There is a craze in the Filipino internet community over the recent selection of the multi-talented Arnel Pineda of The Zoo as the new lead singer of the American rock band Journey.
You can just Google Arnel Pineda and one can see a deluge of heartwarming expression of pride over the Filipino "Cinderella-Man" whose life of rags-to-riches brings us to that scene in the award winning Forrest Gump where actor describes life as a "box of chocolates".
Arnel Pineda grew up experiencing the harshness of life in the Phlippines, mother-less at ten, with no house to go home to, with very little to eat,no bed to sleep on.
Yet, he discovered his God-given talent in music, packed his bags, became a recognized versatile singer in local bars.
And he never looked back.
Now, he brings pride to the motherland having been chosen as the "New Voice" of a once-all American, yet world renowned rock band Journey.
Journey is noted for rock ballads like "Open Arms" and "Faithfully", and upbeat tunes like "Don't Stop Believin'" , "Wheels in the Sky".
It was Steve Perry who carried the band in the 1980's because it was his voice that struck a chord in the hearts and ears of millions of Journey fans around the globe.
Steve Perry and the band separated.
Steve Perry went his way alone, and is remembered for the hit "Foolish Heart" in the mid-1980's.
But for the band itself, not a few people felt Journey really wasn't able to sustain their popularity over the years, without Perry.
There were lead vocalists that followed after Perry, but none seemed to come close to Perry's unique talent and charisma.
Last year, Journey through its guitarist Neil Schon planned a comeback but the problem was they were a band without a voice (or "that Voice").
Schon turned to You Tube and eventually found uploaded clips of the Filipino Zoo Band with Arnel Pineda at the helm.
It was not surprising that Schon was awe strucked at the Filipino talent.
The You Tube clips tell the tale.
Thus, the story of Arnel Pineda is not so much about his talent.
He has IT. No question.
Not only does Arnel have quality. It's his versatility that amazes me no end.
Personally, my favorite Arnel covers are "Faithfully", "Please Don't Ask Me", "Ever Since The World Began", "The Flame".
In my opinion, he sings the songs at par, if not better than the original.
He has a voice so similar to Steve Perry---only better.
And I am not exaggerating.
But it was the manner by which he was discovered that makes Arnel's story interesting.
I will not be surprised if there would be a deluge of video uploads of other bands, hoping they would score like Arnel Pineda did.
In this sense, Arnel Pineda is an inspiration.
Racists spoil the show
Unortunately, along with the overflow of warm congratulatory messages over Arnel's new fame, there is also a parallel barrage of ugly racist remarks hurled against Arnel Pineda, and Filipinos in general, in the internet.
I suspect it comes from American die-hard Journey fans who can't get over the fact that Steve Perry, would no longer be coming back to Journey.
Of course the internet will not provide proof, but one can get a feeling that the "white superior race" is behind the throwing of racist mud not only upon Arnel but the "small brown creatures" from the East.
Never have I seen such racial hatred that really struck home.
But most of all, I suspect these racial slurs are spawned by the fact that somebody can belt a Journey song as good as, if not better than Steve Perry.
And the guy's not "white".
Let me relay some of the terrible racist remarks you can read in the internet about the phenomenal rise to stardom of a Filipino named Arnel Pineda.
One (Adolf Hitler-inspired) comment stated that Journey should retain itself as an "all-American band".
This comment suggests that Journey will not be Journey if a non-American is part of the band.
Worse, the non-American is a brown-skinned creature.
Another merciless commentary complained to Journey band guitarist Neil Schon that he shouldn't have chosen a Filipino because "we cannot relate to small brown Asians".
Comments can get a lot worse.
One comment wrote: "He sings well but we can't dissociate him from that pizza delivery boy".
Another takes a nasty jab at the wrong perception of Filipinos being dog-eaters.
The comment stated: "If Journey performs in our place, I will hide all my dogs."
The racially-tainted comments are enough to make one fume.
But a very stark observation I made is that all the negative, hurtful, uncivilized comments against Arnel Pineda relate to things other than his talent.
I haven't read any negative comment about his superb, naked talent.
So the critics were personal, ad-hominem types.
It is a sad episode because I realize how alive racial discrimination is in America, even to this day.
And this is the supposed to be a land that proclaims the edict that "all men are created equal."
If this is not hypocrisy, I don't know what it is.
If you want to validate my statement, just Google Arnel Pineda and you'll see what I mean.
Journey band members have come to Arnel's rescue explaining to some of their fans that Journey has become global and has transcended issues on skin color.
Journey itself has not been spared from unjustified criticisms, accusing the band of engaging in "out-sourcing" cheap labor in Asia.
Arnel Pineda, in response to these racial slurs, just brushes them aside and hopes that the racists will "grow up".
But not all American Journey fans are rude.
I want to believe a greater majority of Journey fans in the U.S. welcome Arnel Pineda with Open Arms too: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=5199721&blogID=335295812
The significance of Arnel Pineda's unique experience is the unifying effect it evoked upon all Filipinos around the globe.
Filipinos from all corners of the world are requesting that Journey perform in their place.
Pineda's meteoric rise to music stardom has rallied Filipinos both home and abroad, in the same way Filipnos band together when Manny Pacquiao enters the ring.
Arnel Pineda assures that wherever he goes, he will always bring the Filipino pride with him.
Words spoken by true-blooded Filipino.
Thank you for that, Arnel.
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