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. :)

Seven things I’m taking away with me from Victory Weekend

Hi friends! How was your weekend?

I’ve had an incredible two days. This morning was Day Two of Victory Weekend, and I’m all pumped up. It was a good two days, and I can tell you this: my life will never be the same.

Until today, I never claimed victory, as in, spoke out and claimed it. Well, today, I did. I claimed victory in all areas of my life in the name of Jesus. I declare that I’m a man who loves God, and it’s time to stand up and stop the pretending. Real men love God, serve Him, and aren’t afraid to share with others how God has changed them. All my life – even for the past seven years as a Christian – I’ve been running away from my potential, from my destiny as a child of God. Well, no more. Today, I claimed my victory in Christ because I will no longer subject myself to self-condemnation.

I’m coming away from Victory Weekend with seven mindsets in place, that I’m actually posting on my website so all visitors and regular readers can hold me accountable:
1. I am addicted to food, but I renounce this addiction in the name of Jesus!, because God is more than enough for me! God can satisfy me the way food never can. 1 Cor 3:16 says Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? The Temple of God deserves to be treated well, and I renounce unnecessary eating, binge eating, junk food and soda, in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit and my holy wife hold me accountable.

2. I am a victim of the delusions of self-pity, and I will no longer allow the enemy to convince me I am worthless. John 1:12 says Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… I believe in Christ Jesus, I have received Him in my life, He sits on the throne of my heart, and I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. Fact: Christ died for me. My life is valuable to God, so I should see myself as valuable.

Likewise, God loves you too. Why feel bad about yourself when you have the Creator of the Universe on your side?

3. I will no longer joke about myself, because I renounce identity cursing in the name of Jesus! This one struck me deep. All my life, I was told I was fat, and I would never really become thin. Even when I lost 50 pounds, that was only temporary, and I gained it back. I realize now that I was cursing myself to fail! When I made self-deprecating jokes about my weight, I was cursing myself. When I told myself I would never amount to anything greater than what my friends were achieving, I was cursing myself. Romans 8:31 says What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? No more. I am a victorious man in the name of Jesus, doing great things to bring glory to His name.

4. Hurt people hurt people, so I renounce the easily-offended spirit and the untamed tongue in the name of Jesus! I don’t hold grudges, but I do get hurt easily, and I hurt people easily in the name of a cheap laugh. I will seek forgiveness from these people (if ever I’ve done it to you, email me and I will arrange a meetup with you if you want, and I will apologize to you personally over a cup of coffee, my treat), and I forgive those who have offended me. I renounce the troubled tongue in the name of Jesus! For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), and no more, by God’s grace, will I blurt out without thinking, because my heart is joyfully ruled by Christ.
5. I renounce fear in the holy name of Jesus Christ! I am reminded that God is my protector. He is my Jehovah Rohi, my shepherd, who watches over me and protects me. He is my refuge in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7, ang walang kamatayang encouraging verse ng buhay ko, LOL.) Millions of people have chronic and/or occasional money problems, health problems, difficulty at work, and personal struggles, among many things, but I have a great and mighty God. What do I have to be afraid of?

If anything, I declare victory over all the abovementioned struggles in Jesus’ name, and what a powerful testimony that will be when God carries my family and me to success. Praise be His and His alone!

6. God is not my last-minute option. He is my only option. I was stunned when I realized how little people depend on God, myself included, running to Him only when the medicine doesn’t kick in, when the paycheck runs out, when the girlfriend/boyfriend leaves, when the loved one dies, when the contract doesn’t get signed. All these things are earthly, and they will pass away. Matt 24:35 Heaven and Earth will pass away, but [God’s] words will never pass away. Why rely on something temporary, with no power to bless? God will be first option always in my life, and to create a lifestyle of prayer is to create a lifestyle of victory.

7. I am doing this all for hundreds of people. Wanna know something? If you have problems in your life, take a look and see if similar problems are present in your family. Is there a family history of disease? Suicide? Broken relationships and marriages? If someone starts something extremely negative, it is highly possible that pattern may be repeated in future generations (sukob!).

Well, I am not letting any of those curses pass on to Nathan and Nathan’s kids, no way! By God’s grace, we’ll nip the problems in the bud. When I realize that I am responsible for the future of hundreds of people down the line, I am awed and even more determined to rely on God to make my line victorious and God-serving.

That was my weekend. How was yours?

Iron Chef on Wifely Steps: Ganns’ Eat-Some Sweet Hum

Toni of Wifely Steps challenges her readers, in an Iron Chef -type manner, to come up with recipes for fruit cocktail. Most of the folks who’ve posted thus far have suggested dessert recipes, so I decided to submit a recipe that picks up on an original recipe from my mother.

By the way, did you notice, in my trying to be classy and picture-perfect, one of Nathan’s toy blocks in the flower vase?! LOL I only saw that now!

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GANNS’ EAT-SOME SWEET HUM

Ingredients:
5 slices of CDO Cooked Ham
2 small cans of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail (Lychee Flavor, mmm)
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Bring the syrup of the two cans of Del Monte to a boil in a medium saucepan.
2. Put the ham in, and cook until almost all syrup is gone.
3. Empty the fruits into the saucepan. Place one teaspoon of sugar in one of the empty cans of fruit cocktail and half-fill it with water.
4. Empty the can into the saucepan and cook for five minutes or until syrup thickens slightly.
5. Plate the ham. Spoon the fruits onto the ham or on the side.
6. Drizzle the syrup onto the ham and fruits and serve immediately.

A special wedding

A hearty congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Mike and Rowena Palacios, whose wedding last night was definitely one of the more heartfelt ones I’d ever been to. With most of the production truly a family affair – down to the homemade wedding cakes, invitations, and games – without comparison, I was blessed and honored to have been invited to this gathering.

In the course of the evening, I found some pleasant surprises!
The instant blog EB

I ran into some bloggers! I knew I would meet Toni of Wifely Steps (left, in pink zigzag dress), but I was surprised and thrilled to run into Maan of MySilverchair! I’ve been a fan and have followed Maan’s blog ever since it came online (she even won a Superblessed Christian Blog Award from me for Favorite Christian Blog – Female, if I’m not mistaken), and we were like a couple of giddy children jumping up and down. Thanks, Row and Mike, for the instant meeting of minds.

What I truly appreciate about weddings is how we can catch up with other friends who we haven’t seen in ages! Some other friends I ran into were (left to right) Tiffany (who’s a DJ!), David (who’s leaving for the US), Katz (who is leading her own company), Ali (who chairs this new program at Ateneo),  camera-shy Itchyworms lead singer Jugs (who hosted wonderfully with his other half, CD), and Nix and Maita Nolledo, who are so blessed with their second child on the way. I also took a picture of the fantastic artwork, and, of course, the happy couple, Mike and Row.

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gannsb4aftr.jpgHow to lose ten pounds in two seconds. Finally, I showed some very interested people a neat trick I usually employ for photos. As you know, it’s harder for chubby people to look good on camera, so here’s a trick I do. You put your shoulders down, lean forward, press your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, turn your face to the right (or left, if that’s your good angle), and smile. It drops 10 pounds off, just like that. Here’s a pic to illustrate my point. Cheers!