NEW YORK—And then there were two.
Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips are left to battle for the “American Idol” season 11 crown on next week’s finale after Joshua Ledet, who brought the “American Idol” judges to their feet many times over, couldn’t win over fans and was sent home from the top-rated TV talent show on Friday.
Sanchez has impressed the judges from the beginning of the current season with her technical mastery of music, despite being the youngest contestant at 16. The other night, the judges cheered the Filipino-Mexican when she sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” leading Steven Tyler, the rock band’s lead singer, to say “you just took a great song and made it greater.”
Singer-songwriter Phillips has won plaudits for bringing his own distinctive style of guitar-playing music to other artists’ songs. Mentor Jimmy Iovine and judge Randy Jackson agreed that Phillips’ performance song “We’ve Got Tonight” was his best performance to date.
Ledet was gracious in defeat. He closed the singing contest on Thursday with his rendition of “It’s a Man’s World,” replicating one of his most popular performances of the season.
Friday’s results show included performances from two artists with new albums out this week—Lisa Marie Presley and “Idol” season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert. Presley sang “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” off her album “Storm and Grace” and Lambert did “Never Close Our Eyes” from his sophomore album “Trespassing.”
Audience voting was based on Wednesday’s episode that included three performance rounds of contestants singing songs chosen by the judges, songs of their own picking and a tune chosen by Iovine.
Hours after Sanchez reached the “Idol” finals on Friday, Malacañang appealed to Filipinos in the United States to vote for the Philippine bet.
“Please show your support in any way possible for Jessica Sanchez. This is the last stretch and we know that when Filipinos gather and put their minds into it, it will happen,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte during Friday’s news briefing.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement that Sanchez “inspires us to pursue excellence in everything we do—no matter how big or small the stage may be.”
From Orani, Samal
The frenzy surrounding Sanchez is spreading to the towns of Orani and Samal in Bataan province—where her mother Editha Bugay and maternal relatives hail—as residents hope and pray that her “Idol” journey ends in triumph.
“Our support here is solid. Everybody loves her,” said Manny Morales, 32, a tricycle driver in Orani town.
Morales said a tarpaulin is displayed in front of the town plaza showing their support for Sanchez. A lot of people have also come looking for the house of her grandparents there since she became an “Idol” finalist.
“She has really become well known, even if she hasn’t been here,” he added.
The house of Sanchez’s grandparents in Barangay Apollo in Orani has become a local landmark as Sanchez advanced to the finals.
Orani residents interviewed by the Inquirer said even before Sanchez joined the popular singing competition, the Bugay family was already known in the town. Morales said one of Sanchez’s relatives, Rene Bugay, is a longtime councilor and politician in the town.
Morales said they were hoping Sanchez would visit Bataan after her “Idol” stint.
Orani Mayor Benjamin Serrano Jr. said he had been asking residents of Bataan, who have relatives in the United States, to urge them to support Sanchez and vote for her to become this year’s “American Idol.”
In a text message from the United States, Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Payumo, president of the Bataan Mayors’ League, said the Filipino community in the United States is behind Sanchez all the way.
Payumo’s brother, Jojo, a member of the provincial board, said the provincial government filed a resolution in support of Sanchez three weeks ago.
Free ‘Idol’ viewing
In this town, the local government had prepared a free public viewing of “Idol” through Cignal, a cable TV provider, on Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday night, almost 1,000 Samal residents flocked to the town plaza to watch her perform.
Samal Mayor Generosa dela Fuente said Sanchez had become an inspiration to the youth in their town.
“Even though Samal is relatively smaller and poorer than the other towns in Bataan, we are slowly becoming well known because of Jessica,” she said.
Dela Fuente said she had organized little gatherings to watch Sanchez’s performances.
“In the beginning, we only had a small projector that we used to show her performances in the plaza. But now, we have support given to us by Cignal so that a lot more people can watch her,” she said.
Sanchez’s great, great grandfather was a former Samal councilor and a musician. Her grandfather, Eddie, is a retired US Navy personnel.
“They bought a house in Orani; that’s where they live now. But their ancestral home is here,” Dela Fuente said.
Mass for Sanchez
Fr. Paul Bugay, head of the finance ministry of the San Pablo diocese in Laguna, has been closely following the show and is rooting for his second cousin Sanchez.
A Catholic priest in Laguna, who traces his roots to Samal, Bataan, Bugay has offered prayers and Holy Masses for her to win.
Bugay said his father and the grandfather of Sanchez are cousins.
Since Sanchez became one of the “Idol” contenders, he said the Bugay clan in the United States as well as relatives living in Germany, United Kingdom and Australia had been in close contact with each other through the social networking site Facebook.
He said all the Bugays scattered throughout the world are now unanimous in their campaign to vote for Sanchez.
“They have been encouraging and appealing to fellow Filipinos to vote for her through phone or the Internet,” he said.
The finale will consist of a two-hour performance episode on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), followed by a results episode on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), with guest performers Rihanna, Jason Derulo, Aerosmith and the “Idol” season 11 Top 10.
The face-off between Sanchez and Phillips will be aired in the Philippines via satellite on ETC on May 23 at 6 p.m. The season’s grand finale will be broadcast live on May 24 at 8 a.m., with replays at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. also on ETC. With reports from Norman Bordadora, Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon, Romulo Ponte, Southern Luzon Bureau