King (terrible meal, blech) and arrived at the LTO Manila East branch at around 120PM, after 50 minutes of searching for the office (two jeepney drivers and one MMDA cop had no idea). When I stepped inside to file my papers, I was told I was missing one step – a Motor Vehicle Inspection Report – that had to be done at the LTO Main Office – along East Avenue. Where I just came from. After a mild rant (I made it a point not to lose my temper at any point during the process), I had to do what I had to do.

So I drove back to the LTO Main Office and waited my turn for the MVIS processing and for a licensed gentleman to stencil my car (Tip Php30). The MVIS processing had me done by 345PM. Rushing back to the LTO Manila East branch, I arrived at around 430PM and submitted my papers. I paid the cost of duplicate licenses and miscellaneous fees (Cost Php460), then waited an hour (photocopied some papers for file, total cost Php30. I had my papers ready by 545PM.

Total cost of doing everything, not including CTC, lunch and gasoline: Php770. Now you know. :)