Saturday, November 7, 2015

Apl of their eyes

“Apl of their eyes”
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 7, 2015

In this world of “me, myself and I”, it is truly heartwarming to know that an internationally renowned Grammy Award-winning artist such as the Black Eyed Peas’ would choose to generously give back to the Philippines through his Foundation International.

Admirably, education is the first priority of the foundation. It has built a music studio and computer lab in the two schools that Apl attended in his hometown of Sapang Bato, Pampanga: Sapang Bato National High School and Holy Angels University. These facilities provide opportunities for disadvantaged Filipino children to unleash their musical and technology talents. The initiative also includes the development of teacher training modules, a mentoring program and educational scholarships.

Currently, the foundation sponsors 14 scholars at the Angeles University and participates in the Department of Education’s initiative to build new schools especially in far flung and hard-to-reach areas of the country. To date, it has built 15 new schools including one in the war-torn area of Zamboanga.

Recently, came to Davao City bearing good news. Through his Foundation, “The Campaign for Filipino Children” was launched at the Southern Philippines Medical Center. The foundation’s first healthcare initiative is to tackle the issue of eyesight preservation, specifically addressing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), one cause of childhood blindness in the Philippines which affects thousands of children annually.   

Apl, being born with nystagmus (a condition of involuntary eye movement that results in limited vision), can very well relate to this campaign. He is considered legally blind.

The campaign’s approach is “to assist the medical community in the Philippines through five regional/provincial hospitals to increase the capacities of these regions to adequately diagnose ROP, an affliction among pre-term infants that can cause lifelong blindness if not addressed within 48 hours of birth/diagnosis”.

During the campaign launch, and his collaborators donated a state-of-the-art brand new Retcam TM Shuttle diagnostic equipment to the SPMC to properly screen ROP. The cost of the machine? A whopping US$125,000 or approximately Php 5.6 million.                                          

The notable list of collaborators for this campaign includes the Philippine Academy of Opthalmology; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles through its Vision Center-Dr. Thomas C. Lee; as presenting sponsor; and Knights Templar Eye Foundation.

After the launch, the members of the media were able to have our chance to interview Apl privately.

I asked Apl to share a little information about his upcoming children’s book under the “Dream Big” series by my friend Ms. Yvette Fernandez.

“Basically, Yvette and I just hung out and I just told her my life story about growing up; farming; coming from humble beginnings; and delivering ‘uling’ (charcoal) throughout the neighborhood for my mom. She would package them and I was the delivery boy. I used to deliver water which I pumped, two gallons of water with the ‘timba’ (pail). So I would deliver water in my neighborhood for a peso per delivery. The book tells my story growing up in Sapang Bato”, Apl smiles.

For someone so accomplished in his impressive career as a rapper, record producer and celebrity judge of The Voice Phils., I am awed beyond measure on how Apl is still so down-to-earth and proud of his roots.

If there is a true star I would like my children to look up to, it would be this guy who has significantly changed the lives of many young Filipinos, making him the “Apl of their eyes”.

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