Philippines grief at Sanchez's 'American Idol' loss

President Benigno Aquino led the heartbroken Philippines in heaping praise Thursday on a teenager of Filipino-Latino heritage following her loss in the final of US talent show "American Idol".

Millions of Filipinos watched Jessica Sanchez, 16, compete against eventual winner Phillip Phillips in the live broadcast on cable television, virtually bringing the karaoke-crazy country to a stand-still.

Residents of Bataan province near Manila, where the teenager's mother traces her roots, went on an unauthorised "Jessica Sanchez" holiday, skipping school and work, according to media reports.

"As she competed in American Idol, Jessica Sanchez obtained the loyal and enthusiastic support of Filipinos the world over," Aquino spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in a statement.

"This is only the beginning for Ms. Sanchez whose incredible talent has been recognised and appreciated worldwide."

Filipinos at home and in the United States have closely followed the Californian's path to the finals of the top-rated show, with hundreds of fan pages on Facebook devoted to her.

But the finale ended with guitar-strumming Phillip Phillips beating Sanchez Wednesday after viewers cast a record 132 million votes.

Upset Filipinos vented their anger on Twitter and Facebook, with many saying the loss did not reflect ethnic diversity in the United States.

Fanatics pointed out that winners of the hit TV show in the previous four seasons were all white men with guitars, and proclaimed Sanchez the "global idol".

The daughter of one of the Philippines' national artists, Arturo Luz, posted on Facebook a photograph of a written note from his father: "Jessica Sanchez was robbed. She should have won the American Idol."

In an oft-repeated Twitter message, local fan Cheston Uy tweeted: "Phillip Phillips is the AMERICAN and Jessica Sanchez is the IDOL. RT if you agree."

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