Galing Pinoy: From Janitor to AI Sensation

by Cynthia De Castro/

It’s unbelievable that an American Idol aspirant who gets a unanimous and resounding “No” from the judges comes out of the room with a big smile as if his dreams had just come true. Much less with great hope for the future. Pero iba talaga ang Pinoy!

A former tricycle driver for 11 years in Quezon City who migrated here in 2004 and worked as a janitor at Greyhound and Walmart, Renaldo Lapuz auditioned for American Idol Season 7, Fifteen minutes later, AI judges instantly turned him into a worldwide celebrity.

Never mind that the American Idol judges seemed patronizing. Never mind that they don’t think Lapuz has any place in Hollywood. Never mind that people are saying he’s another “William Hung” (A previous American Idol aspirant who was rejected because he obviously couldn’t sing and dance, but became popular nonetheless.)

What matters is that 45-year old Lapuz and his original song We’re Brothers Forever have both become a hit after last month’s season premiere of American Idol, rocking the YouTube and American Idol websites and earning him instant fame.

Lapuz’s fame after the audition have really hit the roof. Renaldo has been featured in Star World, Fox News and other popular media channels. A phenomenal 2.5 million people watched his 15-minute audition in 2 days over YouTube. Almost 7 million from over 120 countries have visited his website which is now translated in 16 languages making  more popular than the websites of Elvis Presley and first American Idol Kelly Clarkson (2002).

Lapuz has also inked deals to sing in Cleveland, Puerto Rico and New York. The Maloof family, owner of Palms Hotel in Las Vegas and the NBA team Sacramento Kings, have invited Lapuz to be their special guest this basketball season. Another promoter is keen on touring Lapuz in Europe and a major worldwide record label will soon be meeting with Renaldo for ” a possible recording deal”.

A bachelor living in Reno, Nevada, Renaldo was the last audition in Dallas as the judges wrapped up their long day. Uniquely clad in a white leather suit with a shiny metallic cape and a hat with the name “Simon” on it, he obviously amused American Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, with his costume which, according to Lapuz, was inspired by the film Gladiator. As he sang his original song over and over, Randy, Paula, and even Ryan Seacrest, joined him onstage, dancing and singing “I am your brother, your best friend forever”.

When Simon jokingly predicted  that  We’re Brothers Forever, might become a hit record, Lapuz beamed and took the comment to heart, profusely thanking Simon whom he called “heaven sent for judging talents free of charge.”

Lapuz still can’t believe his instant fame.

“I was shocked that, in two days 2.5 million people had watched the video [of my audition] on YouTube. I’d like to thank [everyone] who accepted my song, who accepted me,” he said in an interview. “They give me the “big-time” treatment here. What I think is going on now is, the start of my dream. It’s a new start in my life. My singing career is just getting started through American Idol. It’s all happening now to me, thank God.”

Lapuz’ story goes to show that if you plant a dream in your heart and work at it as best as you can, trusting God to bring it to pass, you could really see it come true. Renaldo related that he started singing at age 5, when his father taught him the US National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, though he’s Filipino.  Through the years, though no opportunities came his way in the field of music, he kept composing songs. His style of music is ballads, adding “I like serenading. In 1998, I recorded and copyrighted 10 songs in the Philippines. I’ve translated two of those into English.” He recounted recording in a studio on V. Luna Road near Sikatuna Village, his route as a tricycle driver.

Renaldo is profuse in thanking all his fans, specially the Filipinos around the world who have supported and encouraged him since his “15 minutes of fame”. In his now famous song, Lapuz sings about unity, a serenade, perhaps, to his kababayans:

I am your brother,/your best friend forever.Singing the songs/the music that you like./We’re brothers till the end of time./Together forever till the end of time./ Together or not, you’re always in my heart.


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Filed under FilAm News, Galing Pinoy

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