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APO Hiking: Awit ng barkada

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Apo Hiking 2008CONVERSATIONS With Ricky Loapo2008
Philippine Star, Sept. 14, 2008

Pumapatak na naman ang ulan sa bubong ng bahay... Funny but on the afternoon Conversations talked to the APO (Jim Paredes, Boboy Garovillo and Danny Javier), it was raining cats and dogs, punctuated by thunder and lightning, a “bed” weather perfect for, as the APO song goes, doing di-inaasahang bagay, such as mag-laklak ng beer magdamagan.

 

Instead of drowning in beer, it was nice to drift into sweet slumber at matulog na lang ng mahimbing.

But how can you sleep while tripping with the APO down the well-trodden Memory Lane, a week before the Durable Trio’s pre-40th-anniversary concert, titled APO of the PHILIPPINES, at the Big Dome (on Saturday, Sept. 20)?

On my music-player, The Best of the APO Hiking Society CD kept on playing the well-loved APO songs that are easy to remember, easy to memorize, easy to love and easy to sing along with because they sing of the ordinary things in life such as falling in and out of love (Pagibig), friends crying on each others’ shoulders in times of crisis (Kaibigan), the frustration of loving a girl who loves somebody else (Mahirap Magmahal ng Syota ng Iba), the magical beauty of a full moon (Kabilugan ng Buwan), the emptiness of a love-weary heart (Tuyo Na’ng Damdamin), the healing power of a smile (Show Me a Smile), the bitter-sweet effects of making up after a lovers’ quarrel (Di Na Natuto) and, yes, the thrill of guzzling bottles and bottles of beer on a rainy afternoon.

In short, mga awit ng barkada. That’s what we will be hearing at the Big Dome — mga awit ng barkada.

The trio sounds exactly the way they did when they got together musically while studying at Ateneo, not missing a beat these past 39 years. Check out their latest album, Danny, Boboy at Jim, which consists of songs they sing only during concerts and never recorded, and you will know what I mean. The APO themselves are releasing the CD as an “indie” production — “‘Yan ang uso ngayon, di ba? Indie,” said Boboy.

Jim, 57, is married to Lydia Mabanta with whom he has three children (Erica, Ala and Mio); the couple has one grandchild. Boboy, 57, is married to Bong Agcaoili with whom he has two sons, Fonz and Anton. Danny, 61, is “twice married, twice annulled” (as he put it), with four children from his second failed marriage — Justine, Juliene, Jobim and Jamael.

Would the APO have lasted this long if you were not good friends?

Jim: I don’t think we would because there are so many areas to fight over...like money, fame, schedule, everything! You have to sacrifice for a bigger goal and you have to like the persons you are sacrificing with.

Boboy: The group has survived because we are barkadas, because we are good friends. We were not one of those groups which, you know, “Let’s get together for music.” Hindi ganoon, eh. We have been really good friends, we hang out together up to now, and the music just came along. We came from the same school, so have like minds, like philosophies in life. Medyo madali kaming magka-intindihan.

Danny: It’s the friendship that keeps us together. Not the money nor anything. Take away everything else and we would still be friends.

In all the years that you’ve been performing, what was the biggest test that you had to hurdle?

Jim: What we really wanted to do with APO. We were pulling each other into each other’s directions. I wanted it to be like this and like that; I was complaining about standards because I felt na parang bumababa ang aming standard. I was being too critical, at ganoon din sina Boboy at Danny. I guess ‘yon ang pinaka-matindi naming pagsubok. We got to a point when, you know, we said, “Sige, tapusin na natin ito!”

Boboy: Money was never a problem, huh. There was a time in the ’70s when disco music came in and our career hit a real low. We put up our own record company with the help of somebody. We were thinking talaga na, you know, “This is it!” We should just work, maging executives na lang sa isang recording company, and just stop singing. We were producing records for the likes of Hajji Alejandro. Come to think of it, career-wise that was not a real low because we were still doing something for the industry. But as performers, ‘yon ‘yung akala namin it would end na.

Danny: In any relationship, there’s one trait of the others that becomes unbearable, whether it’s kakulitan or whatever. Kapag natawid mo ‘yon, wala ka nang ibang kailangan tawirin pa. Sabi nila, dapat may communication. So I said, “Para walang communication gap...tanggap.” That’s the solution to the communication gap. Tanggap.

