Friday, January 15, 2010

Full Circle with and Pearl S. Buck

Full Circle
All things are possible until they are proved impossible - and even the impossible may only be so, as of now. -Pearl S. Buck
Pearl S. Buck had a dream to create a bridge between the East and West---a desire to give children a better life, an opportunity to connect indirectly back to part of their lineage and a chance for many countries around the world to help out children in need. Allan Pineda, also known as Apl de Ap of the Black Eyed Peas, journeyed from the Philippines to the United States to fulfill a similar dream for his family and for his future. He has always held a deep desire to give back to children that have similar stories like his from his homeland and throughout Asia. His vision echoes Pearl’s foresight and is simply stated through the actions of giving and reminding oneself and the world that there is no separation between race, class or gender. Ultimately, Allan reminds others, as did Pearl S. Buck, that all children deserve a home, food, education and healthcare. With this sentiment that Allan wears as a badge of conviction, I will share with you his story and the impact that the Pearl S. Buck Foundation had on his life and bring it full circle back to all of those whom have been touched by Allan’s life and Pearl S. Buck’s legacy.

Allan’s Story
Allan and I did not realize when we first met that he was potentially a degree of separation closer to his birth father than he had ever been or might ever be. Similarly, we both are offspring of fathers in the United States Air Force-my father was stationed in Hawaii when I was born and my childhood friend’s father was stationed in the Philippines when she was born. My connection to the Philippines started as soon as I met my friend, Tiffany. Both of our fathers were in the Air Force during the same time Allan’s father was stationed in the Philippines, and both of our fathers possibly knew Allan’s father. Even though our stories and backgrounds are different, there is a bridge connecting the East and West between us. We realized that there was a connection between an impoverished island nation, America, the US military and a desire to give back to those who continue to suffer and struggle.  That bridge continues to connect us and many others with the mutual desire to give back to the suffering children, especially ones from Asia and other small communities around the world.  During the course of our friendship, Allan has shared his life story with me and educated me on how the great work of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation has provided to him, and many other children with similar stories as his, support and opportunities to live a life they had never imagined.

Allan is an Amerasian and from birth, he was immediately considered as a minority within his own homeland and family. He was a reminder to all of his community of the impact the United States Armed Forces had on their homeland. Despite the teasing he might have endured because he did not look like rest of the children, he actually was more impacted by the obstacle of his poor eyesight. Allan is legally blind and from a very young age he was presented with the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up if you can not even see the chalkboard?” It was actually his impaired vision that impeded his self-confidence not his race, and caused him to turn inward as a child. It is also his vision that caught his sponsor, Joe Ben Hudgens’ attention and inspired him to come and meet Allan in the Philippines. Allan did not realize as a child that his poor eyesight was a gift that would, in the end, sharpen his other senses and gifts that would ultimately lead him to his destiny and passion-music in America. He would often recollect his teacher’s words, putting him down for his inability to see and now realizes how his own professor did not believe that all is possible and consequently, Allan felt as if his dreams were some how raped from his spirit when he was told he would never amount to anything. 

After Joe first traveled to the Philippines, he arranged for Allan to come visit him in America, where Allan would have his initial taste of America, the land of opportunity. Like any young child, he was filled with the excitement and the hope which is infused in America’s spirit. During this time, Allan and his mother started to discuss the possibility of adoption. Joe wanted to bring Allan to America to help him with his eye sight, provide him with a better education and more options for his future. His single mother was faced with a difficult and emotional decision about giving her son up for adoption. She wanted to send her child over seas with the hope that he could create a brighter future for himself and his brothers and sisters. His mother, Cristina Pineda, was already grateful for all the services and financial support she had received from the Pearl S. Buck Foundation and now she understood, although faced with a difficult choice, this would be Allan’s opportunity for a better life.
Finally, after several years of working with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Joe, Allan and Cristina were able to proceed with the adoption. At the age of fourteen, Allan was sent to America to live with his new father.  Once again, Allan was being placed in a community where he would potentially be perceived as a social outcast and would be alienated from his homeland and his new community. Upon his arrival to America, he did not speak English, and the excitement of America did not seem to fill the sadness and longing he had for his family. He even asked his new father if he could take him home and was unfortunately faced with the harsh reality that he had to stay in the United States. He was now in his new home. Over the course of his life Allan is repeatedly placed in a position to move beyond the “impossible” and set the stage for what is “possible”.  The concept of the “possible” is deeply infused in the sentiments of Pearl’s writings and her foundation.

Allan kept this sentiment of the possible in his heart; shortly after arriving to the United States he met William Adams, whom would become a life long friend and band mate. Allan and Will effortlessly created symbiotic rhythms and beats which quickly lead them to rapping and performing around town. He always kept a knowing in his heart, which suppressed any doubt he placed on himself as a young boy. During the earlier years of his music career, he would always hold onto the vision of success when they encountered road blocks along the way. The death of friend, Eazy-E, and owner of the record label to launch their album---coupled with their debut album Grass Roots never being released for reasons related to the social content of their music which would reduce the marketability to their audience. Only motivated Allan and Will to change directions and the name of their group to the Black Eyed Peas; it was this change just like the one Allan had endured years prior when he came to America that led them to their success.

Allan’s musical success has provided him with a sense of accomplishment and the financial means to finally give back to his family. In 1998, Allan finally traveled back to the Philippines’ and reunited with his mother. He was confronted with a flood of memories and a reminder of the loneliness that always occupies his heart and simultaneously filled with gratitude for the opportunity to maintain a relationship with his entire family. Something, most of the children that are adopted are never afforded. Acknowledging he missed his homeland and embracing his deep desire to give back to the Philippines’, Allan made a commitment to himself to assist other children in the future. The underlying desire inspired him to start by giving back to the organization that made it possible for him to come to the United States; he was indebted to the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. The feeling and sense of possibility encroached Allan’s being once more---inspiring him now to give by sharing his music, raising awareness and funds to support and inspire other children in the same situation he was in over twenty years ago. Now, he has come full circle with his music in hand and a mission to remind all the children of the world to never stop dreaming and as Pearl said herself, “All things are possible until they are proved impossible - and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.”  Allan shares this conviction with others and reminds them of the abundant fortune that lies in the simplicity of life. The bridge Pearl dreamed of creating between the East and West, ultimately, is now extended out to the entire world and will continue to connect all of these global communities. Allan continues to support Pearl’s mission and the bridge she created by continuing the dialogue as he shares his story to raise awareness and support for these children.

Full Circle
With my indirect connection to an impoverished island nation, a direct connection to America, and a deep desire to give back and inspire those who continue to suffer and struggle. I, too, intend to support Pearl’s work by supporting a similar dialogue within Allan’s communities and inspiring change within the communities that have not taken full responsibility for the footprint they left behind and continue to leave in many countries throughout Asia. 

Pearl was ahead of her time and her fore thought inspires me on a personal level and as a visionary to continue to provide for the children and inspire the third world to embrace their great fortune which sometimes presents itself in hardship or in the beautiful face of a child with simple needs---love, food and shelter.  Ultimately, the impossible will metamorphous into the possible as the stories continue to unfold for these children and the countries supporting their future. The full circle encompasses a giant web of children and adults that are connected directly and indirectly which intertwines the East and West with the dreams and the sea of possibilities---a circle created by Pearl’s knowing and vision that all is possible.

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