Track

The apl Song

Artist

Black Eyed Peas

Album

Elephunk

“The Apl Song”
The Black Eyed Peas

“The Apl Song” has a layered meaning. On one hand, it is about The Black Eyed Peas’ apl.de.ap and his experience of moving to the United States from the Philippines. On a larger scale, the song tells the story of the Philippines during one of the worst times in history. Not many people know this, but the Philippines actually fought for the United States military during World War II. Over 250,000 Filipinos rose to the occasion with promises of full military benefits. But out of the 66 countries that allied with the United States, the Philippines was the only country that did not receive anything for their contribution in WWII. It was not until 2009 that the U.S. government finally paid the surviving 15,000 Filipino veterans between $9,000 - $15,000, depending on citizen status.

I am extremely proud to be a Filipino American. But I didn’t learn about all of this until my senior year of high school after this song had already been released for five years. I was appalled I was never taught this before in school, or that it wasn’t even a major news story when the U.S. finally remembered the Filipino WWII veterans after over 60 years. I talked to my grandparents about it once. I asked them why they never told me about this disgusting injustice. I asked them why I never knew that my people were living in poverty in my homeland because of a government lie. I asked them how they could still be proud to be American after they used us and turned their back on us. My grandfather answered my questions with another one. He asked if I was happy to have food to eat and clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in. I answered, “Yes, but that doesn’t change how unfair the situation is.” His next sentence ended the conversation. “But that’s not the point.”

What does this have to do with TWLOHA at all? Well, here at TWLOHA we encourage people to have honest conversations about difficult topics—so here is a bit of honesty. There are forces at work that are powerful, and we have given them names like depression, addiction, self-injury, or anxiety. These forces will push us down just to kick us when we try to get back up. They will rip families apart and decimate friendships. They will feed us lies that tell us we are worthless and we are weak. They will cover our vision with darkness so we cannot see our brother or sister who is right next to us. And sometimes, we will believe we are alone. It will be difficult. It will be unfair.

Life was a mess. I know sometimes life’s stresses get you down on your knees. Oh brother, wish I could have helped you out.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how unfairly Filipinos were treated after WWII, but I missed the most important part of the story. When the world was faced with a great evil, we came together as one, and we conquered it. Did it make life perfect? No, but we knew, in some way, it was for our good. The point of life isn’t how unfair it can sometimes be. It’s about what happens when we face an obstacle we cannot defeat alone. We forget about all of the manmade barriers we put up to separate, and we remember we are one people. Individually, we cannot win, but together there is nothing that can hold us back.

We are still in a world war, but this time our enemies do not care what our ethnicity is. They do not care about our gender, how much money we make, where we are from, what sexual orientation we are, or what religion we follow. These evils do not know boundaries—so we cannot either.

I encourage all of us to remember that we are soldiers. Our weapons are our words and our actions. We can use them to protect our people or destroy them. Remember that something as small as a harmless joke can break someone’s spirit, and the tiniest word of encouragement can empower them. Above all, I challenge us to remember we are all one people, and building up our neighbor means building up ourselves. There are forces at work that make life difficult and unfair, but they will fail as long as we stand together.

We’re making it happen from nothing to something. That’s how we be surviving back in my homeland.

—Anthony