Allan Pineda Lindo knew struggle and perseverance early in life. An abandoned child of an American serviceman stationed at the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga, he planted rice and other crops to help his mother earn a living. When the opportunity came for him to travel to the US, he learned to speak English by reading a dictionary.
Now that he?s achieved success as a hip-hop artist, Allan―better known as apl.de.ap of the Grammy-winning, internationally famous Black Eyed Peas―says he wants to reconnect and give something back to his native land.
The 33-year-old Fil-American musician was in town as the main presenter and a special awardee at the Myx Music Awards show held March 26 at the Meralco Theater. He?s also set to shoot an independent film titled ?Subject: I Love You.?
In an interview shortly after his arrival, apl said he wanted to get his own foundation more involved in projects that would benefit Filipino children.
The Los Angeles, California-based Apl Foundation organizes an annual event called ?Apl Benefit,? a charity show featuring him and musician friends. Some of the money raised has helped apl?s own community in his hometown.
?We built a stage for graduation rites in my old elementary school,? he said. ?We also bought computers and installed electric fans in the classrooms.?
This year, the foundation wants to raise more money to build music schools for kids. ?I want to launch it very soon,? he added.
Seeing deprived children stirs vivid memories for apl. Born in Sapang Bato, a poor barangay in Angeles, Pampanga, he had to work as a farm hand at a young age to give money to his mother Cristina. His father, an African-American airman whom he didn?t want to name, practically disappeared shortly after his birth.
It was then that he started developing an ear for music. At age 8, he remembers hearing the songs of the Pinoy folk-rock group Asin. ?My mom used to have a cassette tape of Asin. That?s why when it was time for me to do a Tagalog song, the first thing that came into my mind was Asin, because it was played nonstop in our household.?
?The Apl Song?
The composition, titled ?The Apl Song? and encapsulating his life story, borrows the chorus in Asin?s ?Balita.? It was part of the BEP?s 2003 debut album, ?Elephunk,? which went platinum in the US, UK, Germany and other European countries.
Another song he wrote, ?Bebot,? a tribute to Pinoy street life and culture, was included in BEP?s 2005 ?Monkey Business? album.
Apl tweaked some of the song?s lyrics to suit his live performance at the recent Pacquiao-Morales boxing match in Las Vegas. ?I?m good friends with Pacquiao; I always visit him when he?s training in LA. I asked if I could walk him out to the ring with a song,? he recounted. ?It made me feel so proud as a Filipino.?
Apl was 11 when he was sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, an organization that finds healthier living environments for abandoned or orphaned young Amerasian children. He was brought to the US for treatment of nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes. During a trip to Disneyland, apl expressed his interest to stay in the US for good. It took another three years before he was formally adopted by an American family.
But when it was almost time to leave Pampanga, apl expressed apprehension. ?I was so worried and asked my mom how I was gonna learn to speak English. She said, ?Read the dictionary.? And that was how I learned, by reading an English-Filipino dictionary like a textbook.?
Apl went to live in LA, where he met will.i.am, founder and front man of the Black-Eyed Peas.
The group also struggled before joining the big league. ?We had to work hard to achieve our dreams. For three years, we played wherever we could, for free. We played in schools during lunchtime. We played a lot of benefit shows. But we believed in ourselves and soon we started having a following. The audience got bigger after every show. And then record companies took notice of us,? apl recalled.
He also sold popcorn in movie theaters, handled a telemarketing job, and did construction work while recording the early albums with BEP. ?The struggle made us strong as a group,? he said.
Now BEP can afford to take a break while its members pursue individual projects. Will and female vocalist Fergie have both released their own respective albums; apl is currently working on his debut solo.
He says it will contain ?new songs about the country and some that can make you dance. It has modern sounds like house music, but I also put in some folk guitar and tinikling beats.?
One of the new songs, ?Island,? was heard for the first time at the Myx Music Awards. Apl performed with another Fil-American, a female DJ named Mia Guzman.
The album will also feature collaborations with Filipino artists like the Apo Hiking Society, Billy Crawford and Lolita Carbon of Asin. ?It?s like a Black Eyed Peas album but it will show my individuality, who I am, where I came from, the struggle I?ve been through.?
Today he can live like a rock star, but refuses to. ?I?m still Allan Pineda who eats with my hands at home. I?m not trying to get all bling-blinged out, you know, and have five cars and buy a $4-million house. I just built a simple house where I was born in Sapang Bato.?
He has never known or even met his father, but apl has no intention of seeking him out. ?A couple of years ago I was really interested to look for him. I asked my mom, and she said something that made me think otherwise. She said, ?You might not like what you?ll find out.??
It?s something apl would rather not struggle to find out.