“Hoy pare, pakinggan n’yo ako,
Eto na ang tunay na Pilipino,
Galing sa baryo Sapang Bato,
Pumunta sa LA nagtrabaho…”
Who among us isn’t familiar with the story of a kid from a poor town who miraculously finds himself in the Land of Plenty, eking out a living? Except that this one is recited in a hip-hop monster hit.
“Filipino, Filipino, Filipino, Filipino!”
Nowhere until then had the world of pop heard our national identity shouted so fervently and joyously as in Black Eyed Peas’ “Bebot,” written and rapped by Allan Pineda Lindo, known in the global music scene as apl.de.ap.
The eldest of seven siblings raised by a single mother abandoned by her American husband, apl has memories of helping his grandfather in a farm in Sapang Bato, Pampanga. He knew early on that school was his long-term ticket to a better life. “I just wanted to have an education,” one of his websites quotes him. “In every Filipino family, the children always want to help the parents; that was my goal.”
Clinically blind, the young apl got treatment in the United States through the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. Eventually, he was adopted by Joe Ben Hudgens, who made sure that apl would finish his schooling in Los Angeles.
There he also met his future band mate and best friend, BEP’s will.i.am, who related during a forum on their journey to success (http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-48914.html):
“Think about it… 15 years old… you just got separated from your family… a huge family at that in the Philippines… your mom, brothers, sisters, grandma, grandpa, home cooking, farming, friends, the country… and you’re thrown into a city, with one dude as a friend that doesn’t speak your language… I mean he must have been scared as hell… wow…”
Basically, that was how apl got from Angeles to Los Angeles. But the road to Hollywood, wasn’t easy. will.i.am has more to say:
“Eazy E (Ruthless Records) signed us… apl only knew a little bit of English… but so what… 1992 we signed that deal… apl only in America for 3 years… and he had a record contract… His dad Joe Ben Hudgens was happy but told him.. ‘Don’t let it affect your education’ but it did… apl’s dad was furious… because apl decided not to go to college… but instead (become a rapper)… The plan apl’s dad had was (for him to) graduate high school, go to college, and around that time the paperwork for dual citizenship would be finished… That plan, my friends, was shot to hell with 2 turntables and a microphone…”
Will.i.am continues: “So what were we to do… (when) we had no more money, no more recording… We turned to friends… apl slept on people’s couches, (and in their) garages, closets … he practiced rapping and dancing, and reading the dictionary so much… by 1993 apl’s English was great enough to start recording… and we started recording with Eazy E in 1993… apl’s dad said ‘this is your dream; it’s up to you’… we hustled and kept our dream going…”
BEP’s success, however, didn’t impress the immigration officials of the countries they visited, and apl wasn’t exempt from the trials that most OFWs endure to this day at border crossings.
More from will.i.am: “Poor apl always had problems… Filipinos do not get love in passport control around the world… whenever we traveled he was always the last one… he has missed connection flights because we never finished his paper work… he has missed shows because they didn’t let him in the country… we all had to go to the airport 3 hours early because of it sometimes… this was before 9-11…”
Perhaps this never made him forget he was Filipino, and inspired him to tell the world, proudly:
“Pinoy ka sigaw na, sige
Kung maganda ka, sigaw na, sige
Kung buhay mo’y mahalaga, sige…”
So when he sang “Bebot” in Malacañang Palace after accepting his Pamana ng Pilipino Award recently, these words must have felt much more poignant—for him, for his mother, and others present during the ceremonies for the 2012 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas.
Making blessings count
But apl wasn’t awarded just for becoming a famous Filipino. President Benigno S. Aquino III pointed out not only his outstanding achievements in music, but also his exemplary philanthropic activities that help spread the message of hope for all Filipinos who have been inspired by his life story.
The President gave emphasis to Allan’s consistent acts of generosity to those who need it most, like those in his home province, as well as victims of “Sendong.” P-Noy professed admiration for apl’s commitment by saying that he listened to Black Eyed Peas and could even be persuaded to dance to “Bebot.”
“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count,” said Mormon apostle Neal A. Maxwell. While apl might never have heard this quote, it seems that he has nonetheless made the attitude of gratitude a big part of his success.