Poet and community activist Al Robles was born and raised in the Fillmore district of San Francisco. An influential Filipino American poet, Robles advocated for the poor and elderly. In particular, he was associated with the fight to stop the demolition of I-Hotel, which housed elderly and low-income Manongs, or Filipino American elders. Robles’s poetry, associated with the Beat tradition, engaged the issues of social and racial justice that also shaped his work as an activist. His collection rappin’ with ten thousand carabaos in the dark (1996) included stories of the Manong. Robles published one other full-length collection, Looking for Ifugao Mountain: Paghahanap Sa Bundok Ng Ifugao (1977).
 
Robles was long associated with the Kearny Street Workshop, an organization that fosters and promotes the Asian American and Filipino American literary communities in San Francisco. In 2008, filmmaker Curtis Choy released Manilatown Is in the Heart: Time Travel with Al Robles, a documentary about Robles.