My Journey to See a Fellow Filipino

Smethport Web – by Peng Magno

There is nothing more inspiring for a first generation Filipino immigrant like me than to witness firsthand a fellow countryman doing well in the international arena. It is firsthand knowledge that most Filipinos living in the United States are in healthcare, therefore the story of Arnel Pineda is definitely something different and truly a tale that needs to be told.

Arnel is the current front man for Journey, the San Francisco based band well known for huge 1980s hits such as Don’t Stop Believing, Faithfully, and Open Arms. Since their most popular lead singer, Steve Perry, left the band in 1996, the band has had a string of replacements from Steve Augeri to Jeff Scott Soto.

Arnel Pineda got the job late in 2007 after Neal Schon, Journey founder and lead guitarist, found him on YouTube doing cover songs of Journey with his local band The Zoo. Neal was impressed with Pineda’s vocal range and tenor voice that he was offered the job after a short audition. He was best equipped to not only honor the Journey legacy sound but to take the band to the next level. This summer after releasing Revelation, their latest album, the band went on tour first in Europe then to the United Sates and Canada.

Pineda’s rags to riches story is well-known to diehard Journey fans, some even call his saga “fairytale-esque.” During a CBS Morning Show episode which aired last summer, Arnel broke down in front of the camera when asked about his hard life growing up in the streets of Manila. When his mother, a local seamstress, died at a young age Pineda had to drop out of school and went homeless searching for scrap metal and living on biscuits for several days. Like most Filipinos, Arnel considers his mother his hero since it was she who taught him how to sing at an early age.

Being a fan of Journey growing up, I made a decision to see them on tour this year. I had to see for myself what other fans at have been saying all along that the band, since hiring Pineda, has been re-energized and seems to be having fun as well. The forum has developed quite a following and registered members are getting close to 10,000.

Here’s what Steve, a Journey fan from Arizona, had to say, “The world is a better place for Journey having hired Arnel Pineda. He makes so many things possible for so many interests.”

The band has been playing in front of sold out venues and by most account fan reviews have been very favorable. In addition to diehard fans who have stuck with the band from the beginning, Journey has gained younger ones as well in addition to newer fans from Pineda’s home country.

My wife Maida and I traveled to Toronto September 5 to witness the band firsthand. Our choice of venue was greatly influenced by the presence of relatives who were willing to babysit our two children, Jackie and Joaquin and likewise treat us to Filipino delicacies that we have long craved for. My mother-in-law Mamerta stayed with the kids at a relative’s house in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. Our hosts, Toto and Mila not only offered their bedroom to us but likewise prepared a feast of goat stew and dried milkfish, both native Filipino dishes. This is traditional Filipino hospitality at its best.

It was Pineda’s 41st birthday so we were there to not only enjoy first rate rock and roll music but likewise show our support for him. Molson Amphitheater was packed and sold out as fellow Filipinos from Canada and Canadians were treated to an awesome set list consisting of their timeless classics, often referred to as the dirty dozen, and new songs from Revelation. We were fortunate to have great seats on the second row right of center where most fans sang, danced and stood all night long.

The rest of Journey consists of Jonathan Cain on keyboards, Ross Valory on bass guitar and Deen Castronovo on drums. Cheap Trick and Heart with Ann and Nancy Wilson were the two front acts. In an ever changing industry that continues to evolve, Journey and Arnel Pineda offers a little bit of irony. In their desire to preserve the legacy sound, the band, considered All-American by most, chose a Filipino to lead them to the future. Ross Valory said “An All-American band reaching across the water to the Thrilla in Manila.”

Arnel Pineda, fellow Filipino, showed us his awesome vocal prowess that night and in today’s world of uncertainty he is a shining example of how perseverance and hard work can make one’s dreams come true.