A good man named Arnel Pineda – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

CALIFORNIA, United States—Oprah Winfrey looked amazed as she listened to Arnel Pineda answer her question on how fame and fortune have affected him following his Cinderella-like rise as Journey’s new lead singer.

“You go from singing literally for your supper to now being able to have anything you want in the world,” the TV personality said on her popular show last month. “What were some of the first things you were able to do for yourself?”

Winfrey apparently was expecting him to talk about how he bought a fancy car or jewelry or some nice clothes and shoes. Instead, Pineda talked about starting a foundation to help underprivileged kids in the Philippines.

Winfrey quipped that she too later set up her own foundation, but noted, “When I started making money, I bought some towels for myself.”

Arnel Pineda, who will be the special guest of Filipino Heritage Night at the Friday NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday in Oakland, is now one of a growing number of Filipinos—Lea Salonga, Apl De Ap, Charice Pempengco—who have achieved international acclaim as performers. But what’s been most impressive for me (and I suspect others as well) is how he has reacted to that acclaim.

By now, Arnel’s story is well known. The son of working class parents, he grew up poor, but with a love for music and performing. His mother’s death devastated his family, and he was forced to strike out on his own, often sleeping in parks and doing odd jobs to support himself.

His powerful voice became his ticket to a more stable life as a young man, and he soon found himself performing in Manila and Hong Kong. But the showbiz lifestyle, with the heavy drinking and drug use, also took its toll on Arnel. He eventually managed to battle his way out of that vicious cycle, and rebuild his career as a singer doing enough gigs to support himself and his family. Superstardom was not on his agenda. Survival and decent life were, as he told Oprah.

“I’ve seen enough pain and poverty in the Philippines, I never dream that big,” he said. “All I wanted was to be able to get out of it, the pain and the poverty, and to live decently.”

Then came the surprise phone call from America. Journey lead guitarist Neil Schon was surfing the Web in a desperate search for a new lead singer, when he came upon a YouTube clip of Arnel. He was stunned, and Pineda’s life took a dramatic turn.

Suddenly, Journey’s signature song, “Don’t Stop Believing” achieved a new meaning. But Arnel also apparently had a clearer, more solid sense of what to believe about his incredible rise. After all, he himself said that he didn’t even dream about being the lead singer for a world-famous American band, about being a star.

He won Journey over with his powerful voice, and quickly helped his new band win over the music world. But Arnel Pineda also proved that he had an even more special gift: The powerful instincts of a good man.

Journey’s drummer, Deen Astronovo, summed it up in the Oprah interview when he said of the group’s newest member, “The best part was how humble the man was…Humble human being, beautiful heart.”

The Arnel Pineda Foundation Web site says its mission is “to provide essential needs that every child deserves and to help provide a safe environment where they can learn, grow, and achieve. We believe every child’s life is precious and deserves the same potential and opportunity as any other life.”

As Oprah Winfrey’s reaction suggested, the world would not have taken it against Arnel if he had spent the first few years of his stardom indulging himself with material rewards, such as towels or a car. The foundation could have waited.

But that’s not how Arnel Pineda saw it.

Perhaps one of the most fortunate elements in Arnel’s story is that it happened at this stage in his life. Now in his early 40s, he has endured poverty and pain as a child in Manila, battled his way out of it as a talented performer, but also knows what could happen if he lets himself be blinded by the spotlight. He apparently knows he could lose all of it easily, the way he almost did when a reckless lifestyle nearly derailed his career.

As he told Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Eric Caruncho in a feature story last year, “I’m over that,” he says. “Maybe if this happened when I was 20 years old, I would be high right now talking to you. But as I said, I’m living like a monk now.”

Arnel Pineda is also living the life of a good man.

via A good man named Arnel Pineda – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos.


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