Two Cents · Unpopular Opinion

On American Idol and Pinoy Pride

This post is for my good friend Nonoy, with whom I frequently have protracted discussions on Facebook and who recently linked to an article entitled “Jessica Sanchez Rocks, Pinoy Pride Sucks“. I echo the general sentiment, but I just wish I didn’t have to perceive the article and the rest of the site as hateful. A shoutout also goes to my former student Alex, who I fervently hope will not feel jaded about her Filipino-ness when she reaches her 20s, and who replied to my Tweet about this issue. 😉

The issue: Jessica Sanchez lost to Phil Phillips in American Idol Season 11.

I don’t have a problem with the winner — I think both are brilliant in such diverse ways. I was pretty happy when Jessica and Phillip ended up in the finals, and at that point I didn’t really care who’d win. PP may not have awesome pipes like Jessica or Joshua Ledet, but I liked how he rearranged and performed, essentially left his stamp, on his covers. I am a fan of his “We’ve Got Tonight” (minus the thigh-stroking :), “Volcano” and “U Got it Bad”. Meanwhile, Jessica constantly blew me away with her performances. My favorites are “Everybody Has a Dream” and “My All”. I don’t want to hear what some really nega Pinoys say about Jessica being a run-of-the-mill singer were she performing here in the Philippines instead. That’s not even true. While your run-of-the-mill Pinay can belt those Whitney Houston songs, not all of them can growl, do a melisima, or switch from chest to head tone as effortlessly as this 16(!)-year-old.

But that’s not the point. I have several problems with how we, on the other side of the world, reacted to American Idol Season 11.

I have a problem with how much of the airtime of news channels in major networks talked about, or was related to, American Idol. This, by the way, was also the week when Corona walked out of his own impeachment hearing and China sent 92 patrol ships to Panatag Shoal. It’s even more ridiculous especially as this may have something to do with consumer-related business, like viewership and marketing.

I have a problem with how a TV Patrol host called American Idol (or the votation, it’s not really clear) “unfair” toward the end of TV Patrol’s May 17 airing. It may have been a choice we don’t agree with, but how can AI’s method of votation be unfair when it has made its rules clear for many seasons now? It’s also a problem when it’s a claim made by a supposedly partial and informed journalist. You know what I think is unfair? It’s Pinoys voting over Skype. I mean there’s a reason it’s called American Idol.

I have a problem with the press conferences in Malacanang applauding Jessica, when really, all I’d like to know is what’s being done about the Panatag Shoal.

I have a problem with how mean Pinoys can be in the anonymity and cover that the Internet provides. And when I say mean, I mean really acerbic with an expletive or two and a dash of irrationality. Celebs like Jim Paredes and Lea Salonga sadly experience this whenever they have an intelligent opinion about an issue. The hate Tweets when Phil Phillips won were just…appalling. Many of us who liked him got called out for not loving Jessica as a fellow Pinay. And this makes me rage. Newsflash: we love Jessica not only because she’s Pinay, but mostly because she’s a great singer.

Finally, I have a major, major problem with how we, as a nation, equate success with being able to earn glory and fame abroad.

I rarely hear “Pinoy Pride” being used when referring to individual local successes. There are local writers, scientists, artists and sportsmen who do not need recognition abroad to be known as great. To me, this attitude smacks of colonial mentality: that the standards of the world, particularly of the West, is something Filipinos must aspire to.

I’ve asked myself why this is so, and I have four conclusions that bear argument:

1. Pinoy talent is rare. (I almost struck this out, but a gold medal in the Olympics is rare enough, so.)

2. We Pinoys perceive local standards as mediocre.

3. It may have to do with how badly we want to redeem our besmirched reputation after so much negative publicity, such as the government’s ranking on the World Corruption Index, the bus hostage crisis, and NAIA being branded as the world’s worst airport.

4. I am overgeneralizing, and it merely has to do with the human race being more informed about entertainment, sports and YouTube, and not always about, say, science or art.

Don’t get me wrong; I am proud that my fellow Pinoys are earning accolades abroad. I just have a problem with the term “Pinoy Pride” being used so loosely. How we use it is, I think, nationalism of a very shallow kind. It does not evoke a national aspiration or loyalty to the country. It does not tell us how to promote or improve anything about the Philippines as a result of this pride. On its own, “Pinoy Pride” means: I am proud of you because you are Pinoy, as I am; I too am proud to be Pinoy because you bring pride to my race. The burden of “Pinoy Pride” in such a case rests on only one person, as though for a while, the image of our nation can be rectified by a young girl who can hold her own while singing with the great Jennifer Holliday. No, we can’t let one person do this for the rest of us, especially when the rest of us have been doing so little to serve and dignify our country.

More importantly, we are — we should be — consciously proud of these people for their accomplishments, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for being proud of them for the mere fact of their Filipino blood. We are proud of Manny Pacquiao and Arnel Pineda because they have managed to be experts in their fields in spite of debilitating poverty in their youth. We are proud of Charice Pempengco and Jessica Sanchez because they tried again despite their loss. And yes, because they are Filipinos worth emulating.

What should “Pinoy Pride” represent?

To each his/her own, but I am proud of many things Filipino. I am proud of OPM and our brilliant singers. I am proud of how resourceful Pinoys are. I am proud of our optimism and bayanihan spirit whenever tragedy strikes. I am terribly proud of our food (and when someone says that the fabulous adobo is not Filipino enough, I am ready to throw a hissy fit). I am most proud of how beautiful our country is — I was boasting about our beaches to anybody who’d listen when I was in Cambodia. I don’t need to be told that these people, things, places, and traits are world-class; I’ve experienced them all, so I know.

And the feeling I have for these is a kind of pride which tells me that I must take care of them in whatever capacity just because it’s worth doing so.

If we are to transcend “Pinoy Pride” after American Idol 11, then we already know what must be done. We must nurture homegrown talents. We need more art schools. We need funding for arts and sports. It’s perfectly all right to be proud of what our fellow Pinoys have accomplished abroad — in fact it’s something that we must always feel — but we can’t let our idea of nationalism freeze here.

In short: we need to redefine “Pinoy Pride”, and we should stop trivializing it. And Jessica Sanchez has been classier about her loss than the rest of us, so let’s just be nice.

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2 thoughts on “On American Idol and Pinoy Pride

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