If you have no clue about Filipino culture there are three important things you need to know: 1) There's always enough food to feed a small nation at any Filipino party 2) we're raised with a strong sense of Utang na loob (debt of the inside), showing gratitude for one's success by "paying it forward" to others in the community and 3) music is in our blood, as evidenced by this past Sunday's Apl.de.ap Takes You to the Philippines - A Celebration of Global Filipino Music at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl.
Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., better known as Apl.de.ap of the Grammy-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, conceptualized this historic event as part of radio station KCRW's World Festival series to highlight the music of Filipino culture. Hosted by KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez and co-hosted by actors Vanessa Hudgens, Lou Diamond Phillps and comedian Jo Koy, the concert showcased the contributions of Filipinos to the American pop culture and music landscape.
Kayamanan Ng Lahi (KNL), LA's premiere Philippine folk arts troupe kicked off the night with a Spanish-influenced cultural dance the Jota Paragua, followed by folk songs by the Philippine Chamber Singers of Los Angeles and The Harana Kings. Burgeoning singer/songwriter Jeremy Passion sang "I Don't Care" and his well-known song "Lemonade" while Legaci, the official backing group for Justin Bieber, had their moment to shine pumping up the crowd with a cover of The Wanted's "Glad You Came" followed by their original songs "When You Love Her" and "Never Got Over You".
The OPM (Original Pilipino Music) segment began with Sandwich, a popular rock band direct from the Philippines. Becca Godinez sang crowd favorite "Dahil Sa Yo" (Because of You), native superstars Ogie Alcasid and Martin Nievera had all the women swooning with their sultry vocals and Dessa, hot off her performance at the Pacquiao v. Velazquez match, showcased her Christina Aguilera-esque vocal talent. The set concluded with "Umagang Kay Ganda" a collaboration featuring all the OPM artists.
The second half opened with Jo Koy cracking jokes about all the nurses playing hooky from work to attend the concert and the intimate knowledge Filipinos have of the "Magic Mic" (the karaoke device, not to be confused with the movie).
KNL returned to perform the most widely-known cultural dance the Tinikiling, which incorporates bamboo poles tapped together in time to the music as dancers skillfully jump and weave in between, but with a modern twist. The performance transitioned to members of Culture Shock LA performing a hip hop number mixed by KPWR's DJ E-Man and featured a section where one dancer locked to Tinikling music bridging traditional and modern Filipino dance. Who knew?
The curator of the event finally took to the stage and electrified the audience with "Take You to the Philippines" backed by Passion and Niviera as well as the Philippine Chamber Singers. Apl.de.ap followed up with "We Can Be Anything", a message of empowerment through education composed for his advocacy campaign to educate and build thousands of schools for Filipino children.
World Boxing Organization super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. came onstage to perform a duet of "The Apl Song" a personal story of his life in the Philippines. Apl.de.ap later wowed the crowd as he flipped and danced sporting a barong tagalog, a traditional Philippine formal dress shirt, during the sexy dance number "Bebot" (Filipino slang for babe or hot chick).
His fellow group members Will.i.am and Taboo joined him for "I Got a Feeling (Dirty Bit)" with the beautiful Nicole Scherzinger, a long-time friend and a natural (better?) fit for the group, filling in for the absent Fergie on female vocals.
The group continued their set with "Get it Started" and afterwards Will.I.Am spoke about their humble beginnings with SIPA (Search to Involve Pilipino Americans), a non-profit that provides health, human, and educational services, and how they were able to express their artistic creativity through the Funk Collective, one of SIPA's community arts programs. In acknowledgment, the group flowed and went into their party anthem "Pump It". Nicole came back later to perform her single "Right There" then was rejoined by the Peas for their signature break-out hit "Where Is The Love?"
The love was definitely felt in a poignant moment when Will.i.am gave a special shout out to Joe Ben Hudgens, Apl's adoptive father, for nurturing Apl's talent and creativity so he could share it with the world. It was this sense of philanthropy and community building that the group has carried in their rise to international superstardom.
This message resonated as the celebration ended when the Peas were joined by all the concert's performers for "I Got A Feeling" with the entire audience cheering and dancing out of their seats.
Apl.de.ap's concert was truly a "good night" and a inspirational event that not only showcased the rich diverse talent of the Filipino community, but also the spirit of our people and how the success of just one man can foster musical talent and ensure the education for the next generation. Through the efforts of his foundation and this concert Apl.de.ap truly fulfilled the promise of his Utang na loob.
Written by Fernand Macam