Of the dozens and dozens of songs that you have recorded and composed for other singers (the most popular being Di Na Natuto for Gary Valenciano), which is the most memorable to you?

Jim: My favorite changes all the time. But for me, it has to be Batang-Bata Ka Pa because I wrote that when my eldest child was born. It’s such a direct composition na hindi ko inisip; the lyrics and the melody just came out naturally, spontaneously. I’m happy that the song has a universal appeal, not only with parents but also their children can relate to it.

Boboy: It’s hard to choose just one. Outside of APO, I would say Di Na Natuto which we wrote for Gary Valenciano. It was a hit. Among us, I guess it would be Awit ng Barkada which is, up to this day, being played during reunions. It has a very reassuring effect, di ba?

Danny: It’s the song that Gina (Valenciano-Martinez) asked me to write for Gary — Di Na Natuto. It was almost like a commissioned work. It was a hit, played and played on the radio for almost two years; palipat-lipat ka ng istasyon and that was the song being played. At the time, there was only one other song that was a hit, I’ll Never Say Goodbye by Willy Cruz (sung by Nonoy Zuñiga). In all my 61 years, there has never been a song na kasing-hit ng Di Na Natuto.

Aside from love of music, what do you have in common? Jim: We really just enjoy each other’s company. We enjoy the fact that we did something really special, I think. When we started, there was really no OPM (Original Pilipino Music); it was then known as Manila Sound. When we did something like this, it was some kind of an act of rebellion — you know, when you’re young, you want to resist conformity. Pagkatapos, it bore fruit. We really felt that we did something more important than just build a career. By the way, it was Danny who thought of the term “OPM.” We put it in our records and it caught on with everybody.

Boboy: Hmmmm...Kung tutuusin, not much really. Kami ni Danny, we are into golf. Jim is into scuba-diving and biking. I also play tennis and am into a lot of other sports. Jim is a bookworm.

Danny: We are a community of learners. Ang sabi ko nga sa mga ka-kaklase ko, “The nicest thing that happened to me after college is that I began to enjoy learning.” I never studied as much until after college. There’s so much to learn from life. Study, if not imposed by other people, is one of the most enjoyable experiences in life.

Has the “ego factor” ever reared its ugly head among you?

Jim: At the start, we were always competing with each other...in all aspects, pati sa girls. But after a while, you just realized that, you know, nobody would say, “Ang ganda n’ung song na kinanta ni Boboy, or ni Jim, or ni Danny.” They would just say, “Ang ganda n’ung song ng APO.” Nagkaroon kami ng collective identity. We found our right place as a team.

Boboy: Ang “ego factor” sa amin was always internal, just among the three of us, and never about people outside of the group. Ang “ego” sa amin was...what do I want to do? You know, no contract binds us. We can just stand up and say, “Tomorrow, I’m done!” Like Jim could just say, “I’m moving to Australia!” As simple as that.

Danny: It did. We would not be human if the “ego factor” doesn’t come in the way. But like I said, we are learners. We discovered that the three of us when put together are bigger than our sum. Yes, we can stand as individuals but iba ‘yung magkasama kaming tatlo.

How do you maintain and sustain the distinct APO Sound?

Jim: The APO Sound is actually...well, we maintain it by singing and singing and singing all the time. When singers get older, binabaan nila ‘yung key ng song. We are still singing in the same key as when we recorded our songs. So, it’s really practice, practice, practice.

Boboy: You know, that’s a secret na hindi naman secret. I guess we just have a natural knack for harmonizing with each other. I like to think that songwriting needs a certain intelligence and talent, eh. You know, a lot of songs now that you hear make you wonder, “Saan nanggaling ‘yon?”

Danny: Well, kaya siguro na-maintain namin dahil wala sa amin nagpa-sex-change, kaya wala sa amin nagbago ang voice. Hehehehe!

What’s the best thing about making music with your good friends?

Jim: Danny is very intuitive, so it’s quite easy to work with him. Boboy is very spontaneous and that, to me, is a great factor in every show. Kumbaga sa basketball team, si Boboy nakaka-three-point shot madalas.

Danny: The best thing about working with Jim and Boboy is that you have two voices that you can trust. They will not give an opinion that will detract from the beauty of your creation; they can only enhance it. And, of course, they have respect for your final decision as a writer.

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