Things are looking rather grim for 17-year-old Miguel Mendoza. The past two weeks, the youngest of the four remaining finalists of Philippine Idol has been looking forlorn and defeated. Why wouldn’t he? Poor Miguel is the current object of ridicule and scorn by irate Philippine Idol fans, furious at the resiliency of the tall, relatively good-looking teenager with the sharp eyebrows and good-natured gait. Despite Mendoza’s landing in the bottom two for the first time since the contest began, the ejection of underdog Pow Chavez left fans utterly red with anger, and forums, websites, and blogs are all abuzz with how the scrappy Mendoza has managed to survive this long.

At this point in the contest, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Miguel wants out himself. Who wouldn’t, if all one received at this stage in the game was flak for one’s inferior singing prowess? If one were surrounded by three superior singers, wouldn’t one naturally feel a sense of distress? Watching Miguel perform Can You Feel the Love Tonight was a lesson in irony: of all the remaining finalists, Mendoza received the least love from the live show audience, and it showed. It was as if Miguel could not concentrate on the song, trying, bravely, instead, to fend off all the unspoken hostility and evil wishes the audience in the Megamall theater (and televisions throughout the nation) were hurling at him.

It may have come to that point that poor Miguel, shell-shocked teen singer who may not in the same league as the others, has realized that he’s way in over his head. I wonder if Miguel foresaw what would happen if he actually did make it as far as he has right now, if he anticipated how he, a pleasant 17-year-old in the prime of his youth and with an undoubtedly bright future in any career he would so choose, by his own skills (and Mommy and Daddy’s connections notwithstanding), would be viewed with so much negativity.

Now, consider this exchange:

Ryan Agoncillo:
“Miguel for the past two weeks you’ve been scratching your head after results night kinakabahan ka lagi especially last night, it struck me when you said -I’m ready to go-. Gusto mo pa ba mag continue sa competition na ito, Miguel?”

Miguel Mendoza:
“Oo, if there are people who will still vote for me, okay lang, okay lang din hindi.”

That answer, if anything, was the answer of someone who probably looks at Philippine Idol as something to do, the latest in a variety of activities that a privileged young man can engage in, and possibly do well. However, unlike competitors Mau Marcelo and Gian Magdangal, who have attempted to build careers for themselves in this industry for the longest time, winning Philippine Idol does not seem a matter of life and death to Mendoza (nor, we can safely assume, similarly well-connected finalist Jan Nieto). Which is not to say that neither Nieto nor Mendoza deserve the title any less than Magdangal or Marcelo, but simply to say that the kind of support to which the winner of Philippine Idol is extended to ensure a long and lengthy career, seems rather wasted on someone whose reaction to having arrived this far is, “okay lang.”

On a night when Chavez’s reaction to her having reached this far is a case study in gratitude for having been accepted by a public that has largely resisted opening up to lesbian Filipina musicians, Mendoza’s answer seems apathetic and cold, a slap in the faces of all people who have voted for him. It may seem the reaction of a teenager who is not fully aware of how privileged he is to have gotten this far, in the way having ‘robbed’ similarly talented individuals who will not be able to enjoy the opportunities that come with being Philippine Idol.

Miguel Mendoza does not deserve to be hated. He’s a nice kid with a good voice. Sure, he may not be as good as the others, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to be cussed at, mocked, and insulted. What is his crime?

If anything, I’d rather offer up this piece of advice to Mendoza or his handlers, if ever they find their way into this blog, and should Miguel win the title: Miguel, you have just been given a tremendous opportunity and blessing. Don’t treat the Philippine Idol title as just another notch in your belt, or another fling to do on the side. People voted for you, and they expect you to live up to their expectations. If you do become Philippine Idol, I suggest you run with it, take it very seriously, and build for yourself a long and lasting career. It is an insult to you, to your fellow finalists, to your fans, and to the Idol franchise, for you to not put 100% into this. You got yourself into it, so live up to it, kid. You’re very, very blessed.

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On a different note: at the end of the day, Mendoza’s Achilles’ heel is the constant accusation of vote-buying. Should Mendoza win and the suspicions of many are confirmed by lackluster sales of Mendoza’s debut album, I would point my finger at Francis Magalona, whose steadfast insistence in seeing Mendoza through to the Final 24, for unleashing this travesty. Last night, he defended his choice, saying, and I paraphrase, ‘talent can be trained, but looks can’t, and [Miguel has the looks]. You can sell albums.’

Isn’t the entire point of Philippine Idol to find someone who does not need training, whose natural talent is supposed to shine through? Mendoza does have talent, but by Magalona’s acknowledging he needs training, he pretty much admitted that he let someone with less talent than others through. Is the Philippines so bereft (oh, there’s Ryan C’s word!) of talented individuals that the judges let through singers who still need training??

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