Last Sunday, I received ‘congratulatory’ messages through SMS and email from friends  and casual acquaintances telling me that ABC-5 took one of my suggestions to ‘save Philippine Idol,’ and implemented a two-hour voting period similar to American Idol, starting with this week’s episode. I don’t think I deserve any congratulations, although I did leap for joy when Ryan Agoncillo made the announcement that the two-hour window would work. I’m just glad the producers decided to follow the format similar to American Idol, because this particular format is proven to work to most people’s satisfaction. And like the adage goes, you can’t please everybody, as last night’s results showed.

Last night, in a relative shocker, Zamboanga favorite Arms Cruz was eliminated, along with lounge singer Jeli Mateo. Fans are – pun intended – up in arms.
Joking aside, one should expect backlash from at least two camps. The first camp would be those of Reymond Sajor, Drae Ybanez, and Stef Lazaro, who were eliminated under the previous voting system. They declare – rightly so – it is unfair. The second camp would be those of Mateo and Cruz, who were eliminated under the amalgam system (i.e., half-and-half, the votes from this week added to votes from last week).
Admittedly, ABC-5 will be unable to pacify the camps of these five contestants. Can it be helped? When one changes the rules of the game in the middle of the game, naturally, we can expect players to raise an uproar. However, the name of the game is still Philippine Idol, and if fans of the show – like me – are interested in seeing this franchise last beyond its maiden season, we need to support the show and the quirks that come with its birth pains. I am positive this new system will result in better, more accurate voting patterns than shown in the previous weeks.

Notice, for instance, how Gian Magdangal and Mau Marcelo, two perennial bottom contenders, avoided the bottom two this week. Notice how Jeli Mateo, a constant subject of criticism for her subpar performances (she made up what some Idol fans have since come to know as the KenJelJanMig foursome, along with Ken Dingle, Jan Nieto, and Miguel Mendoza, who all aren’t seen in the same calibre as the other contestants), who was never in the bottom until this week, was eliminated. We cry for Arms, but come on, she was also never a strong votes receiver, and both she and Jeli delivered the two most boring performances last night, and while I sent several votes Arms’ way, I was not optimistic for her chances last night (because votes coming in from last night were added to the previous week’s votes).

The next few weeks will be key. In theory, you can only send so many votes in two hours, so contestants with large fan bases tend to be favored by this new system (which is what we want). However, let us also note that ABC-5 did also let slip through two caveats – the infamous phone card way of voting and the lack of avenues for free votes. Subpar candidates with smaller but richer fan bases can still send a significant amount of votes their way by purchasing these cards in bulk and sending their votes during the two-week window. However, as the field narrows down and votes become more concentrated, hopefully, even this unfair method will not be enough to save the inferior candidates.

In a perfect Philippine Idol world, a two-hour window combined with free phone calls would herald a winner who is truly the voice of the masses. Meanwhile, this is the bone we’ve been thrown, and I and countless other fans are grateful. Witness the slow but steady return of Philippine Idol.

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